TWAS awards its first-ever prize in social sciences

TWAS - The World Academy of Sciences awards its first-ever prize in social sciences. The first winner of the TWAS-Celso Furtado Prize in Social Sciences has been announced at the TWAS General Meeting, held in Tianjin, China: Ricardo Paes de Barros  from Brazil.

One year ago, TWAS launched the TWAS-Celso Furtado Prize in Social Sciences. The Brazilian Government is providing a four-year programme of sponsorship for the prize in honour of the great Brazilian economist Celso Furtado. Each winner will receive USD15,000.

This year’s winner - the first ever - is Ricardo Paes de Barros, currently Secretary of Strategic Actions at the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic, based in Brasilia, Brazil.

Barros is honoured for his contributions to understanding the problems of poverty and inequality in Brazil, and for his advocacy of evaluating and refining public policies aimed at alleviating both poverty and inequality.

TWAS President, Jacob Palis , said: "This prize is an important addition to the TWAS prizes programme and, as president of TWAS, I want to express our deep gratitude to former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and his Minister of Science and Technology José Israel Vargas , who were both instrumental in securing the sponsorship." The prize reflects the Brazilian government’s strong support for TWAS and, more generally, for helping to build scientific capacity in the developing world.

Paes de Barros will receive the award money and medal at next year’s TWAS General Meeting, which will be held in Argentina.

Paes de Barros studied aeronautics at undergraduate level and went on to do a Master’s in statistics at IMPA, Brazil, before converting to research on economics for his PhD at Chicago University, USA, followed by research at the Centre for Economic Growth at Yale University, USA.

From 1979 until 2011, Paes de Barros was based at the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), Brazil, where his research focused on social inequality, education, poverty, and the labour market in Brazil as well as in Latin America. Between 1990 and 1996, he returned to Yale as a visiting professor; and from 1999 to 2002, he was at IPEA as director of its Board of Social Studies. Last year, Paes de Barros was appointed the Secretary of Strategic Actions at the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil in Brasilia.

Paes de Barros has published many articles and books on poverty and inequality in Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean and received prizes recognizing the significance of his work, including the Haralambos Simedionis award and the Mario Henrique Simonsen award. In 2005, he was admitted to the National Order of Scientific Merit in the category of Commander in Braziil, and in 2010 he was appointed member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Ratna Ghosh, a TWAS member in the field of social sciences, confirmed that Paes de Barros was a worthy and appropriate first recipient of the prize. "His work is closely allied to the kind of approach and methods that Celso Furtado was advocating," she said.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to academia, a special volume of the Brazilian Review of Econometrics will soon be released in Barros’ honour. In the introduction to this volume, James Heckman, Nobel Prize (2000) in Economics, describes how Barros’ work has influenced the social sciences and politics worldwide:

"Through his quiet, but forceful, influence, Ricardo revolutionized Brazilian policy making by creating and organizing a rigorous micro database that enabled Brazilian policymakers to understand the causes of poverty and inequality and effective approaches for alleviating them. By creating this culture of evaluation - of evidence-based policy analysis - Paes de Barros has forever changed the dialogue of Brazilian public policy and influenced the evolution of evidence-based policy making throughout the entire Latin American region."

Moreover, the fact that the selected candidate turns out to be Brazilian (even though the panel was made up of social science experts from several different countries) confirms the fact that Furtado’s work and teachings really made an impact on economists in his country.

Celso Furtado was a famous Brazilian economist (1920-2004) whose research focused on the poor in Brazil and throughout South America. He emphasized the importance of economic policies that focused on building a strong industrial base for what he referred to as ’peripheral economies’. "This is very much in line with TWAS’s mission to build scientific capacity in poorer regions in order to stimulate sustainable development," Palis affirmed, "and it also reflects an awareness within TWAS as an organization that social scientists have a great deal to offer the Academy in the pursuit of this mission."

Candidates for the TWAS-Celso Furtado Prize in Social Sciences must be scientists who have been working and living in a developing country for at least ten years immediately prior to their nomination. They must, too, have made an outstanding contribution in both understanding and addressing social science disciplines such as economics, political sciences and sociology.



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