The team of Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, this week sent to the Ministry of Science a proposal for a provisional measure to merge Capes and CNPq in one institution. MEC wants to turn both agencies into a foundation that would be managed by the portfolio.
The merger is criticized in academia and science and faces opposition from the Ministry of Science.
Capes (Higher Education Personnel Improvement Coordination) is linked to the Ministry of Education, while CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) is linked to the Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications portfolio.
Both agencies have research support attributions, but act with different objectives. Responsible for postgraduate evaluation and coordination, Capes finances research grants focusing on the qualification of higher education personnel.
CNPq, on the other hand, has a greater focus on fostering research and technology activities. It also provides scholarships, more focused on scientific research and innovation.
The Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) government's merger plan is advancing amid a financial crisis that threatens the payment of scholarships and the continuation of major scientific projects, such as the Sirius particle accelerator, the largest venture in Brazilian science.
The Ministry of Science confirmed the receipt of the text and stressed that it is a proposal from MEC that was not discussed by the portfolio, especially regarding the construction of a foundation. The folder also informed that it is available to discuss the importance of CNPq.
Minister Marcos Pontes published in a social network: "About the idea of CNPq and CAPES: the position of MCTIC is contrary to the merger, as it would be detrimental to the scientific development of the country. . These problems are already being worked on at CNPq. "
Weintraub bet that the new body would stay at MEC on the grounds that the portfolio was better able to cope with Capes' scarcity of resources this year, especially in relation to the economic team.
The Ministry of Economy recommended the merger of the two agencies and the linkage of Finep (Financier of Studies and Projects), today linked to the Science portfolio, to BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development).
For Roberto Muniz, president of the national union of science and technology managers, the budget crisis has caused the emergence of ideas that do not solve the issue.
"The government is moving to redirect the entire science and technology system, reduce it drastically, and shift the focus to applied research that generates resources and profits," he says. "It is a risk to national sovereignty, because without producing basic knowledge the country is hostage to the countries that produce this knowledge," says Muniz, who is also president of the CNPq server association.
Thirteen academic and research institutions released on Friday (11) their letter against the merger plan.
"It would be a misguided measure in all respects since the two institutions, created and developed over more than six decades, have very clear and complementary missions," says the letter, signed by institutions such as the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Society for Science and Andifes Progress (which brings together deans of federal universities).
Because of a resource block, Capes has so far cut 7,590 research grants, equivalent to 8% of what it had at the beginning of the year. Even after decontamination, the agency still faces a freeze of $ 549 million in the year's budget.
The agency still loses half of its budget in 2020, according to a proposal sent to Congress by the government: it goes from $ 4.25 billion, according to the authorized amount for 2019, to $ 2.20 billion next year. The MEC says it has already secured another $ 600 million for what is coming and Capes has been trying to convince deputies to build a parliamentary amendment of more $ 300 million.
With respect to CNPq, the 2019 budget has already been approved with insufficient resources forecasted. The budget guaranteed the payment of 84,000 scholarships only until August.
Bills overdue last month and this year were paid with last-minute guaranteed features. The portfolio still needs $ 250 million to secure the scholarships of the year.
The Ministry of Science has requested contributions to the Economy but has been ignored so far, as the portfolio itself informs in response to the request for information from Deputy Ivan Valente (PSOL).
To pay fellows this month, CNPq has relocated funds from research funding, which finances projects like Sirius. The equipment is the size of a football stadium and is the most expensive and sophisticated machine in Brazilian science.
It is a particle accelerator, located in Campinas (SP), which will allow the visualization in very high resolution of structures of viruses and proteins (in search of new vaccines), soil (with the idea of improving fertilizers) and rocks. and new materials (to improve gas and oil exploration), among other applications. When done, it will put the country at the forefront of research using this method.
The briefing states in the document sent to the House that the unlocking of resources is necessary for the start of operation of its three accelerators and for the full operation of Sirius's thirteen beamlines by 2020.
"At the moment, CNPEM is focused on ensuring that Sirius will start operating and open to the research community next year, which is the main objective of the project, which is being preserved even in a context of budget constraint, "said CNPEM, the social organization responsible for Sirius, in a statement.
The Ministry of Science said in a statement that, in the scenario of restriction, has prioritized the payment of scholarships and the guarantee of resources for its research institutes and related entities.
The Ministry of Education reported that the final decision to merge the agencies depends on President Bolsonaro's decision. The report questioned the MEC about the text of the provisional measure in the early evening of Friday (11), but until the publication of this report there was no return on this topic.
The provisional measure is an instrument that speeds up the process in Congress. With force of law, it is adopted by the president in cases of relevance and urgency. Delayed consideration may lock the voting agenda.
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