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There is a Brazil from which not all researchers can or want to escape – 11/06/2021 – Latinoamérica21

In recent years, a series of articles in the press has explored a recurrent expression in times of socioeconomic crisis in Brazil: the drain of “brains”. In general terms, it expresses the non-insertion of young researchers in the labor market and who, with no alternative, choose to emigrate to Europe, North America or Asia.

Faced with a country that is slipping into an endless economic crisis generated by the agro/mining elite, the untimely mood of the financial market and the austere measures of the government, this seems to be the immediate solution found by the university population. Above all, in the face of a supposedly nationalist federal government, but which, admittedly, demonstrates ignorance and aversion to the role of universities and national science in the development of Brazil.

This month, the Piauí magazine published an article on the “diaspora” of brains, in which it pointed out that a high number of researchers from well-established national public universities emigrated due to lack of perspective. At a given time, the article states that we are close to “an exodus of our best scientists”, above all, to Europe. Along the same lines, we find articles published by the BBC and the G1.

When following this tragic debate involving the accelerated scrapping of our research and the emigration of our researchers, the question that remains is: who are these brains that are leaving? Or rather, who, in fact, can leave?

The origin of the ‘escape’

The government recently promoted the cut of R$ 600 million from the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT), linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI), linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI), whose responsible minister says he was caught or awakened by surprise, while probably sleeping in a splendid crib with pillows from NASA. The cut corresponds to 92% of the budget allocated to national science and research.

It should be noted that, as brutal as the cuts are, they are not new either. This same ministry has already lost 52% of its budget between 2013 and 2020. The Ministry of Education (MEC), in turn, suffered a 50% cut in the same period.

This dismantling not only compromises the formation of new generations of researchers, but the continuity of those who were in the process of consolidation. There are years of funding in research grants, physical facilities, human resources, equipment and libraries to train professionals who are so expensive and necessary for the country and which, in the end, are handed over to our “commercial partners”.

The expansion of university education

Between 2003 and 2014, Brazil underwent an extensive and unprecedented process of restructuring and expansion of its higher education. 18 new federal universities and 173 university campuses were created in large urban centers; but, above all, in the interior of the country. Added to this is the implementation of 360 units of federal institutes.

Despite the numerous criticisms that this university policy may receive, it popularized the access of less wealthy social classes to higher education. Together with the already existing state universities, there was a decentralization and popularization of university access, through the expansion of units and vacancies, but also programs for the retention of students and researchers.

In that short period, we jumped from 505,000 to almost 1 million students. Young people from urban outskirts or from outside large centers, indigenous peoples, quilombolas and, more recently, refugees, started to produce science and occupy university chairs.

Slowly, we changed the profile of the Brazilian university student. For these young people, their families and communities, this was the possibility of ascending socially through education and, perhaps, giving political and scientific autonomy to their regions. Unfortunately, without having had enough time to mature, we now see the fruits of this program at serious risk. Public universities and federal institutes with their faculty and students left to their own devices.

A selective ‘escape’

This expansion, however, is not contemplated in the supposed “diaspora”. Unfortunately, most of the institutions mentioned in the articles do not reveal the current Brazilian university geography. She is much bigger. There is another Brazilian academic universe that has always experienced this drama of limited resources. Either because they are state institutions that do not have university policies in their states; either because they are federal youths who have not consolidated themselves. Their existence is immersed in scarcity.

These universities are not in the big capitals. They are in what the mainstream media and many doctors love to classify as “deep Brazil”. A fictitious place, almost immutable and distant from a globalized world. The corner where many researchers from large centers, in general, go to do research. That’s the Minas interior, the border with Venezuela, or the semi-arid northeast.

Thus, we need to be aware that many of these students located in these universities and who aspired to pursue a research career in their areas of training, will not be able to escape.

Yes. The so-called “brain drain” is cruel because it is also selective. It requires a range of capital and support networks. What the articles, in general, do not reveal is that, to escape, the researcher needs to master another language, carry a visa, rely on university networks and, above all, have minimal financial resources and, in many cases, support familiar to start this uncertain journey. They forget to emphasize that migrating is a collective act. In short, there are few “brains” endowed with these capitals that manage to flee or even promote self-exile in the Northern Hemisphere.

In Brazilian universities, we don’t just have students who live this drama. We also have professors/researchers without a media spotlight. However, even so, they continue to do science and resistance to dismantling. Not only to this one in particular, but to the continuous dismantling that its centers live in, in this agro-predatory republic.

They research with little or no resources, carry out extension work, challenge xenophobic actions in border areas, denounce the dispute over water between traditional populations and mining companies, work alongside quilombolas in land demarcation or access to vaccine against COVID-19. Far from romanticizing this invisible group, they developed techniques and forms of research with few resources and continued to struggle.

Therefore, I am inclined to say that there is no exodus or diaspora of Brazilian researchers. This sounds like a class discourse, of a so-called intellectual elite, which takes the place of the discourse of an entire university community that has grown significantly, but is completely ignorant of it. What there is is a marked dismantling of Brazilian education and science. For some places it has now arrived with greater force. For others, it has always been there.

The Brazilian academy needs to overcome this discourse of class and representation of a much larger group than it wants to see. There are a lot more takedowns and dramas. There are so many university students that we lost and that were not even counted, because they couldn’t escape. And there are also researchers who remain entrenched and far from the fictitious national debate. Perhaps neither of the two are counted, as they are not perceived as “the best brains in the country”.

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