It is time to review the Brazilian postgraduation system

Ribeirão Preto, 18/01/2015

The contrast between the increasing number of Brazilian scientific publications and the apparent plateau of their impact on most disciplines should be a source of concern for policy makers responsible for Postgraduation in the universities and the distribution of fellowships and research grants. Since most of the academic research in Brazil is carried out by postgraduate students, it is reasonable to consider modification of our Postgraduation system.

Over the years, the Brazilian investment in science and technology has increased significantly but the basic philosophy of Postgraduation has apparently changed very little. The emphasis continues to be on the number of diplomas and papers produced, rather than on the formation of the student. By formation we mean the skills required to carry out research and to prepare the next generation of Brazilian scientists. These include the ability to analyze problems, to formulate specific solutions, to carry out these solutions in the laboratory, to think and write in a clear manner that is understandable to peers, and finally to know and understand the history of the development of their academic area. Of course there are other necessary skills, but these are the most important. We should expect our students to continue to develop and mature throughout their entire academic careers. This is not happening and, as a general rule, until now we have been training technicians for the most part rather than Doctors.

In the mid-1970’s, there were many discussions of the fact that Brazil needed to produce thousands of doctors to reach first world levels of number of Doctors/100,000 inhabitants. It was recognized that most of the first graduates would have less than an ideal training but it was understood and expected that the system would become more rigorous with time. Unfortunately this has not occurred and, to make matters worse, poorly trained Doctors are now training the next generation of Doctors.

Historically, since the institutionalization of graduate courses in Brazil in the late sixties, CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), the research-oriented universities (almost all public) and state funding agencies have all had some degree of responsibility for the strategy for the development of graduate courses in the country, with a substantial contribution to Brazilian science. I suggest that a panel of members of ABC (Academia Brasileira de Ciências) and SPBC (Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência) be convened to analyze the performance of Postgraduation since its initiation in the early 1970’s and to suggest new approaches that can be more effective than the present one regarding the quality of our students and the scientific enterprise in Brazil.

Lewis Joel Greene


About Lewis Joel Greene

At present, he is volunteer full professor (senior collaborator) of Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, at the Department of Cellular, Molecular Biology and Pathogenic Bioagents. He is supervisor of the Protein Chemistry Center at the Fundação Hemocentro in Ribeirão Preto, where he conducts studies on chemical, functional and structural characterization of proteins, using traditional approaches in protein chemistry and proteomics analysis.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

GREENE, L.J. It is time to review the Brazilian postgraduation system [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed ]. Available from:


8 Thoughts on “It is time to review the Brazilian postgraduation system

  1. Some of the reasons for this problem are listed in my article in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research ( ). If I were to update that article based on my experience in Brazil in the intervening years, I would emphasise that the majority of problems arise because the researcher (or the student’s supervisor) has not spent enough time reading the current literature – so their hypothesis is weak or non-existent and topic is of little interest to the Editor of an international journal. Recognizing that critical reading and analysis skills are a key research skill here is the first step to improvement!

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