SBPC holds elections amid paradoxical science in the pandemic scenario – 6/20/2021 – Science

The SBPC (Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science), the most influential body that brings together researchers in the country, elects its new board this Monday (21) in the face of a paradoxical scenario.

On the one hand, the effects of Covid-19 have put scientific research at the center of public debate in Brazil and around the world. On the other hand, however, this bonus in interest and exposure has been accompanied by the burden of fake news and conspiracy theories. By adopting a negative stance while exacerbating a lack of funding scenario for national research, the federal government and its staunch supporters have put most Brazilian scientists on their enemies list.

The SBPC election, which has been taking place online since the end of May, is contested by two slates. One of them will be led by Renato Janine Ribeiro, professor of ethics and political philosophy at the USP and former minister of education, and the other by Carlos Alexandre Netto, doctor by training, professor of biochemistry at UFRGS and former dean of the federal university in Rio Grande do Sul.

The banners defended by both candidates for the presidency of the SBPC have much in common, starting with the struggle to rebuild the federal budget for science and technology, a demand that has mobilized the lean cow scientific community the most in recent years . The two panels propose to mobilize the considerable prestige of the Panel in Defense of Democratic Freedoms threatened by paperbackism and social inclusion, as well as to intensify the science popularization initiatives, in which the SBPC is a pioneer.

“I don’t see any conflict between the plates in this campaign,” Janine Ribeiro told Folha. “I would say our project emphasizes post-tragedy, post-horror,” says the professor at the USP, referring to the effects of Covid-19 in Brazil. “The similarity is not surprising. We are both SBPC consultants, with a history of participation in society and a consolidated academic career, ”observes Netto, for whom“ Brazil needs to be rebuilt after the disastrous response to the pandemic ”.

For both candidates, the possibility of a slow economic recovery in the country in the coming years, which would mean little money to invest in research, is no reason for some priority or strategic science areas to receive more support than others.

“I think we have to focus on all areas. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t play a more prominent role in some, as is already the case in the agricultural or biodiversity sector, ”Janine Ribeiro reflects. “Instead of considering some sectors to be more important than others, it would be an interesting way to organize interdisciplinary cooperation on major national problems,” argues Netto.

Attempts to reverse cuts in funding and doctoral scholarships during the early years of the Bolsonaro government were tarnished by attacks by the President of the Republic, who often falsely repeats that Brazilian public universities are not producing relevant research (only a very one, in fact small part of the national research comes from private institutions).

“In terms of budget, speech and executive decisions, it is a government that is hostile to education and science. In Inpe’s case, there was even a return of data censorship [Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, responsável pelo monitoramento do desmate na Amazônia]“Says Netto. “In a way, it was even humiliating to go to the max to ensure that PhD students were not left without the scholarships they rely on to survive. The role of the SBPC must be non-partisan and dialogue-oriented regardless of the government, but the consequences of Bolsonaro’s second term in office are difficult to imagine. “

For Janine Ribeiro, the poverty of the current political debate shows that it is necessary to invest massively in the scientific education of the population in the broadest sense – not only in the natural sciences, but also in solid knowledge of the humanities. “That is the only thing that will prevent people from calling someone ‘communist’ if there is nothing communist at all, as has happened in recent years, or if we have so many supposed liberalists that liberals almost have nothing, ”he says. .

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