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Networking movement

Meeting of the FAPs to discuss the best ways of leveraging resources for research

Eduardo CesarFrom right to left: Brentani, Borges Neto, Barreira, Alckmin, Lafer, Vogt, Gomes, Elias, Guimarães and ZagoEduardo Cesar

At a joint meeting held in São Paulo on June 18 and 19, members of the Conselho Nacional de Secretários Estaduais para Assuntos de CT&I/Consecti, National Council of State Secretariats for IT Matters, and directors of the Conselho Nacional das Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa/Confap National Council of the Foundation for Research Support, decided to send a letter to the governors of four states, requesting the creation of a research support foundation/FAP. The four states – Rondônia, Roraima, Amapá and Tocantins – still do not have an active institution of this kind. “Our expectation is that by working in an integrated manner and in partnership with federal government entities, the representatives of the FAPs will be able to network actions, add and promote research projects that will bring effective results in terms of science, technology and innovation that will ensure our country’s development”, said Mario Borges Neto, president of Confap and Fapemig. “The fact that 23 states in Brazil have their own foundations means that society acknowledges Brazilian science and technology as being a factor of social development”, said Ricardo Brentani, chairman of the Technical-Administrative Board of FAPESP.

The unanimous opinion voiced by state secretaries and foundation directors at the meeting was that all the states have to take their own initiatives to increase the funds provided by federal and business community sources for research projects. “The issue is to move forward in terms of a cooperative federalism, which includes the interaction between the member states of the federation and the relationships between the different levels of the Federal Government with the respective entities of the member states. The common objective would be to increase the potential of Brazilian research. In the case of FAPESP, this is being translated by the countless agreements with the FAPs in other states and by the agreements with the CNPq and Capes”, said Celso Lafer, president of FAPESP.

“We have a great partnership with the FAPs and the state secretaries of Education throughout the entire country”, said Jorge Guimarães, president of Capes, who represented Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad. “Our commitment and our biggest challenge are to provide support for basic education”. He pointed out that although Brazil has an outstanding international reputation in the field of science, the situation is dramatic in the field of basic math. Only three out of one thousand students give correct answers to half of the questions on a basic math test. “We have to use the intelligence available in science and technology to improve elementary education”. Marco Antonio Zago, president of the CNPq, was also present at the event. During the meeting, FAPESP and Fapeam, from the State of Amazonas, launched a joint bidding invitation to encourage projects involving the exchange of students and researchers from both states. “There is no way to develop science in Brazil without articulating and providing resources and competencies and share the infra structure”, said Odenildo Sena, director-president of Fapeam. In the opinion of Luiz Antonio Rodrigues Elias, executive secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology – who represented Minister Sergio Rezende at the meeting – networking will lead to the strengthening of the National C&T System in the country. He said that the law of innovation was unanimously approved in the State of Rio Grande do Sul on June 17. “A huge effort is being made in most of the states to approve the respective laws of innovation”, said René Teixeira Barreira, president of Consecti. “We are strengthening the system through the instrument of innovation”, he said. Geraldo Alckmin, Secretary of Development of the State of São Paulo, stated during the meeting that the São Paulo State law would be regulated in June. Carlos Vogt, Secretary of Higher Education of the State of São Paulo, was at the opening of the meeting.

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, the Foundation?s scientific director, emphasized how important it is for the state governments to respect the on-lending of funds. During his presentation on the history of FAPESP, he said that São Paulo has always respected this principle. The scientific director spoke about some of the leading programs currently being funded, such as the bioenergy program (Bioen), the global climate changes program and the mapping of the São Paulo State’s diversity (Biota), among others. “It is only possible to consider programs that last for ten years, such as the Biota, because we know that the resources will be available”, said Brito Cruz.

Higher Education
The quality and the funding of research projects related to higher education were on the lecture and debate agenda of the second day of the meeting of the Consecti and Confap, which included one complaint. “We have 48 state and local universities in 22 states, but the government invests much more in the Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior/IFES, the federal universities”, said João Carlos Gomes, president of the Brazilian Association of Deans of State and Local Universities/Abruem. “It is not possible to prepare national education, science and technology programs without the participation of state and local universities”, he warned. “We know that the investments will not be as high as the investments in the IFES, but we could have more space in the federal government’s budget and thus guarantee funds for expenditure and investments”. Although he acknowledged the importance of taking the federal universities to the hinterland, he asked that attention be paid to the institutions that are already based in those regions in order to integrate them more efficiently with the central system and thus avoid overlapping.

The Ministry of Education, through Maria Paula Dallari Bucci, the Secretary of Higher Learning, pointed out that extensive work – which has not been concluded yet – is being done on the institutionalizing of the IFES. But there is still a long way to go in terms of external networking, such as exploring the areas of extension and innovation more extensively. “From the formal point of view, the extension and innovation programs could be more fruitful than they are nowadays.” Maria Paula also mentioned where to move on. “Current institutionalism is fragmented and disconnected from extension and innovation, even though the universities receive a significant amount of funds”, she stated. “The challenge ahead of us is the construction of new institutionalism: a lighter, more intelligent and more rational one.”

Antonio Ibañez, the advisor of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Coordination of Sector Funds, said that the good things existing at the federal universities,  that were taboo until a while ago – such as evaluations – have been absorbed by society. But he acknowledged that the autonomy of the IFES is an issue that still needs to be addressed, as are the issue of the foundations created by the universities to make them more flexible from the bureaucratic and financial point of view. “Traditionally, the State does not want to relinquish its control over the universities or the foundations”, said Ibañez.

Professor Manassés Claudino Fonteles, from the Federal University of Ceará and former president of the Council of Deans of Brazilian Universities/ CRUB, acknowledged the advances made in the last few years, but attacked the general mediocrity of Brazilian universities. “We need to build a process of competency from the north to the south of the country”, he suggested. “We cannot have competency only at the 30 or 40 institutions that are considered as being of a high level”. Fonteles concluded his presentation by criticizing the ‘erratic financing’ of research, as is the case in many parts of the country.