Fiscal crisis has Brazilian scientists scrambling

HERTON ESCOBAR, SCIENCE MAGAZINE, 8/28/2015 

Brazilian neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel spent years studying the brains of mammals, including mice, whales, and humans, to understand the forces that shape their intricate folds. The effort paid off last month, when the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro professor co-authored a high-profile paper showing that the folding is governed by a relatively straightforward mathematical relationship (Science, 3 July, p. 74). But even as Herculano-Houzel’s research soared, she was struggling to solve a much more pragmatic equation: how to pay her laboratory bills amid one of the worst science funding crises to strike Brazil in decades.

Environmental groups are trying to stop Brazil's congress from re-districting part of the Amazon conservation lands to make room for forestry and hydroelectric dams. (Forbes)

Environmental groups are trying to stop Brazil’s congress from re-districting part of the Amazon conservation lands to make room for forestry and hydroelectric dams. (Forbes)

Battling a slumping economy and debt, Brazil’s federal government has taken an ax to spending, and it isn’t sparing science. President Dilma Rousseff’s administration has cut by 25% the Ministry of Science’s projected 2015 budget of 7.3 billion reais ($2 billion), and sliced 9% from the 48.8 billion real ($13.7 billion) budget of the Ministry of Education, which plays an important role in funding graduate students. Research agencies are delaying payments for grants that have already been awarded, and have canceled or postponed new calls for proposals. And Rousseff is redirecting funds once earmarked largely for research to send Brazilian students abroad to study.

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