The first impression was that everyone taking part in the survey was very excited about working in the field of neuroscience, from undergrad trainees to postdocs. Most of the respondents acknowledged that neuroscience was a strong research area in South America, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In particular, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Natal were cities recognized as holding the most important places to perform neuroscience research in Brazil. Nonetheless, few of these places have dedicated neuroscience degrees either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Most of them are in the related fields of cell biology, biochemistry, physiology or morphology. Still, neuroscience research on basic aspects of nervous system function as well as on disease mechanisms is active and dominates several of these programme lines. Though most of the respondents feel satisfied with their training, they feel they could have more opportunities to develop their careers and to improve their current research with collaborations, interactions and, mainly, funding. Prospects for science funding derailed in the past 5 years in Brazil, and there is low hope that this would be reversed in the near future, unfortunately.
Despite the not-so-good news in Brazil, all the interviewees are interested in pursuing their career in neuroscience. How this would happen is not clear, however, and this obviously depends on the current career level. Our survey revealed an overall feeling that most of the respondents would like to run a research group in the future, either within South America or abroad.
When asked about the skills they feel they need to have a career in Neuroscience, most indicated they feel in the right path to developing their basic skillset/ Notably, most people indicated that training abroad, especially in the US or Europe, is essential to fully develop as a scientist. A few people also indicated the need to polish their soft skills, including networking and presentation skills.
As you might remember from the Edinburgh survey, one concern of the scientists working in Scotland was the short-term contracts that not necessarily allowed the young scientist to take up their next career stages. A similar concern was found in the survey with Brazilian postdocs. This is worsened by the cloudy prospects that make postdocs afraid of not having their fellowships renewed, thereby leaving them with no option but to interrupt their projects and careers. Other difficulties have been mentioned, including overpricing and legal bureaucracy in obtaining essential reagents and equipment and, for some, everyday challenges in commuting from home to lab.
Not everything is bad news, however. Brazilian young neuroscientists appear eager to continue their career in neuroscience and, due to the everyday constraints, they have been substantially trained to be creative. Thus, when exposed to proper work conditions, they can be surprisingly productive and then make more than one lemonade (or “caipirinha”) from not-so-juicy science lemons. The enthusiasm they still hold was also evident in this survey.
Finally, what can societies like ISN do to foster career development in Brazil and Latin America? Well, most respondents agree with the current initiatives that support international meeting attendance, trip to visit a lab abroad and in-lab funding from ISN. Several of those who responded are familiar and interested in engaging more with ISN. They also expect that these initiatives are expanded by ISN and similar societies. In summary, despite the challenges Brazilian trainees have to cope with, there are reasons to expect their development and success, especially due to their excitement and persistence, with the essential aid by international bodies, foundations and societies, just like ISN. Stay tuned from the next What’s on! We will be back next month with more trainee perspective from somewhere else in the world!