Science & Technology policy in Brazil

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By RICARDO T. NEDER & RAQUEL MORAES*

Presentation of a series of articles on the relationship between the University and Science and Technology policy

“Since science is not universally applicable, its methods are not necessarily unique and it is not politically neutral”
(Jose Leite Lopes)

“Science is a weapon, a weapon that can be used well or badly, and that is used well when it is in the hands of the people, and that is used badly when it does not belong to the people”
(Che Guevara)

1.

The series “Science & Technology Policy in Brazil”, now published on the website the earth is round, was originally launched in 2017 (the fruit of a book of the same name, published by the Observatory of the Movement for Social Technology in Latin America, and the Study and Research Group of CNPq History, Society and Education in Brazil – HISTEDBR-DF) by the publisher Navegando(1).

For a broader understanding of science and technology policy in Brazil, given the need to make it a reality under the scope of broad popular demands, we present a necessary and indispensable approach arising from sociological currents, policy analysis and political economy linked to Studies STS (Science, Technology, Society). To them we associate the currents of policy and philosophy of STS Science Education for the creation of S&T programs (different from the current one) for socio-productive inclusion.

The book thus intends to organize the debate for students and the university public – across from Social Sciences, Medicine, & Humanities to Technological, Exact and Life and Earth Sciences – for understanding the main lines that operate today the (dis)connections between sectoral S&T and Innovation policies, and socio-productive inclusion policies through the work and income of the majority of society.

It is about reestablishing the necessary connections between Science and Technology and popular socioeconomics, solidary socioeconomics, community economies, social economy, among other denominations. We also place, as it should be, the University and basic, professional and technological education policies in the face of these connections.

The works presented here are affiliated to the Latin American Social Studies of Science and Technology (ESCT or CTS). They aim to understand both the traditional bases of technical and scientific training linked to the agro-extractivist and urban-industrial economic model of agro-industrialization (truncated in several economic segments) in Brazil, as well as its subordination to security policies, control and digital surveillance.

We point out alternatives associated with social and popular movements, possible to overcome this regressive, morbid (in times of the Covid 19 pandemic) and police-like model of social (in)security.                          

In order to better interpret these transformations in the university and in society, interdisciplinary currents emerged in the Social Sciences and Humanities, among which we highlight the Science, Technology, Society Studies (ECTS) formed by Sociology, Anthropology, History and the Philosophy of Science and Technology in the Latin-American.

In the chapters gathered here, we integrate the interpretations of these currents with the approaches linked to scientific training in STS Science Education, in Historical-Critical Pedagogy (PHC) and in Freire's Pedagogical Philosophy.

These cognitive intellectual and political fields of production, with theoretical basis and empirical research agendas already matured since the 1980s, allow us in Latin America access to theories and methodological instruments to understand, reflect and act on the aggressive policies of universities and research institutes in hegemonic university centers (basically in four countries: United States, England, France and Germany).

The contributions presented here lead the readers to a frame of reference that is at first sight foreign to official S&T policies; certainly this strangeness is part of the necessary de-construction of technical-scientific codes generated in hegemonic academic centers.

These operate by transferring knowledge and raw materials to their large techno-scientific research laboratories where discoveries and the development of new processes and new products are carried out. In the observation of the Brazilian scientist José Leite Lopes (1978), “we must ask for what form of society, for what type of national project does development want?”(2).

Technosciences have penetrated into practically all disciplinary areas, undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Brazil. A clear definition of technoscience it can be done in an eminently didactic way: in the age of globalized industry, science and technology have become commodities; The technoscience it is “(…) a way of transferring technology from advanced countries to those in development, incorporating (…) ideas and knowledge that are guided by approaches that have already been transcended or surpassed in advanced countries (…) the technical and scientific culture is strongly dependent on of the traditions of rich countries that insist on exporting their unsustainable model of development” (3)

They broke what was considered the sacrosanct right of the university, to remain neutral in the face of demands for its use as part of the production of scientific knowledge for commercial or productive purposes.

This explicit disruption makes the picture even more aggravated by the intensification of calls new sciences  (microelectronics, industrial automation, information and communication technologies, computing, cybernetics, material sciences, genetics, evolutionary biology; neurosciences, genetic engineering, systems analysis).

The new sciences are presented under the guise of militarist and scientistic interests under the guise of fundamentalist conservatives in their fight against the links between science and humanism.

Now, argues Casanova, how can we obscure the fact that “even in the study of biological systems in the “new sciences” transition phases appear in situations close to chaos” which, from the perspective of the Humanities, becomes a phenomenon that we cannot stop thinking about as critical thinking about “(…) the transition from the current global system to a system that disables neoliberalism and paves the way for a post-capitalist society”(4).

2.

Many currents, authors and fields of knowledge in the Human and Social Sciences have carried out detailed studies and research that refer directly or indirectly to their conclusions about the dimensions of university reform and the pressure exerted by researchers who work in areas that integrate technosciences, the which opens an important chapter in the game of loss of university autonomy.

This strategic dimension is present here as a search for alternatives for research, teaching, extension and residence at the university.

