Scientists attend the First Meeting of the Brazilian ST&I Diaspora in Germany
March 31, 2021
By José Tadeu Arantes | Agência FAPESP – Brazil is one of the countries with the largest percentages of highly qualified emigrants living in countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). There are no recent statistics because Brazil did not conduct the usual ten-year census in 2020, but 291,510 Brazilians with a university degree were known to be living in OECD countries in 2010. This number corresponds to 28.9% of all Brazilian expatriates in such countries, for an increase of 102% compared with 2000.
Initiatives in different countries have attempted to build a network linking highly qualified Brazilian expats in recent years. The moves followed a process that began in the late 1990s with the self-organization of diaspora Brazilians working science, technology and innovation (ST&I) in the United States and the United Kingdom, and more recently with the holding of workshops sponsored by Brazilian embassies.
The first such workshop was held in Washington in 2017, with Sérgio Amaral, then Brazilian Ambassador to the US, spearheading its organization. Others followed in Washington (2018), London (2019), Washington (2019), Zurich (2019), Dublin (2019) and Tokyo (2020). This year it was Berlin’s turn to host the First Meeting of the Brazilian ST&I Diaspora in Germany, which took place online on February 25.
The virtual meeting was opened by Roberto Jaguaribe, Brazilian Ambassador to Germany; Luiz Davidovich, President of the Brazilian Academy of Science (ABC); and Jorge Guimarães, President of the Brazilian Company of Research and Industrial Innovation (EMBRAPII). Jaguaribe stressed the Brazilian Embassy’s intent to facilitate integration of the diaspora. “No one has quantified the diaspora in Germany, but we know Brazilians are participating in more than 60 scientific fields in over 50 German cities,” he said.
According to Davidovich, “the main challenge” is to convert science into products and thereby guarantee a sustainable flow of funding for research and development (R&D). For Guimarães, “the concept of a diaspora is changing in light of the success of Japan, China and India, which have benefited significantly from the work done by their highly qualified emigrants in other countries”.
The Brazilian diaspora has been studied for many years by Ana Maria Carneiro, a professor of graduate studies in ST&I policy at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and a researcher affiliated with the university’s Center for Public Policy Studies (NEPP-UNICAMP).
Carneiro’s contribution to the workshop was a presentation on the Brazilian ST&I diaspora. During the 2000s, she said, the diaspora ceased to have negative connotations associated with the idea of a brain drain and is now more positively linked to the idea of “brain circulation networks” corresponding to the internationalization of scientific and technological research.
“The term diaspora needs to be re-signified to subtract connotations of loss for Brazil,” she said. “On the other hand, we should go further by formulating and implementing policies to facilitate participation by members of the diaspora in initiatives that take place both in Brazil and in the country where they live. These initiatives shouldn’t necessarily entail a return home.”
Expats in Germany
In the first part of the panel session on “Experiences in German R&D institutions, and potential for co-operation with Brazil”, focusing on academia and fundamental research, Fernanda Ramos Gomes, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, and Professor Sérgio Costa, Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Free University of Berlin (LAI-FU), spoke about their personal experience in Germany.
“Diaspora networks still depend heavily on personal contacts,” said Gomes, who acknowledged having had a fairly unusual career. After graduating from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), she earned a PhD in Germany and stayed there without seeking grants or scholarships from Brazilian research funders, working on the development of quantum dots for biomarkers of cancer and metastasis.
Costa went to Germany in the late 1990s, returned to Brazil to join the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP), an independent social science think tank, and later went back to Germany, where he has been a professor and researcher in social sciences since 2008. He noted Germany’s outstanding openness to international cooperation and warned that Brazilian science is gravely threatened by funding cuts these days.
Abílio Baeta Neves, a political scientist and member of the ABC, suggested the creation of a database to integrate institutions and individuals interested in the Brazil-Germany connection in ST&I.
The second part of the panel session focused on companies and applied research. It was moderated by Eduardo do Couto e Silva, Director of the Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory at the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (LNBR-CNPEM). The speakers were engineer David Carlos Domingos, Director of Fraunhofer IPK’s Brazil Project Office, and computer scientist Thiago Ramos dos Santos, Director of Medical Imaging Research & Algorithms at Bayer.
Both are engaged in promoting Brazil-Germany cooperation projects in the industrial sphere, attracting Brazilians and creating startups. Both graduated from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil and earned doctorates in Germany. Domingos has facilitated the enrollment of more than 40 Brazilian students in Germany so far.
The second panel session focused on the creation of cooperation networks and featured three accounts of successful experiences in this field.
Bruna Ferreira Montuori, President of the Association of Brazilian Graduate Students and Researchers in the United Kingdom (ABEP-UK), explained the workings of the association, which was established in 1980. Engineer Fredy Rios, Director of the Network of Chilean Researchers in Germany, described the experience of organizing the small but active Chilean diaspora. Gabriela Marques-Schäfer, President of the Brazil-Germany Network for the Internationalization of Higher Education (Rebralint), presented detailed information about the network, whose members include Brazilian and German professors and researchers working in all five regions of Brazil on cooperation projects with Germany in different knowledge areas. The session was moderated by Sofia Daher, Technical Lead at the Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE), a think tank subordinated to the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Daniella Ortega de Paiva Menezes, Minister-Counselor at the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, and Silvia Nougués Wargaftig, ST&I and Co-operation Aide at the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, summarized the discussions and led a transition to two virtual breakout rooms.
In the first room, where the discussion focused on funding opportunities, the participants were Alexandre Roccatto, FAPESP’s Coordinator of Scientific Programs; Alexandre Barragat, Manager of the Department of International Cooperation at FINEP, the Brazilian Innovation Agency; and Dietrich Halm, Director of Cooperation with Latin America at the German Research Foundation (DFG).
The topic in the second room was interaction in the diaspora, featuring Milene Mendes de Oliveira, a researcher at the University of Potsdam; Uirá Souto Melo, a researcher at The Charité Medical School and University Hospital in Berlin; and Guilherme Abuchahla, a researcher at the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT).
Secretary Pedro Ivo Ferraz da Silva, Head of the ST&I and Cooperation Sector at the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, chaired the First Meeting of the Brazilian ST&I Diaspora in Germany.
More information and videos in which Brazilians involved in ST&I activities in Germany talk about their experiences can be found at diaspora-ctibr.de.
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