A place for Brazil in the democratization of science? – II



Considerations on the question of the decolonization of science from the point of view of the global south

This essay is the second in a series with the same title. It pursues developments of the argument introduced in the first, published on the website the earth is round on March 17, 2022. The series addresses the issue of the decolonization of science from the point of view of the global south, and assesses Brazil's chances of leading this process, once a democratic government has been elected and the minimum conditions for the functioning of the Rule of law.

The argument at this stage consists of opposing the weakness of the political organization of the scientific communities of the global north to the strength of our own, as represented by the most engaged sectors of our scientific associations and class entities – whose tradition of defending democracy has been responding firmly and promptly to the repeated threats of recent years.

Initially, I intend to analyze three examples of protest movements launched by scientists from the USA and the European Union that are based on superficial or even mistaken political analyzes, despite having raised a growing degree of mobilization – which, as we will see, is very positive .

The first is a reaction to academic productivism called slow science, which had two distinct versions in Europe in the 2010s. The second is a movement known as The Cost of Knowledge, which emerged between the US and the EU in 2010. Its proposal was to boycott the most powerful among the giants of scientific publishing, Elsevier. The third and most vigorous of these is an academic sequel to the Extinction rebellion, a protest movement against the climate breakdown that emerged in the United Kingdom and spread across the world in 2018. Under the name of Scientists' Rebellion, the group, made up of climate scholars, is in a permanent campaign to make governments and public opinion aware of the climate emergency.

Next, I intend to discuss some examples of significant initiatives by our professional associations and scientific associations in fostering the current debate on the role of science and technology in the face of the political situation in Brazil and the world. The analyzes produced by these institutions, although differing in detail, converge in considering the relationship between scientific production and the economic model, colonialism and the unequal distribution of wealth in the world. In the global north, the task of thinking about science and technology is left to philosophers and historians of science, whose political horizon tends to be restricted to academia. Likewise, professional associations and scientific associations in these countries tend to limit themselves to defending corporate interests.

Examining these differences between our academics and those from the North will prepare the ground for us to discuss, in the next essays, some ways to decolonize science and technology in Brazil – and perhaps in the world –, based on the successful experience of inclusion and social referencing of our public universities.


The rise of activism in global science

All the movements in question advocate an idealized scientific democracy and denounce the commodification of science in the “knowledge society”. However, only the “rebellion” against climate degradation addresses the inequalities between the global north and south.

Nevertheless, the “rebels” are far from questioning the hegemonic countries' contempt for any alternatives to their epistemology, ethics or aesthetics. In fact, they invoke the same old notions of justice, enlightenment and universality as the foundation of the desired worldwide union of forces against climate breakdown.

In short, even when mobilized, scientists from the global north hardly realize that the evils they denounce are rooted in millennia of colonial predation of peoples and territories by successive hegemonies of the “enlightened”.


slow science

The term “slow science” appeared in 2006, in a letter from Australian biochemist Lisa Alleva to the editor of Nature. It was an appeal to scientists to take time to savor the gratifications of unhurried science. In 2010, a group of German scientists, calling themselves The slow science academy, launched a manifesto preaching less accelerated scientific practices and, at the same time, more reflective and independent than those then in force. The document contained a twelve-point agenda that should lead to the desired slowdown in favor of quality: (1) safeguarding the independence of public research funding institutions; (2) allocate private funding to research intended for private purposes; (3) maintain a research agenda sensitive to social and environmental justice and focused on major systemic challenges; (4) prioritize the democratization of higher education and scientific communication; (5) avoid hasty publication aiming at quantity over quality; (6) ensure the transparency of peer review and curb excessive profits of publishing companies; (7) stimulate the opening of scientific disciplines to diverse research practices and paradigms; (8) improve researchers' working conditions, stopping the current precariousness; (9) improve the access of women, blacks or any other excluded groups to education and scientific production; (10) advocate for scientific independence and political advocacy based on scientific insights; (11) guarantee the conditions for scientific production within transparent ethical standards; (12) publicly recognize the fallibility of scientific results, encouraging critical thinking and the fight against dogmatism.

