Cuts imperil Brazil’s stake in astronomy observatories | Science

Brazilian scientists may get shut out of the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope in Chile.

Herton Escobar

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL—Strapped for cash after 3 years of austerity budgets, Brazilian scientists are bracing for an even harsher year ahead. The federal government is planning to slash science funding by nearly 40% in 2018, jeopardizing major projects including Brazil’s participation in world-class telescope facilities, ScienceInsider has learned.

Brazilian scientists were already reeling before the latest dispiriting news. This year, the science ministry absorbed a 44% budget decrease. Perennial cuts are “choking” institutes “to the point of endangering their existence,” says a manifesto released last week by 19 institutes managed by the federal science ministry based in Brasília. The money woes, they claim, are causing “irreversible damage” to institutions that are crucial to the nation’s economic recovery.

“This is a very serious situation,” said Bruno Castilho, director of the National Astrophysics Laboratory in Itajubá, Brazil. His budget also was halved this year. Current reserves don’t even cover water and electricity bills, he says, let alone Brazil’s participation in the Gemini Observatory—twin optical and infrared telescopes in Chile and Hawaii—and the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope in Chile. If Castilho can’t find at least another 4 million reais ($1.25 million) by the end of the year, he says, Brazilian astronomers will lose access to those facilities. The prognosis is grim, he says: “We don’t have anywhere else to cut.”

Also imperiled is next year’s planned launch of the Amazonia 1 satellite—an Earth observation satellite that will monitor deforestation and other land use changes—and daily operations of the…

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