Established powers must link up with 'Latin tiger'

Europe and the US could be sidelined if they fail to form research alliances with Brazil, writes Phil Baty

June 25, 2009

"Intellectual marginalisation" could be the fate for the US and Europe if they fail to seize opportunities presented by the burgeoning research power of "Latin tigers" such as Brazil.

This is the warning from a study, The New Geography of Science, due out in July. Focusing on Brazil, it warns that established research powers remain "ignorant at their peril" of the growing strength of the Latin American giant, and will suffer economically if they fail to forge research alliances.

"The cost of not making a commitment to partnership with Brazil will be significant in terms of both intellectual and economic development," says the paper, by research analysis firm Evidence, part of Thomson Reuters.

"Europe has benefited financially from trading goods in the past. The new 'must have' is knowledge, and Europe and the US must be fully involved in its future trade, or become marginalised intellectually.

"Brazil's profile, improving excellence, size and interface with the rest of the international research base make it an essential partner in any future international research portfolio."

Brazil is key among a new pack of "Latin tigers" - including Mexico and Argentina - identified by Evidence.

Latin America's share of the world's scientific papers rose from 1.7 per cent in 1990 to 4.8 per cent in 2008, according to Thomson Reuters' Web of Knowledge.

In 1981, there were about 2,000 papers with an author address in Brazil. In 2008, there will be about 20,000 - a ten-fold increase, the report says.

"The most striking feature of the new geography of science is the sheer scale of investment and mobilisation of people behind innovation that is under way, driven by a high-tech vision of how to succeed in the global economy," the paper says.

Brazil has a population of 190 million and its spend on research and development in 2007 was US$13 billion, about 1 per cent of gross domestic product - well ahead of many European nations.

It produces more than 500,000 new graduates and about 10,000 new PhD researchers each year, Evidence says, representing a ten-fold increase in 20 years.

In the paper, the first of a new series of Global Research Reports from Evidence, the company warns: "Brazil is an increasingly important and competitive research economy. Its research workforce capacity and R&D investment are expanding rapidly, offering many new possibilities in a rapidly diversifying research portfolio."

With about 85,000 papers published in 2003-07, Brazil had about 1.83 per cent of the world's papers published in journals indexed by Thomson Reuters. In plant and animal sciences, it had 3.91 per cent of the world's papers, up from 2.62 per cent in 1998-2002. In agricultural sciences, it had 3.72 per cent, up from 3.07 per cent. Its share of microbiology papers was 2.86 per cent, and of environment/ecology papers, 2.63 per cent.

"Brazil clearly has real strength in life sciences, particularly related to natural resources," the paper says. "It really is the natural knowledge economy."

Brazil’s science research paper output
FieldShare (% of world)Volume (papers 2003-07)
Tropical medicine18.401,433
Multidisciplinary agriculture8.611,6
Oral surgery and medicine8.192,203
Dairy and animal sciences6.491,617
Soil sciences5.84947
Veterinary sciences5.793,421

In two areas, Brazil is identified as a key global player: tropical medicine (with 18.4 per cent of the world's research papers) and parasitology (12.34 per cent).

The report says that the US is Brazil's leading research collaborator, followed by the UK and France, but there has been rapid growth in Brazilian partnerships with Portugal, and regionally, with Argentina, Mexico and Chile.

Partners on Brazilian research papers included academics from Harvard University, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford - "a strong signal of the perceived rewards of working with Brazil", the report says.

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