The Brazilian embassies in Washington and London want to identify Brazilians working in fields linked to science, technology and innovation (ST&I) at universities, research institutions, and public-sector or private-sector companies in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The idea is to build a network that connects these scientists and researchers with their peers in Brazil so as to facilitate the circulation of knowledge and experience, while expanding the opportunities for scientific and technological exchange between the two countries, as well as joint business ventures.
In an interview with Agência FAPESP in January 2018, Sérgio Amaral, Brazil’s ambassador to Washington, stressed that the aim is not to discipline cooperation between Brazilians in Brazil and abroad, which is considerable, as he said, but to enable Brazilians living and working abroad share their experiences.
The Brazilian embassy in Washington held two meetings for the ST&I diaspora, in December 2017 and December 2018. The Brazilian embassy in London will host its first meeting for the same purpose on February 14, in London. The Workshop Brazilian Diaspora of Science, Technology and Innovation in the UK will take place right after the end of FAPESP Week London, to be held at the Royal Society on February 11-12.
The Brazilian ST&I diaspora in the US will be mapped by researchers affiliated with the University of Campinas’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (NEPP-UNICAMP). An agreement that will make this cooperation possible was signed by Ambassador Amaral and UNICAMP Rector Marcelo Knobel on December 7, 2018.
“The ultimate goal of the project is to produce a diagnosis and propose policies to understand how ST&I in Brazil can benefit from the circulation and retention of highly qualified Brazilians working in ST&I-related fields in the US,” said Ana Maria Carneiro, who is leading the project at NEPP-UNICAMP.
The challenge, according to Carneiro, is to produce input for the “reinforcement and production of public policies for the Brazilian diaspora in the US that can be deployed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and especially by the Brazilian embassy in Washington, in order to leverage opportunities and benefits for Brazil”.
The diagnosis includes estimating the number of Brazilians working in ST&I and identifying geographical and knowledge areas, institutional affiliations, existing connections, and interaction with funding agencies, among other aims.
The Brazilian diaspora in the US comprises some 450,000 people, according to statistics from the American Community Survey. “Another database compiled by the OECD estimates that 75,000 have a tertiary degree. Brazilians with ST&I-related activities are a subset of the universe with this level of educational attainment,” Carneiro said.
It will not be possible to identify all Brazilians with this profile, she stressed. “We’ll start with the list of relevant names already identified by the embassy in Washington. They will be sent a questionnaire. Hopefully it will be possible to expand on this survey by a sort of snowball effect,” she said, taking into account the large number of Brazilians who have joined networks in the US since 2010.
Brazilian researchers in the UK
Carneiro will take part in the London meeting, which will be attended by specialists in international talent circulation and will discuss ways of leveraging the benefits of having larger numbers of Brazilians at UK institutions.
“The UK is one of the main destinations for academics who receive scholarships from the Brazilian government,” said Carlota Azevedo Bezerra Vitor Ramos, head for both the Academic Section and the Science & Technology Section of the Brazilian embassy in London. The embassy estimates that some 500 Brazilian PhD students and visiting researchers in the UK have funding from official Brazilian agencies such as the Ministry of Education’s Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), and/or FAPESP and other state research councils.
“We don’t have an estimate of the number of Brazilians working in ST&I-related fields in the UK. It’s important to recall that many don’t register with the Brazilian consulates because they have EU passports. The project we’re working on now aims to fill this information gap,” Ramos said.
The fields in which Brazilian academics in the UK are working overlap to a considerable extent with those in which Brazil is one of the leaders of global scientific production, she added.
“For example, we know many Brazilian scientists and researchers are working in the field of biological sciences, under the aegis of agreements with local research and development centres such as GSK, Kew Gardens and Rothamsted Research. Imperial College London, which specializes in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], has launched a Brazil Forum to register and organize the community of 164 currently or formerly affiliated Brazilians, as well as non-Brazilians who frequently collaborate with Brazilians,” she said.
An important partner of the Brazilian embassy in London for this initiative, she added, is the Association of Brazilian Postgraduate Students and Researchers in the UK (ABEP-UK), which is almost 40 years old.
“However, only some of the Brazilian students and researchers currently in the UK have joined ABEP. Most students and researchers who come to the UK from Brazil choose to network mainly with colleagues in their own institution or university, especially in the departments where they’re working. It’s not at all unusual for Brazilians at the same institution not to know each other. As a result we have excellent Brazilian academics in the UK in a wide range of knowledge areas, but they’re widely scattered and don’t network very much. That’s what we want to change,” Ramos said.
The embassy keeps closely in touch with the Brazilian academic community in the UK, above all via its Academic Section and Science & Technology Section.
“Besides responding to requests from researchers and students for information and other kinds of support, we also work with the institutions that host our academics in order to understand their needs, requirements and profiles,” Ramos explained.
The embassy also keeps a register of “champions”, Brazilian scientists living in different UK cities who are willing to act as focal points for engagement with the community. “From time to time we’re pleasantly surprised to meet at least one Brazilian scientist in the visits we often make to UK research centres and universities,” Ramos said.
“By holding this meeting for the Brazilian scientific diaspora in the UK, we aim to engage with the Brazilian scientific and academic community in a well-organized manner, so as to facilitate regular dynamic interaction among the individuals involved over the long term. We will use the survey of existing networks and the diaspora database to be created to help us hold workshops and other events at the embassy to discuss the community’s interests and needs,” she states.
“We’re deeply interested in long-term cooperation with FAPESP and NEPP-UNICAMP, so that this knowledge can be used to strengthen Brazil’s public policies for ST&I and facilitate networking by the diaspora with their peers in Brazil,” Ramos said.
“Once we have more details of the profile of the academics who live and work in the UK, we’ll be better able to understand their needs and how the embassy can help with their research. We also believe it’s important for these players to use the diaspora platform to exchange information among themselves, facilitate collaboration and create support networks, especially to welcome and assist students and researchers on arrival in this country.”