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Scientific census

A survey by CNPq maps the research groups in the country

The fourth version of the Directory of Research Groups, a type of census of scientific activity promoted by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CNPq in the Portuguese acronym), verified that in the year 2000 there were in the country 11,760 work groups in action, with a total of 48,781 researchers, linked to 224 universities and institutions, both public and private. The public universities, according to the survey, account for 80% of the research groups. From the regional point of view, the notable area is the Southeast, which harbors 57% of the national scientific production. São Paulo leads off with 31% of the research groups. The Southern region has 20% of the groups; the Northeast 15%; the Central-West 5%; and in the North region, 3% of the total of the research groups were found.

The first version of the Directory, published in 1993, registered the activity of 4,404 research groups. By 1995 this number had leaped to 7,271 and in 1997, the third version went up to 8,632. The growth in the number of research groups expresses the increase in the database itself which, as well as extending the collection to all units of the Federation, also added to the figures, as of 2000, the research activities of private institutions. “The Directory presently covers 80% of the capacity of research installed in the country.” says Reinaldo Guimarães, a consultant with CNPq and the coordinator of the project.

The first survey which took place in 1993, had an estimated coverage of 40% of the total of the groups in activity within the country. The amplification of the coverage of the Directory was also responsible for the shrinking of the relative position of the Southeast in relation to research of the whole of the country, and of São Paulo, whose participation fell from 40% in 1995 to its current 31%.

In this latest version, based on criteria of stratification, the Directory classified the research groups according to the quality of scientific production, using basically two criteria: the number of scholarships of CNPq and of graduate schools professors evaluated by the Coordination of Improvement of Personnel of Higher Education (Capes) which participated in the groups. Using these parameters, it was possible to distinguish the groups of excellence (A), consolidated groups (A+B), those below consolidation (C+D) and the groups in formation (E). According to Guimarães, close to 10% of the groups fell into the band A and 20% obtained (A+B), 40% were classified as (C+D) and 30% fell into category E. More than 80% of the groups considered to be excellent or consolidated are located in the Southeast, mainly in the universities and institutions of research in the State of São Paulo. There, 46% of the groups are in the band (A+B), 42% in (C+D) and 12% in A.

Of the total of the research groups in the State of São Paulo, 11.5% are at the University of São Paulo (USP), 4.6% at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), 3.1% at the State Paulista University (Unesp), 1.5% at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and 1.3% at the Catholic Pontificate University of São Paulo (PUC-SP), just to cite a few examples.

The groups of the São Paulo, again according to the data gathered for the Directory, bring together 15,129 researchers; 68% with doctorates, 19% with masters, 9% graduates and 4% with specialization in the area of activity.

The mapping by CNPq found that 31% of the research developed by the 11,760 groups in all of the country, concentrated on the sector of Health, followed closely by that of Education with 30%. More than half of the researchers have their doctorate (56.7%) andalmost 65% have published papers in specialized magazines of national and international circulation, in books or chapters or other publications.

Groups and leaders
The idea of mapping the research activities in the country was suggested in 1990 at the Forum of Pro-Rectors of Research, stimulated by a challenge from the then National Secretary of Science and Technology, Dr. José Goldemberg. “He asked us to point out the good research groups in the country.” remembers coordinator Guimarães, at that time Pro-Rector of Research at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj). “We had no way of identifying the good without identifying all. The project of a research census in the country matured and was presented to CNPq in 1992. The first survey was taken in 1993 with three objectives: to preserve the reputation of research within the country, to promote exchange between research groups and to aid the policies of science and technology in the country.”

“Right from the beginning, we defended the idea of working with research groups as a unit of analysis, in spite of not being a traditional model in the country, since the relationship of the development agencies is with the researchers themselves.” said Dr. Guimarães. The presupposition, he justifies, is that the research groups organize themselves in a hierarchy around a leader who would be the source of information for the basis of the data. “Since 1993, we have considered it difficult to establish individual relationships, beginning even with the identification of leaders. Those who have fulfilled this role are the maximum research authorities in the institutions.” Orientated by the team responsible for the project, the Pro-Rectors, Superintendents, Directors or Vice-Presidents of research of the universities and institutions, identified the research leaders, sent to them the questionnaires and were responsible for their collection and sending the results to CNPq.

The initial goal was to carry out the survey every two years. “However, in 1999, the CNPq began the implementation of Lattes Platform – an operational system which integrates its data base with the more than 70,000 Lattes résumés and the management of development. For this reason we had to carry out the fourth version in the year 2000.” In the next census, in 2002, some changes have already been planned. “From the fifth version onwards, the leaders can update the research information throughout the two-year period. Today, it is only possible to carry out any changes when the data base is renewed. We are going to separate the collection of information from the process of disclosing.” he explained.The site of CNPq, with the fourth version of the Directory, has received a total of 8,000 visitors, between December of last year and February last, an average of one hundred visits per month.”The information gathered in this data base could already set guidelines for development policies.” said Dr. Guimarães.

The distribution of research groups by the units of the Federation

Federation Unit / Nº of Groups / % of the Group Total 
São Paulo / 3.645 / 31
Rio de Janeiro / 1.922 / 16,3
Rio Grande do Sul / 1.199 / 10,2
Minas Gerais / 1.026 / 8,7
Paraná / 701 / 6,0
Pernambuco / 509 / 4,3
Santa Catarina / 417 / 3,6
Distrito Federal / 334 / 2,8
Bahia / 330 / 2,8
Ceará / 253/2,2
Paraíba / 224 / 1,9
Pará / 176 / 1,5
Goiás / 163 / 1,4
Espirito Santo / 140 / 1,2
Mato Grosso do Sul / 109 / 0,9
Maranhão / 108 / 0,9
Rio Grande do Norte / 101 / 0,9
Amazonas / 95 / 0,8
Sergipe / 75 / 0,6
Alagoas / 67 / 0,6
Piauí / 53 / 0,5
Mato Grosso / 30 / 0,3
Tocantins / 28 / 0,2
Acre / 27 / 0,2
Rondônia / 27 / 0,2
Amapá / 1 / 0,0
Brasil / 11.760 / 100,00

Source: CNPq