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The challenge to dare

International commission assesses the ten Cepids

The ten Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepids), created by FAPESP in 2000 with the mission of carrying out multidisciplinary researches on the frontier of  knowledge, of transferring knowledge to the public and private sectors and to foster educational activities, are undergoing an important process of assessment.  The first stage of the program will be concluded in 2005. In the course of the last four years, the centers presented annual reports on activities, but the renewal of the contracts, for a three-year period, depends on the results of an assessment carried out by an international commission made up of specialists in each one of the center’s areas of activity.

In the second half of 2004, these commissions carried out several visits to each one of the centers, interviewed researchers and students, in accordance with international practice, and formulated a series of recommendations, for FAPESP itself as well, which should be covered in the proposals for stage II of the program, to be presented to FAPESP by March 31. The projects approved will once again reassessed in 2008, before contractual renewal for a period of another three years.

The rigor is particularly justified at this stage of implantation. “The program was the first line of  funding for long term research adopted by the Foundation. It  involves a considerable volume of funds and calls for a counterbalance from the institutions to which the Cepids are connected”, explains José Fernando Perez, FAPESP’s scientific director.

The opinions expressed enthusiasm with the proposals developed at the Cepids, and there was unanimity in the judgment to maintain and even to expand the program. “The members of the commissions were enchanted with the assessment system and with the dedication of the researchers to the technology transfer activities. They feared that these might be superficial aspects”, Perez reveals.  “They were also surprised with the eagerness of the researchers to dedicate a substantial part of their time to teaching activities.”
For the international assessors, the great challenge for the Cepids lies in bringing more ambition to the projects, and a greater focalization of the research activities. “That, naturally, implies developing projects of greater risk”, Perez points out.

Expanded proposal – The Cepid program was inspired on the American model adopted by 11 Science and Technology Centers of the National Science Foundation. FAPESP’s program established a new paradigm for the scientific activity, as it is integrated with research and the transfer of knowledge to society and education. It is a corollary of several programs: it forms a multidisciplinary program, represented by the thematic projects, the transfer of knowledge, which characterizes the Public Policies, Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE) and the Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE) programs – and educational programs, like Public Teaching. For all these reasons, the Cepids are more complex and constitute a challenge for all the players involved.

To bring more daring to the projects, to consolidate the team, and to meet the demand of the coordinators, the Foundation created supervision commissions that include, besides the leaderships from the centers, external supervisors. It also adopted a series of “facilitating” measures, such as granting a quota of doctoral and technical training scholarships and two grants at the postdoctoral level – in the ambit of the Young Researchers Program – for each center.  This measure may also be extended to the thematic projects, Perez discloses.

Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepids)
Antonio Prudente Cancer Research and Treatment Center
Center for Structural Molecular Biotechnology
Center for Metropolitan Studies
Center for the Study of Violence
Center for the Study of the Human Genome
Center for the Sleep Studies
Optics and Photonics Research Center
Center for Research on Cell-based Therapy
Center for Applied Toxinology
Multidisciplinary Center for the Development of Ceramic Materials