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Science in companies

Papers from private companies collaborate towards disseminating scientific and technological knowledge

Fonte MedicinaFonte Medicina Diagnóstica, a company from Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, published in 2006, in the scientific magazine Diagnostic Pathology, an article about a new method for quality control in immunohistochemical examinations for cancer diagnosis. The new technique eliminates possible errors in the analysis of the material collected in the biopsy, confirming both positive and negative results. “The new technique, which uses a kit constructed by us for R$ 100.00, replaces imported equipment that costs US$ 23 thousand in the United States”, says physician-pathologist Andréa Rodrigues Cordovil Pires, a partner in the company and an assistant professor at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF). The initiative of publishing a new discovery would be trivial were companies that publish scientific articles in Brazil not be rare. “We published because we wanted to disseminate this new technique, making it possible for others to use it. We are not interested in royalties, we haven’t even patented it”, says Andréa, who has now transferred the novelty, in the form of a course, to the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), a Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the UFF.

All the research was developed in the company. We chose an important magazine, free of charge, indexed to the main world databases, like Pubmed, which could be accessed by any person from the area with the need for a subscription. The publication of papers and studies in scientific magazines, in which the acceptance of an article follows strict criteria for approval, is a point of reference for the scientific and technological community of a country and of the whole planet. “Although I have an academic connection, I believe, together with my partner, Simone Rabello de Souza, who is a librarian, in the social importance of the production and disclosure of high quality information”, Andréa says.

The rarity of scientific articles, or papers, from companies is expressed in the paper published in 2006 in the Scientometrics magazine by Professor Jacqueline Leta, from the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium, also a researcher with UFRJ’s Education, Management and Dissemination Program. In the conclusion of the article Science in Brazil: Part 2: Sectoral and Institutional Research Profiles, also signed by researchers Wolfgang Glänzel and Bart Thus, both from the same Belgian university, Jacqueline points out the absence of contributions from the companies to Brazilian science.

Other experienced analysts of academic publications, like Professor Rogério Meneghini, from the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (Bireme), also feel the lack of scientific publications from Brazilian companies. “People from industry who have never acted in the academic area have great difficulty in preparing a paper. You have to have experience. Those interested in publishing are often only the postgraduate employees who are working in the company”, says Meneghini.

A large part of the business production, according to Professor Lea Maria Leme Velho, from the Scientific and Technological Policy of the Geosciences Institute of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), do so in magazines that are not indexed and are for technical communication. She recalls that the National Science Foundation (NSF), the main development agency in the United States, every two years issues indicators of the publications in the USA without defining those that originate from the business world, merely highlighting co-authorships. Amongst all the scientific articles, according to the NSF, the percentage of those with co-authorship has grew regularly between 1993 and 2001, but declined in 2002 and 2003, a year in which it recorded 200,727 articles, of which 12,114 with co-authorship, a volume that corresponds to 6%. In 1993, this figure was 5.1%, and the maximum was reached in 2001, with 6.2%.

In Brazil, the company that most publishes or that is amongst the biggest, because there are no statistics on the theme, is Petrobras. In 200, there were 24 publications in 24 Brazilian publications and 57 in international ones, from Petrobras’s Research Center (Cenpes) alone. In all, the company published 67 papers abroad. In the last five years, Cenpes published 118 articles in Brazil and 242 in international magazines. According to Sônia Tavares, the librarian of the information technology and intellectual property management of Cenpes’ technical management, the company adopts a strict process for approving articles to be published in scientific magazines. “An in-house technical review is done to assess the content, to find out whether the article brings innovation, if it is unpublished, as well as checking whether the references are correct and well documented”, Sônia says. Other important points are checking the content, from the perspective of the adequacy or otherwise of the company disclosing that result, besides ascertaining whether the innovation involved is patentable.

Another big company headquartered in Brazil, Embraer, according to the Web of Science portal, the most important and sought after scientific portal, had 26 papers published between 1978 and 2006, two of which last year. Abroad, the practice of companies publishing scientific articles is more common, in particular amongst those companies that have their own researchers in research centers installed within the business environment itself. Accordingly, the Korean company Samsung, for example, drew up 1,338 articles in 2006. Amongst the Americans, IBM published 942 papers all over the world, while Intel concluded 453, Lucent, 318, Motorola, 117, and Boeing, 111. In Japan, other examples: Hitachi published 681 and Toshiba, 295. The French company Rhodia published 72 articles, and the German companies Siemens, with 481, and the Bayer group, with 439, complete the good examples of scientific/technological business production carried out last year at various points of the planet.

Small Brazilian technology-based companies are amongst those that most publish. The overwhelming majority of these firms is made up of partners or employees coming directly from the academic world. This is the case Alellyx, a biotechnology company created with researchers who took part in the first genome projects carried out in Brazil. From 2003 to 2006, its researchers published ten articles in international magazines, two of which in 2006. Only two of them were done exclusively by researchers from the company. The other studies were done in partnership with universities.

Company’s strategy
“Researching in a company is very different from the academic environment. In the academic world, the end product is the paper, preferably published in the best scientific magazine possible. In companies, the end product is a process or product that arrives on the market”, comments Paulo Arruda, a partner in the company and a professor at Unicamp. “Publication cannot be done in the way it is in the academic world, first you have to bear in mind the company’s strategy. We have to know whether or not we must have the intellectual property of the product developed. As and when we have the deposit of a patent, we will be able to publish, also in the company’s strategy, without jeopardizing investments.” For him, intellectual property is a company’s most important asset, because it guarantees that the product can be traded without risks.

“We publish what can be published , protecting our idea”, says Spero Morato, a partner in Lasertools, a company created in 1999 by researchers from the Institute of Nuclear Energy and Research (Ipen). He too agrees that, to write papers, you have to have academic experience. The company has now published about ten articles, three of which in international magazines.

Morato and the other partners started the company inside the Technological Companies Incubation Center (Cietec), installed in Ipen’s building, in University City, in São Paulo. There, the culture of publishing is beginning to take on a greater importance. “I am encouraging our businessmen to get used to writing and publishing papers according to the best practices”, says Sergio Risola, the manager who runs Cietec. “The majority of businessmen still have difficulty in writing in a techno-scientific manner. We have to show that publishing in scientific magazines gives a paper more credibility, and the company comes to be looked at better by the market.” Paulo Arruda agrees. “The publication of articles in important magazines gives the company exposure to the market and to investors, because it shows who is producing innovations. The portals that bring together the publications are being used more and more by businessmen to get information, particularly in the external market.”