SBMT expresses support for the quality assessment of Graduate Studies by Capes
The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the importance of science for Brazilian society and the urgency of investments in research and in the quality of education. On the other hand, the pandemic scenario opened up the classic problems of the Brazilian policy of devaluation of science; the steep budget cuts; the decrease in masters, doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships; the lack of readjustments in research grants, the risk of discontinuity of graduate programs; and the possibility of institutional collapse. In the midst of this demise of Brazilian science, actions by the Federal Prosecution Office and the Federal Justice judicialized, in September 2021, the quality assessment of Graduate Studies by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes), questioning the criteria defined and modified in the last evaluation period and determined the suspension of the evaluation of the quadrennium and the return to the previous criteria, based on productivity, without hearing from those who make up the Graduate Programs.
This was the trigger for numerous resignations. Since then, professors, including area coordinators and evaluators, have left their positions because they understand the arbitrariness of the Capes coordination that interfered with the criteria of the Quadrennial Evaluation 2017-2020, which valued the quality of productions, productivity and its impact on society. Earlier this month, other researchers linked to Capes resigned and in a letter reinforced the previous criticisms, especially the position of the body to try to reverse a court decision that interrupted the evaluation of graduate studies.
For the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT) the suspension of the four-year evaluation of graduate programs puts the entire production of knowledge at risk, which is steps away from a data blackout and further highlights the dismantling of Brazilian science. The suspension breaks the rules that guarantee quality and threatens the deregulation of graduate studies. Over these more than 70 years, Brazil has developed, through Capes, a system of stimulation, funding and evaluation of graduate studies that has been improved over these years, supported by international experiences, through the review of academic peers. This system, initially annual, then triennial and, in the last two four-year periods, has effectively contributed to the progress in Brazil, in the qualified training of human resources for teaching, research and innovation institutions in the private sector and, consequently, in scientific research and innovation. The postgraduate evaluation process, which dates back to 1976, has been a differential for the construction of a robust, efficient, transparent and internationally recognized National Postgraduate System, providing Brazil with the possibility of reducing its scientific and technological dependence in the short term.
The abrupt interruption of the four-year evaluation puts the entire postgraduate system and Brazilian scientific production, which are closely linked, at risk. Given the apparent lack of knowledge about the training system of professors and researchers in Brazil explained in the terms of the aforementioned lawsuit, it is important to reiterate that changes in the evaluation system at each cycle are punctual, discussed with the scientific community and widely publicized. The new guidelines considered in the evaluation of the 2017 – 2020, quadrennium, now suspended, based on quality, represent an advance in the relationship between these two universes, which are evidently complementary. It is a challenge to envision a new social functioning and the question remains: should we do less to do better? It is a debate that directly interferes with the concept of citizen science, insofar as we must question the production of texts without depth or applicability, and the need for more space, time and tranquility to better cut and scientifically analyze reality. Thus, we will be able to show those who are not part of the academy how much scientific research can contribute to building a society and a better future. Going back on this path would be like directing the university towards a past that has already been overcome.
Capes main activity is to carry out the four-year evaluation of postgraduate programs in the country. It rates courses from 1 to 7, which serve as a guide for students to choose institutions and influence the allocation of funds for scholarships and research. The evaluation is also decisive for the opening of new courses and can lead to the closing of the worst ones. The last evaluation was published in 2017, covering the period 2013-2016, According to the National Association of Graduate Students (ANPG), up to 90% of national scientific production is linked to graduate studies. With the Capes assessment suspended, there are no indicators that can guide future decisions on higher education policy and Brazilian graduate studies. Quoting Paulo Freire: “if education alone does not transform society, without it neither does society”. On February 22nd, starting at 13 pm, a public hearing will be held to discuss the evaluation criteria of the Graduate Programs promoted by Capes. The audience will be open to the entire population, up to the maximum limit supported by the Zoom platform, of 500 participants.