Dr Robert Parker's speech at the RSC Brazil office opening


19 June 2012

It is wonderful to be here in São Paulo at the official opening of the Royal Society of Chemistry's newest international office.

A number of people have been responsible for this achievement and I'd like to begin by offering my thanks to them.

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to our RSC Manager, Brazil, Dr Elizabeth Magalhaes.

Elizabeth holds BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from the State University of Campinas in Brazil and has post-doctoral experience in Brazil and Hungary. 

Brazil is now expanding rapidly in the chemical sciences and its future potential as a scientific economy is huge. 

Elizabeth's appointment will therefore enable us to build the relationships that we need to position the RSC for growth in this market over the next few years.  

So if you have not had the chance to say hello, I hope you will do so later today.

David Clark, our international development manager and his team, along with the RSC's international representative in Brazil, Professor Marco Schiavon, have also succeeded in ensuring the build-up to today has gone smoothly so many thanks also to David and Marco, who are here with us today.

Finally, I'd also like to thank the staff of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office here in São Paulo. Their 'NGO Partners Scheme' has been a great success and we look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the FCO's Science and Innovation team. 

Just two weeks ago, the RSC President Professor David Phillips was here in Brazil to re-sign a five year Cooperation Agreement between the Sociedade Brazileira de Quimica and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This agreement represents the next step in establishing an ever closer relationship between our societies that began in 2007 when we signed the International Cooperation Agreement.

Since then we have developed closer links for advancing the chemical sciences and today I'm delighted to be here in person to officially open the RSC's Brazil office - a move that will continue to bring our countries closer together for the benefit of society.

How are we going to achieve this aim?

The RSC is truly an international organisation with offices in China, Tokyo, the United States and India.

We are therefore reacting to the rapid change across science and industry that is being driven by globalisation.

This latest chapter in our international development story reflects the RSC's ongoing commitment to bring together scientists from all corners of the world to pool our knowledge and share our research.

By having an office in São Paulo, the RSC is uniquely placed to expand and diversify our activities in Brazil.

It will give us the opportunity to do a number of things:

  • Expand and diversify our activities in Brazil

  • We want to see an increased presence of Brazilian authors into RSC journals - Brazil has seen its share of the world's scientific papers rise from 1.7% to 2.7% between 2002 and 2008 and now produces 55% of the journal papers written in Latin America

  • We want to create awareness of joint opportunities in key areas of research

  • Promote, deliver and support scientific meetings

  • Foster research collaborations by developing network opportunities for researchers across the globe - today more than 30% of scientific papers by Brazilians have a foreign co-author. And the UK now co-authors more than 900 papers with Brazil (up from 400 in 1999), meaning that the UK has more scientific collaboration with Brazil than India.

We want to engage with Brazilian chemists from academia and industry, and policymakers, to provide a wider range of job opportunities and training for future chemists. 

But that's not all.

Another important aim of having an office in Brazil is not only to increase our understanding of science policy in Brazil and Latin America, but also to show how the RSC can play a greater role of advancing the chemical sciences for the benefit of society.

By doing all this, by stronger international collaborations, the challenges society faces in the 21st century will become easier to solve.

But some challenges are more immediate than others.

Science in Brazil has been a high priority for a number of years. Unfortunately, 2012 has seen a significant decrease in the science budget of 22%.

Other initiatives have been introduced though, such as last year's 'science without borders' initiative and its ambitious objective of sending 100,000 young people abroad to study.

The UK will certainly extend a warm welcome to any Brazilian students should they decide to come and study at one of our universities.

I know the Brazilian Embassy's science team will be an important contact for those students who want to find out more about the scheme.

It is vital that scientists engage with politicians.

Without sufficient government support, it will be more difficult to combat issues concerning energy, climate change, biodiversity and food - areas where Brazil is a world leader.

Yet despite these tough times, São Paulo remains an inspiration for the rest of Latin America when it comes to scientific endeavour.

The continent's best universities are here, including the two that make it into the top 300 in the best-known global rankings.

The University of São Paulo's Life Sciences department has a superb individual ranking, sitting 70th overall in the world. 

At the forefront of Brazil's advancement in science has been the São Paulo Research Foundation, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

So while there have been many reasons to smile at the development of science in Brazil, there are many challenges ahead.

A closer connection through our partnership means we will meet those challenges in the best possible shape.

Thank you very much.

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