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Letter from the editor | 140

The imperative nature of clarity

The final choice of any magazine’s cover feature invariably involves, one must admit, a certain degree of arbitrariness. Of course, there are editions in which certain themes stand out versus all others in the light of the classical canons of journalism. In the case of Pesquisa Fapesp, a magazine dedicated to examining the production of knowledge, this can happen either when a journalistic text announces a fine project that may have outstanding social or economic interest, or when it focuses on research of unquestionable relevance to push back the frontiers of knowledge, or, furthermore, if there is a report about a study whose conclusions are so unexpected that they can turn around current thoughts and concepts. However, in the same way as it is not normal for scientific production to yield such extraordinary results on a daily basis, it is equally unusual for a magazine such as Pesquisa Fapesp to find a cover feature that is virtually ready made. Before making the final decision as to what this feature will actually be, it is usual to zigzag, sometimes more, sometimes less, between two or three subjects that are vying for the top post, to the increasing despair of our art editor, Mayumi Okuyama.  This is when that touch of arbitrariness comes into play, while one silently prays that it does not go against healthy journalistic principles.

I mention this because choosing this edition’s cover feature was as difficult as giving birth with the aid of forceps. At first, we wanted to feature the obesity article, but it seemed overly technical, its text meandering through a dense mass of abbreviations and complicated names of substances  unknown to readers  unfamiliar with the biochemistry of the human body. We tried to move to the article about the largest crater ever created by a meteorite in Brazil, within which two whole cities fit.

We also considered the possibility of having as our cover feature a text on the studies trying to understand the meaning of Tropicalism in Brazilian contemporary culture, by Gonçalo Junior, or another one, also in the humanities area, that talks about new studies regarding  the country’s student movement, particularly in the 60’s and 70’s, by our humanities editor, Carlos Haag. Meanwhile, our special editor, Carlos Fioravanti, and our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, were quietly working on cleaning up the text on obesity more and more, getting rid of the excess  technical obstacles in order to produce a clear and elegant narration in which the most important information is unrestrained for the reader, but without betraying the genuine scientific findings of the researchers, who spent years trying to understand why resistance to insulin leads to obesity and from this to several other health problems. When the journalists finally presented the final text, obesity recovered its place as the cover feature (page 40). Is that fair? We believe so but, given what we mentioned above concerning arbitrariness, the issue is open to the readers, who can reach their own conclusions. And that is always the case where journalistic publications are concerned. This is not a bad thing, on the contrary.

Speaking of readers, this magazine’s entire team felt honored a few days earlier thanks to the public statement of appreciation voiced by an illustrious figure  who declared he is one of its readers: the São Paulo State governor, José Serra. It was on the occasion of  Professor Celso Lafer taking office  as FAPESP president, on September 26, 2007.  Head professor at the University of São Paulo (USP) Law School, who has been the country’s Foreign Relations minister for two separate terms, as well as its Development Minister, Celso Lafer took over heading up FAPESP from linguist and poet Carlos Vogt, a professor and former president of Unicamp, now the State Secretary for Higher Education (page 32). One should highlight that on that occasion, on the stage of an auditorium packed with São Paulo academic leaders and authorities, the new president commented that he believes that the solutions to the current challenges and problems facing society call for communication between literary and humanistic culture and scientific culture; he then explained his views of science in greater detail. The governor, in turn, reiterated these views and stressed that “one of the major challenges that the Foundation faces based on its autonomy and experience is to simultaneously emphasize basic research, which builds the future by exploring and developing possibilities, and applied research, which should have an increasingly large social and economic impact.”