The Imagine Project, set up last year by a group of Brazilian researchers (see go.nature.com/yndqs1), is taking scientific knowledge out of the laboratory to share it with people from rural and indigenous communities. Despite their remarkable response, the initiative is still struggling to be funded.
Scientists and students from universities in Brazil, Morocco, Angola, Mexico and Peru are teaching, for example, molecular biology to Brazilian Indians, genome analysis to Peruvian Inca descendants and facts about solar energy to teenage land-workers (see go.nature.com/fdqnws).
Community members work and study on alternate days. The learners have, without exception, shown great enthusiasm. Their manual skills often exceed those of urban university students.
The project has been totally funded by Brazil's Federal University of Santa Catarina since its inception. Applications to corporate and governmental funding organizations have so far met with a dispiriting response.
The knowledge imparted is viewed as “too universal” — with no potential for immediate conversion into solutions for food, health or environmental problems. Policy-makers seem to regard the people who are engaged as too remote, too few and too 'invisible' to justify involving them in modern developments in science and technology.
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Ramos, A., Razzera, G. Funding plea for rural lab outreach. Nature 515, 198 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/515198c