Brazilian scientists strive to turn politicians into allies

As President Jair Bolsonaro slashes support for science and education, academics open up a route to offer scientific advice to policymakers

Brazil’s scientists are fighting back against President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to slash funding for research and education programmes. Researchers have joined with members of Brazil’s legislature, the National Congress, to highlight the strategic role that science, technology, and education play in the country’s economic and social development.

Around 20 congressmen gathered with academic researchers, entrepreneurs and industry representatives to launch the Initiative for Science and Technology in Parliament in Brasília on 8 May. The announcement came on the same day that more than 60 Brazilian scientific bodies gathered in the National Congress to demonstrate their opposition to the cuts that Bolsonaro’s government has made to public universities and the national research system.

“The initiative will focus on issues where science and politics meet,” says Ildeu de Castro Moreira, a physicist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, one of the groups that is coordinating the project. Its main aim is to provide scientific advice to Brazilian parliamentarians — and to foster close relations with them by promoting open discussion on science and education issues.

The Brazilian initiative comes at a delicate moment for the country’s science and education sectors. The far-right Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has begun to dismantle the national research system, contradicting his campaign promise to make science and technology a priority and to increase Brazil’s spending on research from 1% to 3% of its gross domestic product.

In late March, the government announced that it would freeze 42% of the budget of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications — effectively reducing its funding to just 2.9 billion reais (US$750 million). That is 2.2 billion reais less than the approved level for 2019, and the lowest budget for the sector since 2006. The government also cut 5.8 billion reais, or 25%, of the Ministry of Education’s budget.

Veja o texto na íntegra em inglês: Nature