It is clear that this agenda, although progressive, was too vague to produce the desired changes. His most concrete defense was a review of discoveries in chemistry with a gestation period greater than a decade, published in Nature by Jean-François Lutz in 2012. Thus, although many scientists have nominally adhered to the German manifesto, the theme only came back to the fore with the publication of the homonymous book by the philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers in 2018.[I]

The author explicitly refers to the manifesto, contrasting it with her own vision of slow science. For her, it is not about returning to a past in which scientists were freer and more autonomous. Rather, it is about imagining practices that lead them to commit to socially referenced research.

The slowdown would naturally result from the need to produce facts that are not only scientifically reliable, but also relevant to society in general, whatever the conflict with instances of power demanding immediate results. Ultimately, the socially committed scientist should resort to civil disobedience to block the publication of results before assessing the cost-benefit for society. For Stengers, the most striking example in this respect is that of biologists who preach the maintenance of secrecy about the results of research on transgenics until their risks are fully clarified.

The foregoing must have been enough to show that the political analysis of the protagonists of the movement slow science it is superficial and confined to its own environment. In addition to protesting against a long list of effects of neoliberal capitalism without mentioning it, they preach a political militancy whose aim is to improve the quality and relevance of scientific results within capitalist society itself. For this reason, they do not even relate their complaints to the recent evolution of the means of production in that society.


The cost of knowledge

Among the three movements examined here, this one is the most limited to academia. It has, however, the merit of having called into question the power of the large publishing groups and added arguments to the campaign for open access, ongoing since 2001.

The initiative, dated 2012, came from a group of mathematicians who realized that digital media had lowered the production costs of scientific publications without the clientele having benefited from this. After testing various metrics for calculating the costs of digital dissemination of journals, they discovered that the one that seemed most reliable to them – the cost per page – revealed that Elsevier charged amounts equal to or greater than those of the publishers that owned the titles at the top of the pyramid Of Quality. They then proposed a boycott of the company as an emblematic gesture of protest.

The decision was reinforced by three other findings. The first is that Elsevier charged (as it still does) an excruciating price for an individual subscription to a journal, but reduced it significantly when the institution agreed to subscribe to it as part of a package that necessarily contained some unwanted titles. Thus, for financial reasons, almost all libraries served by the publisher were obliged to bear the balance of journals of lesser interest to their community. This blackmail was only managed by the richest and most famous universities in the USA and the United Kingdom, whose prestige weighed heavily in the negotiation of security values.

The second discovery involved the artificial magnification of the impact factor of a mathematics journal through mutual citations agreed between the authors. A commission convened by the insurgent group contested the journal's excellence after submitting it to explicit and well-established evaluation criteria.

The third discovery involved medicine. For five years, Elsevier had published, under the guise of scientific journals, various compilations of articles sponsored by companies in the pharmaceutical industry without the content having gone through any submission or evaluation process.

The boycott consisted of refusing to submit articles, evaluate submissions or participate in the editorial boards of the publisher. Initially, thirty-four mathematicians linked to institutions in the US, UK, France, and Germany signed the manifesto. In fact, they followed in the footsteps of the editorial board of the Journal of Topology, from London Mathematical Society, who had collectively resigned in 2006. Little by little, the movement spread beyond mathematics and reached other science publishers, such as Springer and Wiley.

Although the movement for open access was already underway at the time, the disclosure of the very high profit margin of commercial publishers (around 30%) and the scandals involving their practices in various disciplines contributed decisively to making the scientific community aware of the need to overthrow the barriers imposed by capital to the sharing of research results.

We will not deal here with the interests at stake in open access, which deserve a separate study. More suggestive of the innocuousness of the isolated protests of scientists from the North are the maneuvers by which the major publishers hold most universities and research institutes hostage to this day, elitizing the release of access through very high handling fees and other tortuous expedients.

In any case, an important step in favor of open access was the institutional boycott of Elsevier proposed by the California state university system in 2019. It is, in fact, likely that the initiative was influenced by the movement of mathematicians.

The libraries of the ten universities that make up this system canceled their subscriptions to Elsevier because of the difficulty in agreeing on the availability of open access publications by their research staff. Library directors stressed that open access contributes to the democratization of scientific knowledge, in addition to giving the desired visibility to the work of researchers.

