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The future under discussion

Starting preparations for 4th National Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation

From May 24 to 28, 2010, experts, authorities and members of the scientific community will convene in Brasilia to discuss the directions and guidelines for Brazil’s science, technology and innovation policy in upcoming years. The theme of the 4th National Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation will be the challenges posed by the integration of science and sustainable development. The call for the event was released in November by Sergio Machado Rezende, the Minister of Science and Technology, who stressed the importance of establishing long-term strategies. “This conference is timely, because it has been 10 years since resources for science and technology were expanded”, said Rezende, who highlighted the importance of the last decade’s initiatives, such as the creation of funds for the sector. “We must evaluate our advances and propose a new plan. Perhaps, even, a State policy to be established by future administrations until 2020”, he stressed.

The first such conference, held in 1985, debated the challenges facing Brazil’s development, in particular those involving strategic areas, such as IT, biotechnology, and fine chemistry, besides the establishment of a policy for the training of human resources. The second, which convened in 2001, had economic development as its theme and addressed the issues of the Science, Technology and Innovation Action Plan for the 2007-2010 period. Now, the keyword is sustainable development, in particular the utilization of biodiversity, as well as climate change. “Among the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), we are the only nation able to grow in accordance with the canons of sustainable development”, says physicist Carlos Aragão, the conference’s secretary-general. “We want to get to the end of the conference with input into a State policy that can ensure tranquility for those who work in the science, technology and innovation area, also showing the sector’s importance in the discussions involving sustainable development”, states Aragão.

The event is also to host debates on other core issues, such as innovation, the importance of education and Brazil’s new role in the international arena. Regional conferences are to be held from March to April in the cities of Vitória (Southeast), Porto Alegre (South), Cuiabá (Midwest), Belém (North) and Maceió (Northeast), before the national event. At the same time, the structure of the national conference will be discussed, such as the topics of the major plenary meetings. “We are getting fairly apt suggestions, such as including basic sciences among the themes”, says Aragão, in reference to a suggestion from FAPESP’s scientific director, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, who has been invited to sit on the conference’s advisory board.

In Brito Cruz’s opinion, one must encourage basic science even more, while also creating an innovation-oriented corporate culture. “These objectives shouldn’t be mutually exclusive objectives, but complementary”, he stated. “The progress of knowledge in the fields of literature, the arts, the humanities, philosophy, physics of the origin of the Universe, fundamental chemistry, evolution theory, elementary particles and others are themes that have been intriguing and challenging humankind for centuries; learning more about them is an essential prerequisite for us to increasingly become players, rather than mere spectators, in this world”. Brito also observed that most of the players involved in the conference to date are connected with the federal government; he stressed how important it is to bring together a broader range of voices in this discussion, for the conference to become national, rather than just federal. “The Board of Presidents of the São Paulo State Universities must be included among the organizers, because their institutions account for a high percentage of the country’s science and post graduate studies”.