# Budget crunch hits Brazilian physics

19 Feb 2017

Scientists in Brazil have protested devastating cuts to science that are threatening to close institutes and funding agencies across the country. Earlier this month about 900 people took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro to protest over budget reductions that have hit science this year. Meanwhile, around 80,000 people in Brazil have signed an online petition, set up in late August, calling on Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, to reverse the cuts.

### Brain drain

Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC) states that the financial constraints that hit the CBPF will be dealt with on a month-by-month basis. While ministry representatives declined Physics World‘s request for an interview, they stated that they have been working jointly with other governmental institutions to ease the effects that recent cuts have had on research institutions. “We acknowledge the importance of investments in science and technology as vital to the development of the country and we work towards the recovery of the full budget that was initially expected for this year,” they say.

According to Shellard, however, the MCTIC is not to blame for the lack of financial resources, but rather government figures who he says think that science is a secondary topic. “I don’t believe this is part of a wicked governmental plan to dismantle the country’s scientific endeavour; it’s more like the government has no plan at all.” Indeed, he is optimistic, despite the problems, that a solution to the crisis can be found.

Yet many Brazilian researchers, particularly those starting out, are already leaving the country. “The current status quo has been one of discouragement to new generations of scientists,” says physicist Ildeu de Castro Moreira, who is president of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science. “If no action is taken soon, the future of Brazilian science and technology will be dramatic.”

### Doomsday scenario

As well as the protests and petitions, members of the scientific community are also regularly heading to Brasília, the country’s capital, to persuade politicians and policy makers that science is crucial for the country’s economy and is not a trivial expense. “Strangely, many politicians in Brazil seem to have a hard time in understanding such a message,” says Shellard.

So serious is the situation that the CBPF’s communication department has been running a public-awareness campaign that is inspired by the metaphorical Doomsday Clock, which is used by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as a warning of the risk of global catastrophe. According to the CBPF’s campaign, “2017 might be the year when the clock of Brazilian science approaches its midnight.”