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Activity at Brazilian Research Institutes Comes to a Standstill

08/28/2017 - 09h40

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FERNANDO TADEU MORAES
FROM SÃO PAULO

Scientific research in Brazil has been cast aside. Federal resources available to the sector in 2017 will be the lowest in over a decade.

Of the R$ 6 billion (US$ 1.9 billion) set aside at the beginning of the year for the Ministry of Science and Technology - which the Temer administration merged together with the Communications Ministry, forming the MCTIC - only R$ 3.3 billion (US$ 1.04 billion) in unfettered funding will be available - a 44% cut.

While funding has been depleting, the number of active researchers in Brazil has doubled over the last ten years. Indeed, cuts in funding will have a domino effect, impacting public agencies, postgraduate students and researchers, but they will mainly affect research institutes with ties to the MCTIC.

Last week, the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas - CBPF) which is based in Rio, sent the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) a document stating that the institute is in a state of financial collapse.

According to the document, which Folha gained access to, "the budgetary difficulties are putting the institute's operation in jeopardy".

CBPF is far from being the only institute whose activities will be compromised. Cuts in funding could have a direct impact on hundreds of public institutes in Rio, such as universities, hospitals and public agencies that foment research among others, since the physics institute is at the core of the academic research network.

"If they cut the power, the institutional research network in Rio de Janeiro will be shut down", said Ronald Shellard, the director of the CBPF.

On the other hand, Brazil's two biggest research institutes have managed to outlive the crisis thus far, despite several setbacks. They have been able to rely on funding outside the MCTIC while also displaying some wiggle room in terms of internal reallocation of resources.

The São Paulo-based National Institute of Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) cut investments across the board and will most likely postpone the launch of its satellite designed to monitor the Amazon, but according to director Ricardo Galvão, the institute ought to make it to the end of the year on its feet.

At the National Institute of Amazonian Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia) based in Manaus, director Luiz Renato de França not only had to cut as much funding for research as he possibly could, he also had to approach the institute's electricity provider and settled for a better deal.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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