Genomics politics through space and time: The case of bioinformatics in Brazil

Edison Bicudo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The emergence of scientific disciplines, as well as the policies aimed to steer them, have geographical implications. This becomes visible in areas such as genomics and related fields. In this paper, the relation between scientific evolution, political decisions and geographical configuration is studied. The recent formation of bioinformatics in Brazil is focused on. The study involves an analysis of data collected on the website of CNPq, a funding agency attached to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Furthermore, I conducted fieldwork in four cities, interviewing 15 bioinformaticians. In the history of Brazilian bioinformatics, three periods can be identified. In the first period (1900-1996), bioinformatics was actually absent, but biology research groups were formed which would subsequently explore bioinformatics. The second period (1997-2006) was marked by the emergence of the discipline and geographical concentration of major research groups in the southern part of Brazil. A third period can be pointed to (2007-2014), in which political choices have turned geographical diffusion and institutional equality into a national target. As a consequence of the recent shifts, genomics and bioinformatics researchers have been involved in a debate, some defending the existence of few specialized research and sequencing platforms, whereas others welcoming the constitution of a scientific scenario based on decentralized platforms. I defend an intermediate solution, whereby some places would be selected to be genomics hubs. This would fit the regional diversity of this vast country, in addition to tackling the scientific weaknesses of the northern area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-92
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number2
Early online date19 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Bioinformatics
  • Brazil
  • Decision-making
  • Genomics
  • Spatial inequalities


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