Policy shift hits scheme for early career boost

Successful programme ‘jeopardised’ by ministry changes

February 12, 2015

A programme designed to boost the career prospects of junior scholars in one Brazilian state has been successful, but its achievements have been “jeopardized” by more recent policy changes, according to a new study.

Because of subsequent shifts, researchers are being trained at a pace that is outstripping the development of the state’s science and innovation landscape, say the report’s authors, led by Adriana Bin, an associate professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Campinas (Unicamp).

The result risks restricting opportunities for young researchers in the region, say the authors, who include Sergio Salles-Filho, professor in the department of science and technology policy at Unicamp’s Institute of Geosciences.

In 1996, the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp) began a scheme to give junior scholars with doctorates a four-year grant to work at emerging research institutions or in new groups at public or private universities. At the same time, the Ministry of Education decreed that all institutions wishing to be called “university” had to have a clear research focus.

The paper, Employment, Research Performance and Decentralization: The Experience and Perspectives of Doctorate Holders in Brazil, studied the grant scheme’s impact up to 2006.

It found that the scheme had provided a “powerful” way to bring a “critical mass” to research and had played an “important role” in creating research infrastructure in private universities. The initiative “laid or strengthened the foundations for productive scientific work at many education and research institutions in São Paulo state” and created job opportunities for young researchers.

But progress was affected when the research intensity required of private universities was lowered in 2004.

“[R]esearch decentralization policy…has jeopardized these achievements by relaxing the requirements regarding research activities in private universities,” the authors say. “Besides being a bad change for the quality of HEIs…this policy risks exacerbating the mismatch problem affecting doctorate holders by further restricting job opportunities at public universities and research institutions.”

holly.else@tesglobal.com

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