Fapesp Fellows (São Paulo Research Foundation) are dissatisfied with the institution’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their research.
Fapesp is responsible for most of the research funding in Brazil. In addition to awarding scholarships and grants for research in the graduate college, the agency also finances large infrastructure projects in the country.
The resource for lifting the largest particle accelerator in Latin America, the Sirius, in Campinas came from the foundation’s coffers. The oceanographic ship Alpha Crucis from the Oceanographic Institute of the USP (University of São Paulo) also received funding from the foundation in 2012.
In a letter sent to the foundation’s board of trustees, to which Folha had access, the scholarship researchers complain about the brief extension of the grant award during the pandemic, just two months after the set deadline.
The group, which claims to represent at least 100 researchers from all branches of science, argues that the foundation should extend the benefits to scientists affected by the pandemic for an additional year.
“The two-month extension to the fellowship period set at the start of the pandemic is currently out of date as the problems related to social dynamics due to social isolation lasted at least 12 months,” the excerpt from the letter reads.
The researchers say the extension of the term is in line with what Capes (a federal agency affiliated with MEC that focuses on postgraduate studies in the country) did, which extended the duration of their scholarships to up to six months, as well as USP this grants a further 12 months for the submission of dissertations and theses.
Biomedical scientist Juliano Quintella Dantas Rodrigues, 40, was prevented from traveling to the United States, where he did part of his postdoc at the University of Alabama. In May 2020, Rodrigues’ international community analysis fell on Fapesp’s fine web due to the worsening pandemic.
Without being able to look for drugs at a foreign university that can change the metabolism of the heart, the biomedical doctor now has problems in the unicamp laboratory (State University of Campinas).
“Because of the pandemic, the laboratory was only open 12 hours a week. Before it was 60 hours. So my research is very affected, ”he says.
Closing laboratories, libraries, archives and key institutions to conduct research “has a direct impact on the social dynamics of study groups,” the researchers say.
The interruption of activities in day care centers and schools as well as the lack of access to family members have also overloaded the pace of studies, especially for researchers with young children, report the scholarship holders.
The document also lists the issues researchers faced with inadequate home office and internet connectivity, which left them under “unequal conditions” in relation to the pre-pandemic era.
Without quoting the numbers, the researchers also report the occurrence of Covid-19 itself in the group and the occurrence of depression and other psychiatric illnesses due to lack of prospects during the health crisis.
“Fapesp has not yet announced its intention to conduct a study to assess the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on the research it is funding. In this way, we have practically no data to sketch strategies to restore the scientific scenario of the state of São Paulo, ”the fellows said in the letter.
For the group, a comprehensive plan to restore lost activities could speed up the red tape on research difficulties without the need for “individual requirements”.
“The organizational structure of the institution, which was designed for a pre-Covid-19 context, was not sufficient to provide agile answers that would enable the planning of future research activities,” says an excerpt from the letter produced by the scientists.
The group of fellows also says that money will not be a problem for Fapesp in 2021 as the entire São Paulo Foundation budget has been approved.
Folha sent Fapesp the claims listed by the fellows, but the foundation said in a note that it would not comment.