FAPESP highlights research collaboration in the United States

Scientists from the University of Nebraska and the State of São Paulo kick-off the symposium, emphasizing the importance of international collaboration for the worldwide development of science

By Heitor Shimizu, in Lincoln  |  Agência FAPESP – “Brazil is my favorite place after the United States. I’ve been to Brazil 17 times in my academic and research career, traversing a good part of the country in various collaborations with Brazilian colleagues,” said Ronnie Green, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), this Monday (18/09).

Green kicked-off FAPESP Week Nebraska-Texas, which will bring together researchers from the United States and Brazil through September 22 in the cities of Lincoln (Nebraska) and Lubbock (Texas), pointing out that the event represents an “important opportunity to connect researchers from the two countries who are working together to strengthen their collaborative efforts as well as to promote the development of new partnerships.”

Green talked about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), an institution established in 1869, which currently has 26,000 students – 5,000 of whom are graduate students – along with 6,400 professors and employees. The university offers 184 undergraduate programs and 144 graduate programs and conducts R&D in a wide range of areas.

“The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a research leader in fields such as agriculture, food and water. We invested US$ 300 million in R&D in 2016,” he said.

Situated in the American Midwest and encompassing the prairies of the Great Plains in the central part of the country, Nebraska is the 16th largest state, in an area of more than 200,000 square kilometers. The state’s economy is based on agriculture and it is one of the major producers of corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, beef and pork. The state of Nebraska has large herds of cattle and a relatively robust food industry. “That’s more than three heads of cattle per resident,” said Green. The state has a population of 1.9 million.

With 280,000 residents, Lincoln is the state capital. The city was founded in 1856 and its economy is primarily services- and manufacturing-based. The University of Nebraska is the city’s third largest employer.

Michael Boehm, Vice-Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) of UNL, then gave a presentation about the Institute, which is composed of 16 academic units, three schools, 12 academic departments and three research and extension components outside the state. “We have over 43,000 acres (nearly 174 million square meters) devoted to our programs’ research, discoveries and teaching,” he said.

The IANR spent US$ 142 million on research in 2016, the largest sum of all the UNL institutes. “Our focus was on the major global challenges such as poverty, hunger, food security, energy, the environment and health,” Boehm said.

“They are challenges that we are not trying to address on our own however. Through our Global Engagement Program, we have partnerships with 80 countries and strategic relations with Brazil, China and Rwanda. And an event like FAPESP Week reminds me that the key word here is ‘integration’,” he said.

Boehm said that it was with this word in mind that he wrote his first letter upon taking over the duties of Vice-Chancellor of the IANR in early 2017 – to Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP.

“I had the privilege of taking part in FAPESP Week Ohio in 2016, and thought that it would be an important opportunity for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln if we could bring the event here. I’m delighted it has worked out and I’m certain the event will create opportunities for connecting researchers and strengthening the valuable collaborations between the University and Brazil,” he said.

Research in São Paulo

Brito Cruz then talked about R&D in the State of São Paulo and in Brazil as a whole, remarking that “São Paulo publishes more scientific papers per year than any country in Latin America.”

“São Paulo also awards over 20,000 PhDs every year, a number that has grown and is compatible with the needs of research and industrial institutions in Brazil,” he said, presenting a table that compared the annual number of PhD recipients among countries such as Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

“The State of São Paulo accounts for nearly one-third of Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it generates 45% of all science in Brazil. This is because São Paulo has historically attached particular importance to higher education and research, and allocates 13% of its budget to those two areas,” he said.

“The state has 63 entities whose mission is driven by research activities, in addition to 14,887 companies that focus on developing innovations. São Paulo has nearly 74,000 researchers, 43,000 of whom are at institutions of higher education, 28,000 at companies and 3,000 at federal and state research institutes,” he said.

Brito Cruz indicated that unlike in other states, most public investment in R&D in São Paulo comes from state rather than federal sources. “State investment in São Paulo is 10 times higher than in the state of Rio de Janeiro and 25 times higher than in the state of Minas Gerais, reflecting not only the differences in GDP in the states, but also the states’ priorities with regard to research investment,” he said.

Brito Cruz also talked about how FAPESP performed, investing more than R$ 1.1 billion in research in 2016. “We received close to 26,000 proposals for scholarships and grants in 2016, and the average time for analyzing them was 65 days, with a 40% success rate.”

The scientific director also underscored the importance of international research collaboration, remarking that FAPESP has cooperation agreements with more than 160 organizations in 30 countries – 25 agreements were signed in 2016 alone.

“In addition to granting more than 1,000 scholarships and grants abroad to researchers and students from the State of São Paulo, FAPESP has a variety of instruments to encourage researchers and students from other countries to come to the State of São Paulo,” he said. Researchers from 177 countries traveled to São Paulo in 2016 on grants awarded by FAPESP.

Brito Cruz talked about the São Paulo School of Advanced Science (SPSAS), which consists of short-term courses given by renowned Brazilian and foreign scientists, and the São Paulo Excellence Chair (SPEC) program, where senior researchers from other countries collaborate with Brazilian colleagues for periods of three to five years, spending up to three months a year in Brazil.