After insisting on exorbitant fees, the publisher agreed to a multi-payer model, in which the expenses for the digital platform were shared between the university and the author, if he/she had a compatible research budget. The model was welcomed as progress by some institutions that were negotiating similar agreements. Others criticized it for widening the gap between elite schools and the rest. Indeed, it is not even necessary to include the global south in this calculation. There are, to this day, groups of universities in Sweden and Germany that try, without success, to sew similar agreements.

Such pressure power makes Elsevier a kind of fiefdom. In many areas, the academic community falls into the role of a servant because it has few alternative outlets for its production. It is enough to remember the case of the scientists who participated in the 2012 boycott. Regardless of continuing to campaign for open access, most reestablished relations with the company, returning to collaborate with their journals as author, editor and/or reviewer.

It is important to emphasize that today it is no longer supported only by subscriptions to periodicals. It also has a huge database of citations, Scopus, signed forcibly by universities and research centers, together with others, such as the Web of Science, to “measure” the productivity of scientists using the evaluation method imposed on academia by neoliberalism.[ii]

Predictably, the increase in revenue contributed by the new business was not invested in reducing the cost of open access. Quite the contrary, it financed the legal prosecution of clandestine libraries such as the Ski Hub, site [iii] that bypasses the publishers' billing wall, making millions of scientific titles available, including articles and books. Meanwhile, the corporation's revenues grew at a rate of 2 to 4% a year.

As far as I know, the only major mobilization of scientists in defense of Ski Hub it took place in India in 2021. The reason is that its institutional libraries are finding it difficult to cope with the growing number of titles indispensable to academic work. On the other hand, scientists from rich countries, whose institutions have been taking on the challenge of facing barriers to open access, also use the Ski Hub often. One wonders, therefore, why, until now, they have not mobilized in protest against the judicial persecution of its manager and creator, the Kazakh computer scientist Alexandra Elbakyan.


Scientist's rebellion

O Extinction rebellion, abbreviated XR, is a protest movement against the climate disaster, born in London in 2018. It is inspired by the occupations of the world's major financial centers, such as the Occupy Wall Street, of 2011. XR it quickly globalized and decentralized, practicing even more daring forms of civil disobedience than its predecessors. It attracts attention by cursing governments and corporations that act as if they ignore that global warming and the loss of biodiversity put life on Earth at risk.

In 2021, some climate scholars involved with the Extinction rebellion formed the Scientist Rebellion, abbreviated SR. The group, with a European majority, directed vehement protests to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), held in Glasgow that year. The objective was to unmask the innocuous measures advocated there, which recommended government planning for the “green growth” of the economy, through investments in innovative carbon capture and reforestation of the planet up to the goal of one trillion trees.

The activism practiced in Glasgow included radical actions, such as not being dispersed, having oneself imprisoned and going on a hunger strike. The aim was to raise public awareness of the hypocrisy of conference delegates with regard to the issues addressed. Defying the 10.000 police officers assigned to “security the event”, twenty-one scientists, including some seniors, chained themselves to the King George V Bridge, preventing dispersal maneuvers.

According to headlines at the time, this was the largest group of climate scholars ever arrested at a protest. According to the student newspaper The Glasgow Guardian, shortly before being taken to prison, a young scientist spoke: “We are here to give a voice to the voiceless and ask the government to listen to scientists. Science is the truth in this situation; not money, greed or lies.”

This speech reveals the naivety of the group, also visible on its website[iv] – as, for example, when they claim that the main trigger for the war in Syria was the worsening of the local drought in the 2000s. Such naivety, which also appears in their manifesto, is, however, much more favorable to the global south than inaction of most scientists and the denialist cynicism of others, – these, undoubtedly, at the service of conservative economic interests.

The greenhouse effect hypothesis was raised by Joseph Fourier in 1824. In the second half of the 1990th century, it survived attacks by famous scientists such as Sherwood Idso – leader of a center that spread skepticism –, and established itself around 92, before the realization of EcoXNUMX in Rio de Janeiro, where, as is known, few delegates actually took it seriously. Since then, it has been the target of a massive campaign, financed by the fossil fuel industry, to confuse public opinion and manipulate governments.

O Scientists' Rebellion hacked and leaked the text of the report Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN before its release by the COP26. They had good reasons. The final edition, bowing to political pressure, censored evidence against the feasibility of a gradual transition to a “green economy compatible with growth”. To this, scientists responded with forceful arguments in favor of building – utopian – a global consensus on the risks of aggravating the climate emergency.

