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Letter from the editor | 57

The outlook for the future and a reassessment of the past

The Cepids seek to change reality, the Recovery Project, to understand it

On the morning of September 14, in an atmosphere of justifiable pride and enthusiasm with Governor Mário Covas presiding at the event which more than filled to capacity FAPESP’s auditorium, and with three State Secretaries heading the list of other officials present, this Foundation launched its new program Cepids  Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Centros de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão). The political weight of the event is easily explained: what FAPESP is proposing with this new initiative is nothing less than to “explore a new paradigm for the organization of scientific and technological research” in São Paulo, as the scientific director of the institution, José Fernando Perez, explained in the article  “Research and Accepting the Challenge” published on the same day of September 14 in the section Tendencies and Debates of the “Folha de São Paulo” newspaper.

In other words, the Cepids program, cover theme of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP, presents a new and alternative model to the departmental organization of research, provides for a tailor-made structure for the specific nature of the project of each center and proposes the involvement of researchers from more than one institution thereby creating efficient networks of cooperation along the lines of the Genome Program.

The Cepids program, which is based on similar experiments that are being tested in more developed countries, has from the outset established itself as the most sought after in the history of research in the country: 112 groups of excellence submitted preliminary projects in response to the published invitation announced in October 1998, although it was public knowledge that FAPESP would only support half a dozen centers. In the end, it was decided to support 10, following an extremely difficult selection process involving a selection board of more than 120 scientists from all over the world. All these centers, regardless of area in which they operate, will have to come up with results by using multidiscipline research at the cutting edge of knowledge and innovate in relation to the transfer of know-how either to the government (structuring and implementation of public policies) or private initiative (development of new technologies of commercial value and the creation of companies). The centers will also be required to spread the know-how to be developed via activities of an educational nature to students ranging from the high school to post doctorate levels and even for continued education purposes. It is worth taking a look at the article on page 8 for details on the first Cepids.

With a well-known richness, Brazilian biodiversity at times seems to have a never-ending capacity to surprise. It is this impression, to say the least, that is conveyed in the article on research on new species of the semi-arid region of the São Francisco river dunes, a precious biological reserve. So far, the biological research team that is leading the project has already identified more than 20 species, mainly lizards, four types of which previously unknown to science. Many of the species are endemic; that is, they are exclusive to that area of sandy soils and scarce water.

Also of importance in this issue is a special supplement on the Recovery Project for historical documents on Colonial Brazil, which are to be found in the Overseas Archives in Lisbon. At the national level, the sponsorship of the project by the Ministry for Culture was of crucial importance, while the recovery of documentation regarding the São Paulo Captaincy was funded by FAPESP. The most tangible result of this marvelous work is the precious catalogues identifying thousands of documents, which have been microfilmed in Portugal, and the CDs. In addition to the catalogues, the CDs reproduce the documents themselves which relate to the life, business and administration of the captaincies of colonial Brazil. The impact of this materia on historical knowledge is discussed in the supplement through interviews with selected specialists.