Symposium highlights expanding collaborative research between São Paulo and California Versão em português

Symposium highlights expanding collaborative research between São Paulo and California Ron Gronsky from the University of Berkeley and Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz (photo) open FAPESP Week California (photo: Diego Freire/Agência FAPESP)

The state of São Paulo has close to 40 million inhabitants and 32% of Brazil’s GDP. California has approximately 40 million inhabitants and 13% of U.S. GDP.

“This is just one example of the similarities between our states and their importance to our countries, but it serves to underscore the fact that we have a lot in common for developing collaborative research,” said Ron Gronsky, Faculty Assistant to the Chancellor for International Relations at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).

On Monday (11/17/14) Gronsky opened FAPESP Week California at UCB’s Sutardja Dai Hall-CITRIS building by welcoming researchers from the United States and the state of São Paulo to a symposium to present research findings and discuss topics of interest that could lead to collaborative research projects.

Gronsky noted that the UCB has a strong tradition of international academic and research collaboration. “In order to have an idea of the scope of this collaboration, from April to September of this year, members of the UCB teaching staff and student body made 4,963 trips to other countries,” he said.

Brazil is not among the ten largest UCB partners, “but this is something we can change and FAPESP Week California is a good starting point for expanding our research partnerships,” he said.

According to Gronsky, Brazilian institutions with the largest number of collaborative research projects with UCB are, in order, PUC-Rio, the Federal University of Santa Catarina and the University of São Paulo.

The University of California was founded in 1869 in the city of Oakland and four years later, moved to neighboring Berkeley. The UCB campus was the first of the 10 universities established in California cities: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

“In productivity rankings of world universities, we are among the most prestigious, and the only public university among the top 10. We offer over 7,000 courses in 130 academic departments, 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, 14 colleges and schools, and 80 interdisciplinary research units,” Gronsky said.

“We have 26,000 undergraduate students, 25,000 of which were ranked among the top 10% of their high schools before coming here. Of these, 17,000 receive some form of financial aid, and 4,500 come from other states or countries. Our mission is to be a gateway of global excellence,” he said.

“The UCB has more than 10,000 graduate students, 1,300 of which have received National Science Foundation scholarships, a number larger than at any other university in the United States,” Gronsky said. During the 2012-2013 academic year, UCB awarded a total of 7,774 bachelor’s, 2,198 master’s and 1,304 doctoral degrees.

“We have 2,200 professors and researchers on our academic staff, seven of whom have received the Nobel Prize. In our history, 22 researchers from UCB have received the Nobel and what is interesting is that in addition to the honor of receiving this major prize, winners get their own parking spot,” Gronsky said, reminding everyone of the limited parking space on campus – most UCB students use public transportation.

The next speaker was Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP scientific director, who also highlighted the importance of expanding international research collaboration.

“FAPESP has a solid strategy for developing international connections so that researchers from the state of São Paulo can collaborate with researchers from other regions and countries,” he said.

“There is a lot of important research being done as a result of this strategy and the cooperation agreements we have signed with institutions from other countries, and we would like to further expand these exchanges and this internationalization process,” he said.

Brito Cruz mentioned some of the funding mechanisms FAPESP offers to enable the exchange of researchers with other countries, such as post-doctoral fellowships, Visiting Researcher Grants, the Young Investigators Awards program, the São Paulo School of Advanced Science (SPSAS) and the São Paulo Excellence Chairs program (SPEC).

FAPESP has 23 cooperation agreements with universities that include the University of California, Davis, institutions, laboratories and research funding agencies in the United States. One of the results of these agreements is that there are currently 66 joint research projects underway involving Brazilian and U.S. scientists.

In his presentation, Brito Cruz provided a brief overview of the science, technology and innovation sector in Brazil, with particular focus on the state of São Paulo.

“Home to 22% of Brazil’s scientists, the state of São Paulo is responsible for 50% of the articles written and published by Brazilian researchers internationally. One reason for this is because 13% of São Paulo investments go to higher education and research,” he said.

Before an audience in the Banatao Auditorium, the scientific director emphasized that FAPESP’s mission is to support research in all fields of knowledge. He also talked about how FAPESP selects research projects from among the proposals submitted to the Foundation for funding.

“All proposals submitted to FAPESP undergo peer review. We often ask that the proposals be sent in English because that allows us to have evaluators from other countries. In 2013, we received 25,000 proposals and had a 50% acceptance rate, which is high compared to funding agencies in other countries. At NSF, for example, the acceptance rate is 14%,” he said.

“We are also proud to say that the average processing time, from receiving the proposal to notifying the researcher, was 69 days in 2013. It is a very short window when compared to other agencies in the world,” he said.

FAPESP Week California continues today in Berkeley (with live webcast and November 20-21, 2014 at the University of California, Davis. The symposium is supported by the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, DC.