‘We have very little hope’: Brazilian scientists’ despair at cuts

Ninety per cent federal funding cut will leave research projects unfinished and cause massive brain drain, experts warn

November 9, 2021
Source: iStock

Brazilian academics have said they are losing hope over the future of science in the country after another devastating blow to research funding.

Many projects already under way will have to stop, and there is likely to be significant brain drain after President Jair Bolsonaro signed a bill that reduces the federal science budget by 90 per cent, experts told Times Higher Education.

Renato Janine Ribeiro, president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, said the cuts, which diverted 600 million reais (£80 million) earmarked for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to other departments, would cause “serious damage”.

Professor Ribeiro, a former education minister, said that the budget had represented the bulk of Brazilian institutions’ research funding and that many graduates were now “looking to go abroad”.

“This government has repeatedly shown it is against education, and against science,” he said. “We are doing our best to keep up hope, we are fighting, but I am pessimistic.”

Jefferson Cardia Simões, deputy provost for research at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, said the last-minute diversion of the money meant that there would be little left of the 200 million reais that had already been promised for about 8,000 researcher grants, and that research laboratories would have to be suspended “because there is no money for maintenance”.

“There is something more troubling in the air, which is the denial of the rational and the attack on the entire Brazilian scientific community,” Professor Simões said

Marcelo Knobel, professor of physics and a former rector of the University of Campinas, said that the best hope for research in the country was the end of Mr Bolsonaro’s presidency.

Although a Senate committee recommended in October that he should be charged with nine offences, including crimes against humanity, for mishandling the pandemic, his opponents may have to wait until October 2022 for the chance to vote him out of office.

Professor Knobel said the research community had been desperately trying to show parliament “the importance of science and technology for the future of the country, but it has been useless”.

“Without scholarships for students and fellowships for postgraduate students, the next generation of scholars will be lost,” he said.

Professor Knobel said scientists were trying to mobilise international pressure. “But if the government is ignoring the international community on climate change, I don’t think it will be very different in this case. We have very little hope.”



Print headline: Brazilian scientists despair at ‘damaging’ cuts

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