Science and technology: deconstructing data

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The average Brazilian lives in better living conditions than those of the wealthiest monarchs who passed through history until the 18th century. This is due to advances in science, mainly over the past 200 years, explained Elsio Abdallah, coordinator of the BINGO project and professor at the Institute of Physics at the University of São Paulo (IF-USP). The knowledge that led to the development of drugs and treatments that improved and prolonged life as well as cured diseases, the techniques that facilitated movement and took us to the moon, and the tools that improved food production, are the results of scientific development. Most of them have emerged and been reinforced by knowledge centers and universities.

“No society or country has developed without a significant investment in scientific research and universities, it is not an expense, but an investment that returns to society in all fields. The Covid-19 vaccine, which was developed in an emergency and saved lives on a daily basis, is an excellent example of this, but science goes beyond, it is in our daily lives, from the innovations and discoveries that make better and more accessible consumer goods. , engineering that improves urban mobility and agricultural development that makes food production cheaper and of better quality.

In other words, says the specialist, investing in innovation and science creates economic independence and improves the quality of life of its citizens. Abdullah knows what he is talking about. In addition to being a professor at the University of the South Pacific, he is also the coordinator of one of the most innovative projects in the country, the BINGO radio telescope, which will be installed inside Paraíba. The project, funded by FAPESP and Finep, is unprecedented in the country and involves researchers from Brazil, China, South Africa, UK, South Korea, Portugal and France.

The aim is to explore the possibilities of observing the universe from the Brazilian skies and to better understand what lies above us, including strategic information that could benefit the government. In addition to providing material and technical knowledge, the benefits of this investment go far beyond.

What are we missing?

Information – In a world increasingly capable of generating and processing information, so little knowledge about the geography, demography and health of our population puts us, once again, behind in the economic race. BINGO is one of the most innovative projects in this aspect that will reveal our sky, one of the least known regions of the country. “Not only will we know the technicalities, but, say, what’s going on above us, like satellites, for example.”

Development – In simple Portuguese, what we lose the most is economic, which puts us at a disadvantage in the international conflict. “The innovations create products with high added value: which means a better financial return. Brazil is still an agricultural country, it depends on raw materials, which means that we have to produce a lot to make money. If we keep this pace, the difference in wealth between us and other countries will increase.

Brains – This phenomenon has never been greater than in 2020, at least for the United States. According to the 2020 financial report, the country saw a 36% increase in permanent visas granted to Brazilian “exceptional professionals”, the type of visa required by doctors, nurses or physiotherapists – but the category also includes other areas of disability, such as aviation or engineering.

Luxury – Technologies can make products cheaper and more accessible to the poorest, from household appliances to drugs, such as vaccines and imaging equipment, for example.

A paradigm shift is needed in Brazil

All these innovations risk being lost. In the midst of the pandemic, the federal government invested less in 2020 than in 2009: just over 17 billion. For 2022, the outlook is much worse. As in Brazil, almost all innovation and research comes from public universities, this number practically hinders Brazilian scientific production. But society must react accordingly. Large corporations, fortunes and private companies across the country can be major factors in this change. The reality of the United States proves that the paradigm shift is important.

“There is no culture of this kind of investment in the country. There is a lot of philanthropy, which makes sense because we are a developing country, with a lot of poverty. But to be able to get out of this for good, you have to invest in innovative projects. , research centers, in our universities and academics, so that we can create information and knowledge that will make a difference for our country and for the planet. And products with high added value, ”he explains.

One proof is that the countries that have understood this are still one step ahead: global spending on science has increased by 19%. The United States and China, the world’s two largest powers, account for 63% of this increase. And the other four countries that invest proportionately more in research are also making progress, not only in innovation, but in social well-being. namely South Korea and Germany which invest nearly 4% in research; Japan and the United States go down to around 3%.

The reality here is different, and the bad news is that with the RV ride, things get even worse. In 2021, science has lived on minimal resources. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) has a reduction of 29%. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) received only R $ 23.7 million, “a very small sum”, specifies the professor.

“It’s the worst situation I’ve had in my entire college life, about 40 years ago. In fact, compared to other countries, I have never seen anything like what we see today. We have many students and academics who work for free. We have lived with the authorities, at all levels. Governments, totally opposed to the global tendency to promote science and innovation, which underestimate them with fake news. It will take many years and decades to recover from this damage. “

The consequences are felt day by day, from technical flaws, as in Plataforma Lattes, to the downgrading of development agencies. Inovacred, Finep credit program for innovative micro, small and medium enterprises, which is allocated from R $ 350 million to R $ 400 million per year. By 2020, this volume has been halved.

Bingo Project. Image: disclosure

innovative project

Bingo will help see the southern hemisphere working on new physical phenomena, which are already starting to appear in different parts of the planet in a way that complements our own. Among other projects we have, for example, Chime (The Canadian Experiment for Hydrogen Density Mapping) in the Northern Hemisphere and other megaprojects in China (Tian Lai and FAST) and South Africa by the UK and other countries (SKA). The so-called “dark sector of the universe” will be at the center of the discoveries. In the Sertau region, far from electromagnetic pollution, it will be possible to learn more about the unknown structures of the galaxy and the universe, about the rapid radio bursts and about the pulsars that have yet to be observed, as well as to perceive new signals coming from space. .

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Abdullah notes that “about 95% of the energy content of the universe is completely unknown, and BINGO will examine the detailed distribution of known matter to determine links in the dark sector of the universe.”

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