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UFMG – Federal University of Minas Gerais

A 'Tesourometer' installed at the entrance to the Pampulha campus during the SBPC meeting in 2017, showed budget losses imposed on science and technology in Brazil
A ‘Tesourometer’ installed at the entrance to the Pampulha campus during the SBPC meeting in 2017, showed budget losses imposed on science and technology in Brazil Carol Prado | UFMG

This column was written for the #scienceinelections . campaignWhich celebrates Science Month. In July, columnists give up their spaces to reflect on the role of science in the reconstruction of Brazil.

In 1981, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão . was launched You will not see any countryIt is a book that describes a place desolate due to lack of water, stifling temperatures, depletion of natural resources and authoritarianism. The bitter reality that haunts us in Brazil today.

However, I do not intend to deal with a miserable future, but to promote hope and faith in utopias and the undisputed ability of science to work in their favour. My recent place is the state university which is mainly responsible for the scientific production of the country. It is through science that we perceive the world and confront the challenges of our time – social, environmental and economic issues of all kinds, from environmental tragedies to the preservation of forests, rivers and seas, as well as strategies for strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring social and economic development.

The Brazilian science and technology (S&T) system has come to life in recent decades thanks to investments in public universities and research institutes, boosted by federal and state funding agencies. This allowed us to enter the ranking of the most productive countries in the field of research.

However, in recent years, the budgets allocated to these institutions have been drastically decreasing, jeopardizing the future of this robust and, paradoxically, fragile ecosystem. Powerful because it brings together active entities such as ministries, secretariats, funding agencies, universities and research institutes that cover different areas of knowledge. Fragile because without continued investment this system will not be able to propose solutions to the country’s serious problems.

This system is at a crossroads. Will it be able to increase its importance in the international scenario, or will it decline to levels that do not correspond to the dimensions of the demands facing the country?

Despite all the difficulties, our science, technology and innovation system has responded to the great challenge of the coronavirus. Many experts assert that new epidemics are waiting for us. If we are not properly supported, will our public universities and research institutions be able to provide a rapid and effective response like that presented in the current pandemic scenario?

Investment in education, science and technology should be central to the agendas of the majority of candidates and parliamentary seats.

On a recent visit to our university, writer Elton Krenac gave us reflection when he questioned the difficulty of calling the future into the present. Why do we consider the future a parable about something that does not exist, like nowhere else? Krenak demands from us a real commitment to building the future now, starting with the present.

The 2022 elections, with all the social energy that the electoral process muster, represent an opportunity for collective reflection and to begin (re)building the nation’s project we want, with an appreciation of science and universities. Investment in education, science and technology should be central to the agendas of the majority of candidates and parliamentary seats.

Brazil has always been seen as the country of the future, but if it does not pay back the commitments of the past that remain in the present, invests in improving the lives of its inhabitants, in social and economic equity, in social justice and in democratizing access to education and health, it will remain Stuck in a paralyzing mirage. Without knowledge we will not see any country.

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