The Carlos Chagas platform, which is fundamental to the operationalization of Brazilian science, is not up in the air yet. On this Thursday (12), 20 days of system failure will be completed.
The Jair Bolsonaro government has not yet managed to normalize the platform after an error occurred on the servers of the CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), a federal research development agency.
The agency is affiliated with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. On Saturday (8) the service of the Lattes platform, which manages the curricula of Brazilian researchers, was normalized.
With Carlos Chagas still out of service, the continuity of projects across the country is at risk, in addition to the damage to CNPq’s technical areas.
The platform, founded in 2007, is the most important interface between researchers and CNPq.
Carlos Chagas runs public tenders and announcements to promote research, as well as the administration and payment of grants and accounting. The prolonged blackout period worries the researchers.
Around 84,000 scholarship holders are funded by the CNPq. According to official information, the agency currently supports 2,201 research projects.
CNPq stated that all deadlines have been suspended and will be extended. According to the agency, there will be no delays in the payment of the scholarships.
The retired researcher at Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) Samuel Goldenberg from Paraná says that the daily routine of national research depends heavily on the platform.
Goldenberg states that decisions to continue research are compromised without, for example, access to the financial records of a project he is coordinating.
The project cited by the researcher analyzes mechanisms of gene expression in Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological causative agent of Chagas disease – which bears the name of the Brazilian medic Carlos Chagas, whose name the platform now baptizes out of nowhere.
The platform is also used to evaluate the financing of new projects.
“An attempt was planned for next week to fund scientific events. With the system in place for everything,” says Goldenberg, who is part of the CNPq’s deputy genetics committee responsible for evaluating proposals.
Researchers still fear data loss. “There [Carlos Chagas] There’s our entire project history, accountability, projects we submit, opinions. That’s where we work, “says João Viola, researcher at the Inca (National Cancer Institute) in Rio de Janeiro.
“The system has not been going well for some time, but I can say with certainty that there has never been a situation like this before. We have no idea of the loss, but the issue is not transparent.”
A failure of the information technology brought the systems to a standstill on July 23rd.
The blackout was caused by the burning of a controller device for the servers on which the platforms are hosted, according to official information from the CNPq. This would have occurred when migrating data to a new server.
It took 15 days to fully restore access to Lattes. But so far there is no forecast for the start-up of Carlos Chagas.
According to CNPq, it was decided to migrate all data, systems and services to new devices before access to this platform is restored “in order to ensure more security and stability and still have a definitive solution,” the agency said in a statement . . The delay in resolving the situation would be due to the data transfer process.
The main CNPq server affected by the outage was out of warranty and without a maintenance contract. When asked, the agency stated that a working group “will act in a careful assessment of the conditions that have caused the problem”.
The system failure occurred in a scenario known to the government. In the 2020 annual report of the CNPq, the agency states that the “reduced ability of information systems to support and execute development” “undoubtedly” indicated the need for improvement.
In September last year, the need to invest in platforms was discussed in a meeting of the advisory body, the body’s highest decision-making power.
Last year, CNPq spent R $ 6.7 million on IT. According to the same report, the amount corresponds to 68% of the funds committed.
The federal authority announced that the values for technical services for repairs are still being negotiated. The agency said used equipment was obtained through donations from other government agencies that had unused equipment.
The funds allocated to the CNPq have been tightened in recent years and intensified by the Bolsonaro government.
In 2021 the council will have the lowest budget since at least 2012, also in nominal terms. The Agency’s updated budget allocation for the year is R $ 1.2 billion – for example, from 2013 to 2015 the implemented budget exceeded R $ 2 billion per year.
The number of servers was also reduced by 34% between 2015 and 2020. There are now 316 employees up from 478 in 2015.
Even so, the CNPq continues to play a leading role in Brazilian research.
In the past year, 27,951 published scientific articles were funded by the agency. This equates to 40% of Brazilian scientific production, according to data indexed in the Web of Science database and collected by the Council.
In 2015 this percentage was 44.5%, however, due to the current share, CNPq positions itself as the largest development agency in the country.
However, the failure of servers affects the agency’s performance.
“Each CNPq activity has systems built into the platforms,” said Roberto Muniz, director of the National Union of Public Managers in Science and Technology and president of the CNPq Servants Association. “It’s been 20 days since CNPq did absolutely nothing.”
Goldenberg from Fiocruz says he sees an unprecedented situation today. “I’ve had a CNPq scholarship for 50 years, I started academic initiation, I did a Masters, PhD, Postdoc, I had a Research Productivity Scholarship, and there has never been a situation as deplorable as it is now so far, ”he says.
“Seeing the CNPq in this situation is painful because it is extremely important to seize the country’s future,” he says.
CNPq denies the bug is related to the budget cut. The agency also ensures that all information from research and researchers is backed up.