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Research and Development

A comparison between science in Brazil and science in other Latin American countries and in Israel helps to place Brazilian scientific research in a broader context. According to a 1994 study prepared by scientist Thomas S. Shott, Brazil performs less than 1 percent of the scientific research in the world. No Brazilian scientist was mentioned in a survey that cited nearly 3,000 scientists as principal contributors or as influential. Brazilian research amounted to a little less than half the research performed in Latin America and about a third of that performed in Israel, where scientific performance is high.

In economy and population, Brazil is roughly half the size of the rest of Latin America. However, Brazil is a whole order of magnitude larger than Israel in terms of the economy and even more in terms of population, and yet far less research is performed in Brazil than in Israel. Brazilian specialization emphasizes the disciplines of physics, biology, and mathematics. Brazilian research focuses on biomedicine and earth and space science and de-emphasizes clinical medicine and chemistry. Within medicine, however, tropical medicine and parasitology are fields of strong specialization in Brazil, as in the rest of Latin America. Brazilian growth has been highest in technological science, especially in computing.

Brazilian scientists are tied to colleagues, both Brazilian and foreign, who have influenced their research and who are collaborators or competitors in research. Cooperation and collaboration between Brazilian researchers and the scientific establishment in the rest of Latin America are also higher. Additional factors promoting scientific ties are social and cultural linkages between Brazil and the rest of Latin America.

Although regional integration is noticeable, it is overshadowed by the influence of scientific centers in North America and Western Europe. Brazilian scientists value their visits to these centers. The involvement of Brazilian scientists with the centers, however, has been slightly less than the participation of other Latin American scientists and much less than that of Israeli scientists.

University Research and Graduate Education

Most of Brazil's research and development activities take place in its main public universities. There are about 1.5 million higher education students, around 10 percent of the age cohort, distributed in federal (21.1 percent), state (12.7 percent), municipal (5.1 percent), and private institutions (61.1 percent). There are about 15,000 active scientists and researchers in Brazil, and about 1,000 graduate programs in most fields of knowledge.

Research in universities usually is associated with graduate education, although relatively few university professors hold a doctoral degree. These professors are concentrated in the São Paulo State system, which is responsible for more than 50 percent of the doctoral degrees granted, and in some of the best federal universities (see table 37, Appendix).

Most academics in public institutions have full-time contracts, and their salaries are equivalent to those obtained in private schools. The assumption is that they should combine teaching with research, but in practice few have the necessary training for research work. The universities provide physical space and salaries for research, but little else; the researcher, or the research group, has to seek out support money and research grants. In most cases, the researcher applies for grants from the CNPq and FAPESP or from some private foundation in Brazil or abroad. Equipment and library holdings in the universities usually are obtained through special grants and projects from Finep or from occasional programs run by the government, in some cases with resources from the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank (see Glossary). Researchers can also enter into cooperative research projects with public and private corporations, or with the government itself. Unicamp (Campinas State University), for instance, had an important cooperative agreement with Telebrás, Brazil's communications holding; and the Coppe (Coordinating Board of Postgraduate Programs in Engineering) has worked with Petrobrás in the development of technologies for deep-sea oil drilling. The Federal University of Santa Catarina is well known for its Institute of Mechanical Engineering (Instituto de Engenharia Mecánica--IEM) and has a large portfolio of research and development contracts with private institutions. The more entrepreneurial and competent departments and institutes obtain resources that enable them to work according to high standards of efficiency. Others, in the same institution, may not have the means to purchase a computer or even to renew journal subscriptions.

Data as of April 1997

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