Its manifesto advocates, therefore, economic degrowth, through the redistribution of wealth, the reduction of the standard of living in rich countries, and the financing of the necessary changes by the occupants of the top of the income pyramid. Evidently, the group doesn't know how to contribute to realizing this utopia, other than tracking and documenting evidence such as changes in the slope of the global warming curve.

It is possible, therefore, that they do not even suspect that the global south may try to take the first steps towards this utopia as soon as Brazil resumes the construction of its democracy. The reason is unequivocal: the Amazon is essential not only for climate health, but also for national sovereignty. It must, therefore, be a consensual priority in a democratic government. For this, it will be necessary to increase the dialogue between sensitive politicians and scientists, national or foreign, willing to collaborate.

Indirectly, the Scientists' Rebellion does us a good service by pointing out the current economic model as a villain and didactically exposing the theses on global warming. Following the scientific consensus, the group believes that the tipping point for the collapse of the Amazon is between 20 and 40% of deforestation, which is currently estimated at 17%. Now, if savannization[v] of the forest is one of the factors that feed back global warming – alongside others, such as the liquefaction of the permanent layer of ice in the subsoil – the situation is indeed alarming, since a jump in any factor can trigger an escalation in the others. .

Therefore, it is up to Brazil not only to do its part, but also to pressure other countries to do theirs. What we lacked was not competence, but the means to stop the current government's state terrorism. Then let's see.

A search for the subject 'climate changes' on the Lattes Platform, with the filters 'doctor', 'research productivity fellow', and 'presence in the directory of research groups', returns a list of 1152 researchers. An analogous search for the subject 'sustainability of the Amazon rainforest' displays 252 names working on issues directly related to the preservation of the local ecosystem, of which 134 recur when the two subjects are added together. It is noteworthy in the listings the strong presence of two research institutes that undauntedly resisted the budget cuts of recent years: the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA).

Inspired by this encouraging scenario, I argue below that a government that listens to scientists and their representative institutions can take decisive steps towards redeeming our debts to the Amazon and its original peoples, which constitutes an invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Amazon. life on Earth.


Our differential: scientific associations and engaged unions

Engagement has been a condition sine qua non for the survival of the Brazilian scientific community, which was born and grew under periodic outbreaks of authoritarianism. It is, therefore, thanks to the organization and the fierce attitude of our scientific associations and our trade unions of knowledge workers that we have a culture of resistance to obscurantism. This culture also brings intellectual benefits to our science, stimulating it to boldness and creativity.


Scientific associations vigilant for the democratization of Science & Technology policy

As usual, we recently celebrated Science Day, with various activities across the country. The date refers to the foundation of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), on July 8, 1948. The events included discussions of the new threat that hangs over the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT), namely: a proposal to amend the law that prohibits its contingency.

Not surprisingly, several of the debates organized by the SBPC and its affiliates have addressed the confiscation of funds for research and education. After the 2016 coup, Brazilian scientific associations had to organize many protests against repeated attacks on science and culture.

Let us remember, by the way, that the older ones had already gone through painful experiences with the military dictatorship. During those long years, it was its meetings that gave voice to the resistance of the scientific community, denouncing threats to universities and research institutes and abuses against intellectuals and scientists.

The leadership of the SBPC was exercised by preventing the barracks from blocking these forums through quick articulation with other sectors of the resistance. For example, when it was forbidden to hold the 1977 meeting in Fortaleza on the eve of its opening, it obtained immediate authorization from the Catholic Church to transfer it to PUC-SP, where the event and its satellites escaped police persecution – thanks to the protection of the Vatican, which has jurisdiction over all pontifical universities. The agents of the dictatorship were thus prevented from invading the campus, considered foreign territory by international law.

Well then. The current threat again demanded this agility of articulation. On July 14, representatives of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) presented to the Senate, in a public hearing, their proposals on the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (PNCTI ), with the manifest aim of obtaining rapid approval. It turns out that the propositions aimed at deregulation.

