The academic community in Brazils So Paulo state is breathing a sigh of relief after the state government has amended a controversial bill that threatened to cripple scientific research. But another dramatic cut is already looming.
The bill, presented by the So Paulo government in August, authorized the state to seize the economic reserves of the three state universities and the So Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state agency that funds fellowships and scientific projects. The move was part of a set of measures aimed at balancing So Paulos finances, which have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many prominent scientists and scientific organizations had spoken out against the bill, which the Brazilian Academy of Sciences said would paralyze all scientific activities in the state of So Paulo. As the countrys wealthiest state, So Paulo accounts for about 40% of Brazils scientific output.
Last week, the government gave in to the mounting pressure. On Thursday, So Paulo Governor Joo Doria met with the chancellors of the three state universities and the director of FAPESP to announce an agreement that will leave the four institutions out of the bill. They realized that taking resources that can enhance the development of the state could help in the really short term but was a terrible idea in the medium and long terms, says Paulo Artaxo, an environmental physicist at the University of So Paulo, University City.
The scientific community has hailed the news as a victory, but Artaxo and others point out that theres a new threat for FAPESP. The agency is funded through an annual, fixed share of the states tax revenue; a new bill, presented by the government on 2 October, would enable the government to keep 30% (about $80 million) of that annual sum in 2021. The state legislature will debate and vote on the billwhich Artaxo calls unprecedented and a crime against developmentover the next few weeks.