Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brazil lags behind developed countries in science funding

Brazil is the seventh largest economy on Earth, but despite being an important player in the world, its expenditure in science is way behind developed countries.

Below I show the science spending in different countries in 2011, using publicly available data from the worldbank. As can be seen, Brazil expenditure in science is only about 1,2% of its GDP (gross domestic product). This is much lower than developed countries with lower GDP than Brazil, such as Austria (2.8%), Denmark (3%), Finland (3.8%) and Sweden (3.4%). If we compare Brazil with countries with higher GDP, science funding in the country is also below. For example, the USA (1st economy, 2.8%),  China (2nd, 1.8%), Japan (3rd, 3.4%), Germany (4th, 2.9%), France (5th, 2.3%), and United Kingdom (6th, 1.8%).

Science funding in percentage of the GDP, using data from the worldbank. Brazil only invests 1,2% in science. (c) Jorge Meléndez
This low funding in science probably explains why the number of published scientific works in Brazil is only about half of what it should be for the size of its GDP, as shown in the figure below. The low number of papers simply means that Brazil is not investing enough in science, as already pointed out by the plot above.

The number of papers published in Brazil is too low for the size of its economy. Figure made using data from the world bank and Thomson Reuters. (c) Jorge Meléndez.
Based on the comparisons above, I suggest that Brazil should increase its funding in science and technology by about a factor of two. In Astronomy, the obvious choice would be to invest in the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the world largest and more productive observatory on Earth, that will built the 39m ELT, the largest telescope on Earth.

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