In addition to posting a concise and incisive open letter the following day, the SBPC addressed, at the same time, a more detailed statement to the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, with the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) and the National Association of Directors of Federal Institutions of Higher Education (ANDIFES). The following excerpt from the letter, promptly published by the Science Journal,[vi] leaves no doubt as to his engagement: “It is essential to make it clear that knowledge societies must be based on four pillars: freedom of expression; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all people. None of this is even mentioned.”

To the unreasonable proposal of deregulation, the three entities responded with a precise contextualization. They recalled that there are two more pertinent articles of the Federal Constitution awaiting regulation. They concern (1) companies' investments in research; and (2) the internal market's responsibility to guide economic development in favor of the well-being of the population and the country's technological autonomy.

It is important to pay attention to the expression “societys of knowledge”, whose singularity is much more frequent in the current discourse on science. The plural elegantly indicates a respect for the diversity of knowledge that is now claimed, but not always achieved, by most scientific societies in the global north. Let's see, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the US sister company of the SBPC – born exactly a century earlier, in 1848.

As expected, the American Association for the Advancement of Science[vii] declares focus on mission to promote inclusion, equity and diversity. However, another stated focus is careers vote, acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It would be appropriate, then, at least to thematize the current discussion on education vote and / or steam – paronym whose 'a' stands for 'arts'. In this regard, let us first pose a question of principle, namely: the historical relationship between the arts and the humanities. It would fall within the scope of American Association for the Advancement of Science?

Apparently no. This is what can be inferred from the set of family magazines Science, edited by the entity. They include, in addition to the prestigious pioneer and its sequel Advances in Science, four cutting-edge areas of 'hard' science, namely: immunology; robotics; signal transduction in physiology and disease; and translational medicine.

In this context, it is evident that the arts are taken as service providers and assimilated into a computer-centered curriculum. The plastic arts, for example, are now essential to the production of beautiful illustrations in these and other magazines, scientific or otherwise. Likewise, the musical arts, which have also been forced to partner with the market, have been undergoing similar curricular modifications for some time now, to accommodate the demands of an increasingly computerized society controlled by new tycoons who hide behind digital platforms.

Without detracting from the perspectives opened up by these changes for artistic creation, it can be said that the editorial policy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science surreptitiously imposes a narrowing of the semantic field of the term 'equity'. At the same time that it claims to embrace the cause of equity among human groups, it clings to the hierarchy of areas of knowledge. So, the terms hard e soft, as used in their media, do not seem to indicate distinctions between forms of theorizing and/or research methodologies, but degrees of importance for the advancement of knowledge.

Indeed, the American Association for the Advancement of Science does not directly assume the discussion of education and careers vote, steam or yet, stemm (the newest member of the family, whose second 'm' stands for 'medicine'). prefer to welcome her Science, such as an article or letter to the editor. In addition, it dedicates some inclusion programs to the three formations – all predominantly hard.

By the way, few English speakers would realize that there is an acronym repressed in the above list. Although the pun started by 'th', one can easily replace it with another not so "elevated" - because jocular. Its about melt (mathematics, engineering, linguistics, technology and science), which, curiously, means 'melts', if a verb, and 'fusions', if a noun – as well as 'mass mole' and all its synonyms, with their respective connotations, positive or negative.

And behold, the joke reveals the true “cooperation” between the disciplines involved. It is impossible to do speech and language processing without the help of linguistic analysis. As I explained in another essay, posted on the earth is round on February 13, 2022,[viii] this 'soft, bland or smooth' science (soft) underlies the speech synthesis and recognition systems that watch over us and enrich our big techs. No wonder, therefore, that the interests at stake want it well hidden.

Let us now return to American Association for the Advancement of Science. If she, on the one hand, argues that historically excluded groups are underrepresented in areas vote etc., on the other hand, it does not clarify if and how it intends to embrace its cultural heritage – which includes many languages ​​and root cultures, as well as varieties of English, often stigmatized. It seems, therefore, that the affirmative actions promoted by the entity are not exactly aimed at preserving diversity, but at diluting it.

The foregoing is enough to illustrate the difference in attitude between the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the SBPC. While the American avoids taking a direct political position, revealing an alliance with economic power, the Brazilian considers the factors that affect scientific work and embraces the fight against barriers to freedom of expression and equal access to knowledge.

