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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

United States - Brazil Commission Meeting

Nina Fedoroff
Adviser to the Secretary for Science and Technology 
Washington, DC
November 20, 2009


Dear Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this Joint Brazilian-U.S. Commission Meeting. Just three weeks ago, I came to Brazil for the first time in many years. I had the privilege of meeting with many of you and of participating in the announcement of a new joint program between CAPES and the Fulbright Program.

Over the past half century, Brazil has invested steadily and heavily in its higher education and research sectors. The results are simply dazzling, not just in terms of basic science accomplishments and scientific publications, but also in the integration of science into the agricultural, health, and energy sectors. Indeed, Brazil’s development of an efficient biofuels industry is the envy of the world.

There are already many collaborative projects and larger programs between American and Brazilian scientists. We now have an opportunity to further extend our collaborative efforts in new directions. In just the brief time I spent with you, I could see wonderful opportunities in the use of remote sensing data for environmental monitoring, in the development of new non-CO2-generating energy sources, in genomics and bioinformatics – in a word, everywhere I went. I was especially pleased to learn that your development agency ABC and our US Agency for International Development are already collaborating on projects in Haiti and in Mozambique.

But there remain impediments to cooperation and collaboration. Some of these are bureaucratic. Perhaps the meetings of yesterday and today will serve to bring them to the surface and defined a strategy to address them. But the more serious impediment is that we have not yet developed a simple and efficient mechanism for supporting collaborative research. As you well know, funding for science comes through many different government agencies in the U. S., including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy, and others, each with its own procedures. Similarly, there are multiple Brazilian sources of funding.

Perhaps what is needed most is a mechanism – a single gateway – through which potential collaborators can apply for funding, built on the notion of a partnership in which each country funds its own investigators. What I’m suggesting is a single mechanism for receiving and reviewing research proposals, one that would bring together multiple agencies in both countries, creating a selection process capable of accommodating the increasing multidisciplinarity of contemporary research collaborations, while reducing the complexity of the application process. A challenge.

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