New Scientific Research Chief

A biochemist from Chile with an active career in science policy management at universities in São Paulo, has been named as the new head of Brazil’s federal research funding agency CNPq.

Hernan Chaimovich  is  CNPq's new head

Hernan Chaimovich is CNPq’s new head

Hernan Chaimovich’s appointment as president of CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) in Brasilia, has been welcomed by scientists, thanks in large part to his experience in coordinating research programmes for the most dynamic of Brazil’s regional research funding agencies. Prior to his new appointment Chaimovich managed a string of 17 thematic research programmes called CEPIDS, financed and operated by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).  CEPIDS  are part of a US$680 million scheme to generate long term (10 + years) research projects across a wide range of scientific  enquiry. You can read more about the CEPIDS by clicking here.

Chaimovich has been a member of the Council of the University of São Paulo for almost two decades, and has had spells as pro-rector of research and vice director of its  Institute of Advanced Studies. He has served both as president of the Brazilian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and as vice president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC).

Promoting a career professional from São Paulo to head the federal agency bodes well for the research environment in Brazil. And it should purge the sometimes unhelpful rivalry between CNPq and FAPESP that has held back some science. Although much though smaller in size and budget, FAPESP had become the “go to” partner for international universities and research councils, due to its tighter management and less bureaucratic style, while Brasilia gained a reputation for inertia.

Against a backdrop of senior public officials in many fields being selected for their political, rather than technical skills, Chaimovich’s credentials as a science policy maven are impressive. Born in 1939, after graduating from the University of Chile in Santiago in 1962, his production of scholarly papers has been energetic. Since he first came to São Paulo with a post graduate research grant from FAPESP, Chaimovich has based his career in Brazil following post-doc study at Harvard and Santa Barbara in the USA. As well as a professorship at the University of Chile, he is professor of Biochemistry at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Chemistry.

Chaimovich has strong credentials in the wider formation of science policy and international outreach. He was vice president of the International Council for Science (ICSU), and was one of the founders of the Inter American Network of Academies of Science (IANAS). In the life science field,  has  also been an early champion of initiatives to bring  advanced international genomic studies to Brazil.

As the first significant policy choice made by the new science minister Aldo Rebelo, Chaimovich’s appointment has come as a pleasant surprise at a time of general pessimism within the science community. Critics both at home and abroad had seized upon statements made by Rebelo indicating the new minister was both a climate change skeptic and a proponent of a nationalist and insular approach to science.  You can read about this here. In fact, his appointment suggests research policy could acquire a more internationalist flavour – and that CNPq is in good hands at last.

From Chile to Brazil: a top science policy administrator's  posting

From Chile to Brazil: a top science policy administrator’s posting

And, of course, São Paulo’s science  community is delighted to have “one of their own” occupying a top spot in Brasília, at a time when the pro-business agenda of the nation’s economic powerhouse has been at odds with the statist inclinations of President Rousseff’s left-leaning second administration in the federal capital.

Portuguese readers can review a complete article about Chaimovich’s appointment   by clicking here.

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