Now, crossing the North Atlantic, consider the Association Française pour l'Avancement des Sciences (AFAS), founded in 1872, having as its first president the eminent physiologist Claude Bernard. your website[ix], with a sober design, criticizes the multiplication of specialties and vigorously reaffirms the unity of science. It also boasts clear, durable objectives and faithful to its founding motto, which is still in force: “Par la science, pour la patrie”. This reveals a nationalist political project, aimed at building an Enlightenment society.

As is to be expected, the Association Française pour l'Avancement des Sciences, as much as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is biased towards hard science. Although its parsimonious website does not display an explicit adherence to the cause of human rights, the discussion is welcomed in several types of posts – made, however, in the majority, by hard scientists. Occasionally, a philosopher or historian of science also appears. It is worth noting, by the way, that French scientists are, in general, much more critical of digital technology than American ones. Some even make frontal attacks on big techs, remembering, with a hint of pride, that they are not a European invention.

We do not have time or space here to comment on the political positions of scientific associations in specific areas. Let's just remember that, in Brazil, most of them are members of the SBPC and usually contribute to its discussions on the bases of a socially just scientific policy. In contrast, in the global north, where central associations also have many affiliates, the tendency to maintain an apolitical facade prevails and, at the same time, support, under humanitarian pretexts, ultraconservative maneuvers, such as NATO's advances in Eastern Europe.

An example that, for reasons of duty, I witnessed is a recent statement by the Linguistic Society of America (LSA[X]) repudiating the Russian invasion of Ukraine and warning of the risk of loss of linguistic diversity. In fact, there is a discreet risk: that of Russians overcoming Ukrainians, who until now are the majority in the country. It should be noted, however, that both languages ​​are Slavic.

On the other hand, in fifty years of affiliation to the Linguistic Society of America, I have never come across any equally vehement statement about the risk of extinction of Brazilian indigenous languages. It doesn't hurt to remember, by the way, that the invasions of Yanomami territory began in the 1970s, under developmental pretexts of the military dictatorship. Apparently, the Linguistic Society of America he was not moved by the risk of extinction of the important linguistic family then discovered.


Vigilant unions for the democratization of scientific production

Although they have their local particularities, our unions of academic workers jointly take on many struggles. In the global north, however, this form of cooperation is rare, if not absent. One of the vigorous struggles here – and almost non-existent there – is to democratize the custody and sharing of the knowledge produced. In other words, it is not just about defending the corporate interests of the affiliates, but about ensuring a scientific production that is at the same time autonomous, creative, transparent and socially referenced.

In this section, as in the previous one, it will be necessary to argue by example. First, we will fly over the oldest teaching associations in the country, remembering that they emerged during the military dictatorship. Afterwards, we will remember that its first central also emerged in this period, well before the expansion of the rights of free association, autonomy and strike by the 1988 Constitution. Finally, we will comment on the very different functioning of the unions of the global north, whether local or central.

Let's start with the oldest, the Association of Teachers of Federal Educational Institutions of the State of Bahia (APUB), founded in 1968, in response to an invasion of the UFBA campus by the Military Police. His initiative of explicitly linking the struggles of professors to those of other workers was followed by the confreres that emerged in the following decade – ADUSP, founded in 1976; ADUNICAMP, founded in 1977; UFRJ and APUFPR, founded in 1979.

Another common agenda of our Teachers Associations is expressed by the motto “University for all”, which rejects elitism in favor of public, free, quality and socially referenced university. In recent years, it has also been necessary to defend it from day-to-day threats to gratuity, autonomy, academic freedom and the financing of education and research.

It is important to emphasize that common agendas do not prevent divergences. In the case of Teachers' Associations, these are expressed, for example, in their division into two centers, namely: the National Union of Teachers of Higher Education Institutions (ANDES[xi]), founded in 1981, and the Federation of Unions of Teachers and Teachers of Federal Institutions of Higher Education and Basic, Technical and Technological Education (PROIFES-Federação[xii]), founded in 2004.

The differences between the two federations, implicit in their names, would not fit into the present discussion. What interests us here is that entities with different conceptions of their own mission have come together to defend the quality, diversity and social relevance of Brazilian scientific production.

A testament to this collaboration is the Knowledge Observatory, a network of teachers' unions articulated around the defense of public, free, democratic and quality universities. The affiliation of its members to different centrals does not interfere with its objectives, namely: maintaining independence and non-partisanship; monitor and analyze relevant budget cuts; and combating the persecution of members of the scientific community.

