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New framework needed to thwart Brazil's crippling bureaucracy

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Scientists around the globe often dream about vacationing in Brazil to waste some time on the beaches near Rio and São Paolo. But for researchers who regularly work in the biomedical strongholds of the country there's a far more insidious time-waster: bureaucracy.

To eliminate some of the red tape that has been blamed for stultifying research and innovation, an expert panel representing state funding agencies and science secretaries released a report on 26 August calling for a new code of conduct governing how scientific research is carried out in Brazil.

“The present context discourages scientists and hinders the scientific and technological development of the country,” says Mário Neto Borges, president of the National Council of State Research Funding Foundations (CONFAP). “If approved, the new code will be a big step for Brazilian science—a revolution,” adds Odenildo Sena, president of the National Council of Secretaries for Science, Technology and Innovation Issues (CONSECTI).

Currently, provisions relating to importing research equipment or grant spending, for example, are spread out across at least ten different pieces of legislation. The architects of the new report hope to bring all these measures together into one place and to lower some of the bureaucratic hurdles along the way. For instance, the 25-page proposal—coauthored by CONFAP and CONSECTI—calls for an elimination of import tariffs on research tools and reagents as well as outlines specific ways that scientists can get the lowest prices to stretch their grant money further. “The suggested code is a single, comprehensive, simple legislation specific to science,” Borges says.

Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian-born neuroscientist who works both at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina and at the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in northeastern Brazil, hopes these measures will streamline biomedical research in his native country. “In the US, if I need to buy something for a research project, I just pick up the phone and buy it,” he notes. “In Brazil, the rules are the same as for building a hydroelectric plant. The rules are not made for science.”

Luiz Antonio Elias, executive secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, welcomes the new proposal. “This is an original movement in which both state and national stakeholders joined for suggesting an improvement of the legislation,” he says. According to Elias, the ministry now plans to work with the scientific community to address any outstanding concerns and to codify some of the report's proposals into law.

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Massarani, L. New framework needed to thwart Brazil's crippling bureaucracy. Nat Med 17, 1171 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm1011-1171b

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