It is worth remembering in this last sense that “(…) it is crucial that the scientific community does not lose control of the scientific research agenda. For this, it is necessary, first of all, that financial suffocation does not force the public university to resort to the privatization of its functions to compensate for the budget cuts.

In fact, it is crucial that openness to the outside world is not reduced to openness to the market and that the university can develop spaces for intervention that, in some way, balance the multiple and even contradictory interests that circulate in society and that, to a greater or lesser extent, convening power, challenge the university (5)

The links between the functioning of a political regime and technosciences and research in strategic areas have long been known from the Latin American Thought on Science, Technology, Society (PLACTS) associated with intellectuals such as Oscar Varsavski, Amilcar Herrera and Jorge Sabato (mentioned later )

The areas of Exact Sciences, Engineering, Life and Earth Sciences, Social and Human Sciences have specific epistemological statutes, but in the face of technology they share a common ground, all their communities depend on the functioning of the socio-political regime, to ensure stable rules of transfers of resources for investments in scientific infrastructure, programs, scientific, technical and administrative personnel.

Since 2016-17, an exceptional parliamentary-legal-media regime has been established in Brazil, which launched Education and S&T policies (the latter has long been anomalous) in a chaos of neoliberal changes.

The former Ministry of Science & Technology and Innovation was merged with that of Communications, resulting in a ornithorrinc ministerial (a strange being mixed with Science, Technology, Innovation and added with the agenda of the Communications policy”, and with budget allocations even more contingencies or simply, stolen).

In August 2016 this hybrid became a non-political, that is, it has an official appearance, legal, juridical registration but it is a non-policy because, by associating entirely different areas, resources and publics, it proceeded in this way to carry out an operation of dismantling what was done in the previous decade in terms of S&T policy (2005- 2015).

There were four macro areas of S&T policy in the 2007-2010 Action Plan of the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation, three directed towards business innovation (competitiveness and patents), and only one focused on programmatic S&T actions with social development and productive inclusion.

This last dimension (socio-productive inclusion) will continue to be key for the articulation between university and S&T policy, since 70% (national average) of the working-age population (WIP) aged 15 to 68 in the country (out of 170 million) are self-employed, self-employed and survive in family and community socioeconomic networks.

S&T promotion policies have not been aimed at these strata, but those of high and medium incomes that make up the circuits of power in this economy of the first floor. WWith this, contingents of micro-enterprises in segments, chains, sectors and branches are excluded, which form clusters in dynamics subordinated by the popular economy.

Kept in a section of legal informality, these segments are atrophied under a framework that restricts their credit, stifling their expansion, subjugating them to other forms of domination (under racism, ethnic and police segregation).

Under this section, precisely because these layers of the popular economy play a crucial role as working classes in the real economy, they are not covered by policies to encourage funding, technical assistance, access to training and official support that the formal sector has.

This is the structural situation of unequal conditions under unequal exchanges and precarious earnings under which they sell their creative energy: labor, work and productivity to the branches of first floor economy (comprised of the “500” largest private and state-owned companies, transnationals and corporations).

Such is the scenario that the approximation of the “new sciences” draws on the horizon: growth with the destruction of millions of jobs, and growth without job creation, which requires critical thinking to give priority to the vast contingents of PIA in order to win new jobs. political spaces and develop economic and social activities in the popular socio-economy linked to the “affective work” of the cultural, educational, media, ethnic and identity care universe.

Our university communities have all the conditions to authorize themselves to carry out a technical-scientific cognitive production policy for these majority. This is the counter-march to the State that supports innovationism aimed at developing “laboratories” for technological experimentation (for, among other functions, reducing jobs and occupations on a micro scale), useful for corporations on the first floor of the economy.

As a matter of civilizational counterbalancing, we must also operationalize a cognitive S&T policy platform with social and productive inclusion of the popular and solidary economy in Brazil.

This is the main contribution of this series Where does the university go in the face of science and technology policy in Brazil?

*Ricardo Neder is a sociologist and political economist, professor at UnB and editor-in-chief of Science and Social Technology Magazine.

*Raquel Moraes is a professor of education and technology at UnB.

Notes


[1]  Original publication: https://www.editoranavegando.com/educacao-ciencia-e-tecnologia

[2]  José Leite Lopes (1978) SCIENCE AND LIBERATION. twoa. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land.

[3]  Andrew Feenberg cited by Renato Dagnino (2008) NEUTRALITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM. Campinas, sp. Edunicamp. (pages 12-13).

[4]  Pablo González Casanova, the leader of Mexican Sociology, at the age of 84, he conceived this masterful work THE NEW SCIENCES AND THE HUMANITIES – FROM ACADEMY TO POLITICS (São Paulo, Boitempo, 2006). In it, he analyzes the civilizing trends with the current techno-scientific revolution, in order to raise alternative policies under a new way of thinking-doing.

[5]  Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2013) BY THE HAND OF ALICE: THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IN POST-MODERNITY.14a. Edition. Sao Paulo: Cortez.

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