In addition, the Observatory seeks to combat manipulation, monitoring and publicizing decisions that affect the functioning of universities and other knowledge production institutions. It remains, therefore, attentive to public policy proposals for higher education, accompanying the legislative benches and commissions, as well as the ministries and secretariats involved.

A simple inspection of your website[xiii] reveals that it is in contact not only with student organizations, such as the National Association of Graduate Students (ANPG), but also with other observatories, such as the Political and Electoral Observatory. The theme ranges from current problems, such as electoral disputes, to chronic problems, such as racism, elitism, brain drain and the degradation of the Amazon.

Finally, there is no doubt that this is a collective convinced that the production of scientific knowledge is subject to political injunctions that can compromise its integrity, quality and/or social relevance.

This type of direct bet on the democratization of science does not exist in the global North. Let us illustrate this statement with three examples: the American American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the British University and College Union (UCU), and the French Syndicat National de l'Enseignement Supérieur (SNESUP). According to the respective websites, the first two date from the first decades of the XNUMXth century, while the third appeared shortly after the second world war.

As is to be expected, the two European entities are tougher than the US one. In any case, this one directly defends academic freedom, democratic governance and the teaching career – while addressing the production of knowledge only generically and superficially. His British and French counterparts, on the other hand, do not spare criticism of neoliberalism and defend public funding for higher education and research. They also boast a history of protests, such as those of May 1968 or those in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Even so, they cannot be expected to criticize the scientific tradition underlying the formation of their affiliates. The relegation of the other to a condition that Boaventura de Sousa Santos defines as 'below the abyssal line'[xiv] is implicit in their silence on the appropriation of the ancestral pharmacopoeia of the colonies and former colonies of their countries by Big Pharma. Analogously, his silence on the debt of mathematics, engineering – in short, of all western S&T – to the Arabs is systematic. Otherwise, they would rebel against the perennial disqualification of these peoples' customs by the hegemonic media. Palestinians would then be seen not only as victims to be defended, but also – and above all – as holders of a legacy of knowledge and resistance to be respected and preserved.


Final considerations

A little over a century has passed since its birth, from the aggregation of isolated schools in the big capitals, the Brazilian university has grown amazingly. The system of public and free universities, federal and state, which has expanded and consolidated since then, is undoubtedly an expression of the desire of the Brazilian people to educate themselves and produce new knowledge.

Whatever its imperfections, this system was imposed thanks to the struggle of those who called for education for all. At a time when neoliberalism has been privatizing public higher education throughout the West – either through fees or private sponsorships – it is up to us to preserve, reinvigorate and improve the democratization of the Brazilian university and its scientific production.

As we have seen, few colleagues from the global north have any idea of ​​what a pluralistic scientific democracy might look like. Here, this discussion is on the agenda since the first threats to our educational and scientific institutions; it is controversial and exciting – and it can become an example for the world. Let's participate.

*Eleonora Albano is a retired full professor of Phonetics & Phonology at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The audible gesture: phonology as pragmatics (Cortez).



[I] Stengers, Isabelle. Another science is possible: A manifesto for slow science. Translation by Stephen Muecke. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2018.

[ii] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/o-cerco-do-mercado-ao-pensamento-critico/

[iii] https://www.3800808.com/

[iv] https://scientistrebellion.com/

[v] Term due to award-winning meteorologist and climate activist Carlos Afonso Nobre, from IMPE, who was the first to demonstrate the risk of the Amazon turning into a savannah.

[vi] http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/edicoes/?url=http://jcnoticias.jornaldaciencia.org.br/1-entidades-enviam-carta-ao-ministro-paulo-alvim/

[vii] https://www.aaas.org/

[viii] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-que-e-por-que-resistir/.

[ix] https://www.afas.fr/

[X] https://www.linguisticsociety.org/news/2022/03/02/lsa-issues-statement-support-people-ukraine

[xi] https://www.andes.org.br/

[xii] https://www.proifes.org.br/

[xiii] https://observatoriodoconhecimento.org.br/

[xiv] The author uses the abyssal lines of the cartography of colonial Europe as a metaphor to describe the relegation of people and peoples to a subhuman condition.

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  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table