Paulo Rebêlo 16 June 2004 Source: SciDev.Net Brazil has opened a DNA bank to preserve genetic material of its endangered plant life. Its goal is to help protect rare plants threatened by extinction in a country that has the world’s greatest variety of plant species. The DNA bank, which is based at the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) in Rio de Janeiro, employs five researchers. They plan to collect at least 1,000 plant species each year to ‘deposit’ in the bank. Samples of specimens will be dried out and have DNA samples extracted, after which they will be frozen and stored. Plants in several areas of Brazil are currently under threat. Perhaps the most dramatic decline in plant diversity has occurred along Brazil’s coast, especially in the southeast, where a large area of botanically-distinct forest — termed ‘Atlantic forest’ — once existed. After decades of mining and urban growth, only one per cent of the original forest remains. But the Amazon forest, in northern Brazil, which holds the greatest number of plant species in the country, is also threatened by deforestation. A report published last year by Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPA) says that 25,000 sq km of forest
Paulo Rebêlo 5 May 2004 Source: SciDev.Net Chile’s government has launched a wide-ranging programme to increase the use of computers and boost the role of information technology (IT) in the country’s economy. As part of the initiative, the government aims to establish fast Internet connections in all universities, and at least 80 per cent of schools, by 2006. The Digital Agenda initiative, which aims to transform Chile into a digital country by the year 2010, will seek to attract foreign investment into the country’s technology sector in order to promote IT development. It also includes projects to increase Internet access, improve computer training, and develop e-commerce activities. As part of the initiative, the country’s laws and regulations on new technologies will be revised to make each of these goals easier to achieve. In addition, at least one million people will be trained in digital technologies in the next two years. And to increase the number of homes with Internet access, the initiative will reduce the price of computers and broadband services. At the official launch of the initiative, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said that increasing the use of computers and boosting Chile’s IT sector would help to enrich the country’s
Paulo Rebêlo 20 February 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] Brazilian scientists are campaigning to reduce the bureaucracy involved in bringing scientific equipment into the country. In a declaration to be presented shortly to the ministry of science and technology, more than 300 Brazilian researchers state that “countless scientists have been waiting for years to receive equipment. Customs policies produce a lot of bureaucracy just to obtain a few microlitres or a simple reagent”. The scientists call for new customs procedures that simplify and reduce the cost of bringing equipment and reagents into the country. Import taxes on scientific equipment should be abolished, and systems should be put in place to ensure that all equipment takes no more than 24 hours to pass through customs, they say. According to Stevens Kastrup Rehen of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the US-based Scripps Research Institute, delays are so severe that by the time scientists receive reagents the chemicals have often expired. “And when we get our hands on equipment, it’s already outdated,” he says. “Fees to import and store equipment aren’t cheap and, what’s worse, they are being paid with government money as part of research grants,” adds Rehen, who currently
Paulo Rebêlo and Katie Mantell 30 January 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] The Brazilian government has negotiated a US$5 million reduction in the fees it pays to allow many of the country’s researchers to gain free access to electronic versions of a large number of scientific journals. The government’s ‘journal website’ (Portal de Periódicos), allows researchers across the country to access the full text of thousands of international journals, magazines and databases covering a broad range of subjects. Last year, the government funding agency responsible for the website, known as CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Staff), paid a total of US$20 million in individual agreements with international publishers in order to provide access to their publications through its website. But as a result of recent negotiations, CAPES will this year pay one quarter less. In addition, CAPES has also secured an increase of almost a third in the amount of content available through the website, meaning that now 4,800 journals can be read through the system. “Science is a part of our natural human heritage,” says Roberto Bartholo from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, who led negotiations with publishers. “Every country or institution that wishes to
Paulo Rebêlo 14 January 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] A failure by the Brazilian government to provide much-needed new teaching and research posts in universities is preventing many researchers with doctoral degrees from finding suitable employment. This is the conclusion of a report published last month by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), based on statements from universities, public institutions and thousands of unemployed new PhD holders. The report, which was written by the SBPC’s regional division in Rio de Janeiro, recommends a number of moves to improve the situation. In particular it says that new efforts should be made to encourage private companies and universities to hire new PhDs. “Brazil needs a strategy to educate business people on the importance of high-skilled researchers in their companies,” says Luiz Carlos Scavarda do Carmo, coordinator of development projects at Pontifícia Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro. Maria Eulália Vares, SBPC’s secretary in Rio de Janeiro, says that a particular challenge is the regional variation in the number of jobs available for those holding doctoral degrees. “Some regions tend to face more difficulties than others when it comes to providing work for new PhD holders,” she says. “This has to
Paulo Rebêlo // outubro.2002 Pegar a estrada, de norte a sul do País, conhecendo lugares, visitando pontos históricos e conversando com as mais diferentes pessoas – é a maior prova de que é preciso ter muita, mas muita fé para acreditar naquela fábula de “alma gêmea”. Para quem jura de pé junto que já encontrou a sua, não há motivos para pânico. A Xuxa não acredita em duendes? Então. Fé é um negócio que existe mesmo. Segura e confia.
Paulo Rebêlo // dezembro.2000 PARA OS HOMENS – Todo mundo já viu propaganda na TV sobre aparelhos auditivos para surdos, aqueles cotocos grudados na orelha. Por que não ainda inventaram um aparelho auditivo para não-surdos, ou seja, para quem consegue ouvir muito bem? A razão social do aparelho seria outra, é claro. Sabe quando você sai com alguém do sexo oposto para jantar, por exemplo, e a supra-citada passa a noite inteira fazendo seu ouvido de pinico? Ela começa a falar do momento em que coloca os pés no carro até a hora em que se despede e vai pra casa. Se brincar, ela não pára de falar nem na hora do papai e mamãe.
Paulo Rebêlo // dezembro.2000 Todo ano a humanidade se depara com uma avalanche de invenções. Algumas inusitadas, outras ridículas. Como 2001 é o novo milênio, esperamos que de forma paulatina a ciência olhe com mais atenção à plebe que não tem condições de gastar fortunas para comprar as novidades tecnológicas lançadas no mercado. Entre invenções inusitadas e ridículas, às vezes termina saindo algo útil e acessível à massa da sociedade. Leia-se: a ralé, nós. Assim, podemos imaginar inventos excelentes que seriam muito bem-vindos.