The Carlos Chagas platform, fundamental for the operationalization of Brazilian science, is still off the air. This Thursday (12), 20 days of system blackout will be completed.
The Jair Bolsonaro government has not yet managed to normalize the platform after a failure reached CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) servers, a federal research development agency.
The agency is linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. On Saturday (8), the service of the Lattes platform, which manages the curricula of Brazilian researchers, was normalized.
With Carlos Chagas still inoperative, the continuity of projects throughout the country is compromised, in addition to the damage to technical areas of CNPq.
Created in 2007, the platform is the main interface between researchers and CNPq.
By Carlos Chagas, public calls and notices to promote research are operated, and the management and payment of grants, in addition to rendering of accounts, are carried out. The prolonged blackout time worries researchers.
About 84 thousand scholarship holders are financed with CNPq resources. The agency currently supports 2,201 research projects, according to official data.
CNPq stated that all deadlines were suspended and will be extended. According to the agency, there will be no delays in the payment of scholarships.
Emeritus researcher at Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) Samuel Goldenberg, from Paraná, says that the daily routine of national research is highly dependent on the platform.
Goldenberg states that, without being able to access, for example, the financial balance of a project he coordinates, decisions to continue the research are compromised.
The project cited by the researcher analyzes the mechanisms of gene expression of Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas’ disease —which pays homage to the Brazilian sanitarian Carlos Chagas, whose name baptizes the platform today out of thin air.
It is also through this system that evaluations are carried out for financing new projects.
“For next week, a trial was scheduled to finance scientific events. With the system dammed, for everything,” says Goldenberg, who is part of the CNPq’s assistant genetics committee, responsible for evaluating proposals.
Researchers still fear data loss. “There [Carlos Chagas] there is all our history of projects, accountability, projects that we submit, opinions. That’s where we work,” says João Viola, a researcher at Inca (National Cancer Institute), in Rio de Janeiro.
“The system has not been doing well for some time, but I can say with certainty that there has never been a situation like this. We have no idea of the loss, but the issue is not transparent.”
An information technology failure brought down the systems on July 23rd.
The blackout, according to official information from the CNPq, was caused by the burning of a controller device for the servers where the platforms are hosted. This would have occurred when migrating data to a new server.
It took the agency 15 days to fully re-establish access to Lattes. But so far there is no forecast for the reestablishment of Carlos Chagas.
According to CNPq, it was decided to migrate all data, systems and services to new equipment before re-establishing access to this platform, “to ensure more security and stability, and still have a definitive solution,” the agency said in a statement. . The delay to resolve the situation would be due to the data transfer process.
The main CNPq server, affected by the failure, was out of warranty and without a maintenance contract. When questioned, the agency stated that a working group “will act in a careful assessment of the conditions that generated the problem”.
The blackout occurred in a scenario known by the government. In the CNPq’s 2020 management report, the agency states that the “decrease in the capacity of information systems to support and execute the development” pointed, “without a shadow of a doubt”, to the need for improvements.
In September of last year, the agenda on investments in platforms was discussed at a meeting of the deliberative council, the highest decision-making power of the body.
Last year, CNPq spent R$6.7 million on IT. The amount is equivalent to 68% of the committed resource, according to the same report.
The federal agency stated that the values for technical services for the repair are still under negotiation. The agency said used devices would have been obtained by donations from other government agencies that had unused equipment.
The resources allocated to the CNPq have been streamlined in recent years, intensified by the Bolsonaro government.
In 2021, the council has the lowest budget since at least 2012, even in nominal values. The agency’s updated allocation for the year is R$1.2 billion—from 2013 to 2015, for example, the executed budget exceeded R$2 billion per year.
There was also a 34% reduction in the number of servers from 2015 to 2020. There are now 316 employees, against 478 in 2015.
Despite this, the CNPq continues to play a leading role in Brazilian research.
Last year, 27,951 published scientific articles received funding from the agency. This represents 40% of Brazilian scientific production, according to data indexed in the Web of Science database and collected by the council.
In 2015, this percentage was 44.5%, but even so, the current proportion positions CNPq as the largest development agency in the country.
The failure of servers, however, impacts the agency’s performance.
“Any CNPq activity involves systems integrated to the platforms”, says Roberto Muniz, director of the National Union of Public Managers in Science and Technology and president of the CNPq Servants Association. “It’s been 20 days since CNPq has done absolutely nothing.”
Goldenberg, from Fiocruz, says that today he sees an unprecedented situation. “I’ve had a grant from the CNPq for 50 years, I started with scientific initiation, I did a master’s, doctoral, post-doctoral degree, I had a scholarship in research productivity, and there has never been a situation as deplorable as it is now”, he says.
“Seeing the CNPq in this situation is painful, because it is extremely important to leverage the country’s future,” he says.
CNPq denies that the failure is related to the budget drop. The agency also ensures that there is a backup of all information from research and researchers.
In a note sent after the publication of this text, CNPq states that “it is not correct to say that CNPq is not doing anything” during the period. The technical work goes beyond the operationalization of the platform, the IT team has been fined “day and night”, the services provided to citizens are active and support for importing goods for research has been preserved, says the council.
CNPq emphasizes that the SEI (Electronic Information System) is also in operation. “This allows us to keep the process going, decision making, contract management”, says the note. The SEI is an administrative system present in practically every public sector.
The note also highlights that the council has been transparent with the situation and has already released 10 statements.