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Letter from the editor | 152

Myths come undone

The cover of this month’s number – this month being election time – addresses an issue that is ingrained in the population. The free TV broadcasting time for election campaigns – is this of interest only to the candidates running for office and do few viewers bother to watch it? Opinion polls run by opinion pollster Ibope show that political candidates’ commercials reach out to 30% to 40% of the viewers; these numbers deny the alleged total rejection by voters who watch TV and listen to the radio. Social scientists interviewed by humanities editor Carlos Haag, (the article begins on page 18), talk about the actual power that information directly conveyed by candidates allegedly has over voters. This is apparently attested to by examples of politicians who are front runners compared to their opponents, after the front runners’ media exposure of their political platforms is expanded by electronic means. The pollsters also refer to another factor of election commercials which they feel is beneficial: the fact that the commercials are not paid for by the politicians and political parties, which consequently puts a damper on abuse of economic power. The Federal Tax Department grants tax breaks to the media to air these commercials and the candidates are allotted previously established times to broadcast their messages. In other words, campaign funds do not ensure longer media exposure time. Although this habit is strongly criticized by the electronic media, it is possible that voters stand to gain by having the opportunity to know a little bit more about the candidates they are going to vote for.

The circulation of information is also at the root of the expression “brain drain,” which has been used since the 1950’s to describe the exodus of researchers looking for better working conditions provided by wealthier countries. Normally, this phenomenon is referred to in a demeaning manner, as if Brazil and other developing countries that invest in promising talents were being ravaged by foreign enticers. But this is not how things happen. Studies indicate that the coming and going of scientists may bring benefits to economically deprived nations. Not much research has been done in Brazil on this issue; two studies however – one conducted in 1972 and one conducted in 1999 – reveal that the brain drain was actually less serious. Approximately 5% of those who left Brazil remained abroad after concluding their studies. Fabrício Marques, editor of scientific policies and technology, explains how the diaspora networks can benefit from – even remotely – the human capital of emigrating professionals (page 30).

In the technology section, we seek to understand the magnitude of the challenge represented by the oil and gas fields lying under the deep seas’ salt layer. Editor Marcos de Oliveira says that innovation will affect everything from drilling at a maximum depth of 7 thousand meters to the transportation of raw materials to land (page 70). These new motivations for research projects will not only impact the riches available in the pre-salt layer, but will also allow the country to benefit from the development of technologies to explore this layer.

In the science section, Francisco Bicudo and Maria Guimarães provide a new view on bacteria (page 48). Without the presence of bacteria, the immune system does not function as it should. A research group from Minas Gerais showed that the total absence of bacteria leads the body to stop producing the inflammatory reaction that is crucial to deal with several kinds of injuries. The researchers have been working since 2004 to learn more about this matter, which will help understand some important physiological processes.

Finally, don’t miss the forthcoming issues of Pesquisa FAPESP in the next few months. Much like the Genome Revolution exhibition, the journal’s team is responsible, in partnership with the Sangari Institute, for the cultural events held during the Einstein exhibition (page 42) currently on view in the capital city of São Paulo. The conferences and debates on the life, work and ideas of one of the greatest scientists ever will be available in the next issues of Pesquisa FAPESP.