The average Brazilian lives in better living conditions than those of the richest monarchs who have passed through history until the eighteenth century. This is due to the progress of science, mainly in the past 200 years, explained Elsio Abdallah, BINGO project coordinator and professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Physics (IF-USP). The knowledge that led to the development of medicines and treatments that improved and extended life as well as cured diseases, the techniques that facilitated movement and took us to the moon, and the tools that improved food production, are the results of scientific development. Most of them appeared and were strengthened by knowledge centers and universities.
“No society or country has developed without a large investment in scientific research and universities, this is not an expense, but an investment that returns to society in all areas. The Covid-19 vaccine, which was urgently developed and saved lives every day, is an excellent example of this, but The science goes beyond that, it is in our daily lives, from the innovations and discoveries that make consumer goods better and more accessible, to the engineering that improves urban mobility and agricultural development that makes food production cheaper and better quality.”
In other words, says the specialist, investing in innovation and science is creating economic independence and improving the quality of life for its citizens. Abdullah knows what he’s talking about. In addition to being a professor at the University of the South Pacific, he is also the coordinator of one of the country’s most innovative projects, the BINGO radio telescope, which will be installed in the interior of Paraíba. The project, which was funded by FAPESP and Finep, is unprecedented in the country and has researchers from Brazil, China, South Africa, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Portugal and France.
The goal is to explore possibilities in observing the universe from the Brazilian sky, and to get a better understanding of what’s above us – including strategic information that could benefit the government. In addition to bringing material and technical knowledge, the benefits of this investment go far beyond.
What are we missing?
Information – In a world increasingly capable of generating and processing information, knowing so little about geography, demographics and the health of our population puts us, once again, behind in the economic race. BINGO is one of the most innovative projects in this aspect that will reveal our sky, one of the lesser known regions of the country. “Not only will we know the technical aspects, but, say, what’s going on above us, like satellites, for example.”
Development – In simple Portuguese, what we lose the most is economic, which puts us at a disadvantage in the international conflict. “Innovations create high value-added products: which means greater financial return. Brazil is still an agricultural country, it depends on commodities, meaning we need to produce a lot to get money. If we keep this pace, the difference in wealth between us and other countries It will expand.”
Brains – This phenomenon has never been greater than it was in 2020, at least for the United States. According to the 2020 financial report, the country recorded a 36% increase in permanent visas granted to Brazilian “exceptional professionals”, the type of visa required by doctors, nurses or physiotherapists – but the category also includes other disability areas, such as aviation or engineering.
Luxury – Technologies can make products cheaper, and make them more accessible to the poorest, from household appliances to medicines, such as vaccines and imaging equipment, for example.
A paradigm change is needed in Brazil
All of these innovations are in danger of being lost. In the midst of the pandemic, the federal government invested less in 2020 than it did in 2009: just over 17 billion. For 2022, the outlook is much worse. As in Brazil, almost all innovations and research come from public universities, this number practically hampers Brazilian scientific production. But society must respond accordingly. The country’s large corporations, fortunes, and private companies can be major factors in this change. The reality of the United States proves that the paradigm shift is significant.
“There is no culture of this kind of investment in the country. There is a lot of philanthropy, which makes sense because we are a developing country, with a lot of poverty. But in order to be able to get out of these facts for good, what needs to be done is to invest in innovative projects. , research centers, in our universities, and academics, so that we can create information and knowledge that will make a difference for our country and for the planet. And high value-added products,” he explains.
One piece of evidence is that countries that have understood this are still far ahead: global spending on science has increased by 19%. The United States and China, the two largest global powers, account for 63% of this increase. And the other four countries that invest proportionately more in research are also progressing, not only in innovation, but in social well-being. namely South Korea and Germany which invest nearly 4% in research; Japan and the United States pass about 3%.
Here the reality is different, and the bad news is that with the camper ride, things get even worse. By 2021, science has been living on minimal resources. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) has a reduction of 29%. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) only received 23.7 million R$, “a very small amount,” says the professor.
“It’s the worst situation I’ve had in my entire academic life, about 40 years ago. In fact, compared to other countries, I’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing today. We have many students and academics working for free. We’ve been living with the authorities, at all levels. Governments, who are totally opposed to the global trend of appreciating science and innovation, who underestimate them with fake news. It will take many years and decades to recover from this damage.”
The consequences are being felt day by day, from technical flaws, as in Plataforma Lattes, to downgrading development agencies. Inovacred, Finep Credit Program for Innovative Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which is awarded from R$ 350 million to R$ 400 million annually. By 2020, that volume has been halved.
Bingo will contribute to seeing the Southern Hemisphere to work on new physical phenomena, which are already beginning to appear in different parts of the planet in a way that is complementary to ours. Among other projects, we have, for example, Chime (the Canadian Experiment for Hydrogen Density Mapping) in the Northern Hemisphere and other mega projects in China (Tian Lai and FAST) and in South Africa by the United Kingdom and Other Countries (SKA). The so-called “dark sector of the universe” will be the focus of the discoveries. In the Sertau region, far from electromagnetic pollution, it will be possible to learn more about unknown structures in the galaxy and the universe, about fast radio bursts and about pulsars that still need to be observed, as well as to perceive new signals from space.
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Abdullah notes that “about 95% of the energy content in the universe is completely unknown, and BINGO will look at the detailed distribution of known matter to determine the bonds in the dark sector of the universe.”
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