Who we are

Serrapilheira Institute is a private, non-profit institution that promotes science in Brazil. It was created to value scientific knowledge and increase its visibility, helping to build a scientifically informed society that considers scientific evidence in decision-making.

The institute has three programs: Science, Training Program in Quantitative Ecology and Journalism & Media.

What we do

We promote Brazilian science through:

– flexible financial support for young scientists with big fundamental, bold and risky questions;

– flexible financial support for journalism and media projects that communicate about science in a creative and investigative way, as well as collect data on the area, combat misinformation and inform decision makers;

– experimentation with innovative practices, even if risky, that can serve as inspiration for other science support institutions: flexible and unbureaucratic financing, methods for selecting and evaluating scientists that go beyond traditional ones, openness to risk;

– partnerships with other institutions interested in promoting science, acting as an intermediary for donations and as a “fiscal sponsor”;

– creation of spaces for transdisciplinary scientific collaboration between scientists and communicators;

– actions to encourage gender and racial diversity in science;

– actions to encourage open, reproducible science that experiments with innovative evaluation methods;

– training of future ecology scientists and development of this area as a strategic axis for the country;

– encouragement of critical thinking and promotion of science as an ally of democratic advances, helping to build a scientifically informed society to make decisions.

Our programs

The Science Program supports research by young scientists who ask big, fundamental questions in natural sciences, computer science and mathematics. Proposals must be bold, and risk is considered welcome. Furthermore, the program promotes training and integration events between supported scientists, encouraging transdisciplinary collaborations. Find out more about the program here.

The Training Program in Quantitative Biology and Ecology offers theoretical and practical training to future scientists from any field of knowledge to enable them to formulate and answer major questions in the various subfields of ecology, helping to make Brazil a global hub for scientists in the area. Discover the program here.

The Journalism & Media Program supports professional journalism and media projects that take a curious, provocative and investigative look at science, promote reliable information and help combat scientific misinformation, and support decision-makers with relevant data about the Brazilian ST&I scenario. Know more here.

Since the beginning of its activities, Serrapilheira has already financially supported more than 300 science and science communication projects, with more than R$70 million invested.

Discover all supported science and communication projects.

The institute’s support has already enabled some results that have directly impacted society. In the pandemic, for example, the Epicovid-19 project surveyed epidemiological data that was fundamental to understanding the state of Covid-19 in Brazil, and the ModCovid19 project created models that simulated the most optimized strategies to combat the pandemic in the country. The biologist and science communicator Atila Iamarino, in turn, became one of the main sources of reliable information about the coronavirus for the general public, even participating in the “Covid CPI” in the National Congress.

What fields do we support

natural sciences (life sciences, geosciences, physics, chemistry);
computer science;
science communication (journalism and media).

Our values

We believe that scientific excellence occurs through:

– diversity;
– open and reproducible science;
– communication of science for its inclusion in the public debate;
– debureaucratization of science;
– transparency.

Find out more about our values here.


Our structure comprises the Executive Team under the supervision of the Board of Trustees, both advised by an international Scientific Council, the Scientific Advisory Board. Get to know here.

Where we came from

Officially launched in March 2017, Serrapilheira began to be developed in 2014. The resources come from an endowment of R$350 million, created in 2016 by a philanthropic family donation from the couple João Moreira Salles and Branca Vianna. The fund currently has around R$600 million. The institute’s annual budget comes from this fund’s income of about R$20 million.

Over the three years between creation and public announcement, we dedicated ourselves to learning about institutional models and visiting funding agencies, science support foundations and third-sector organizations in Brazil and abroad. We also met with Brazilian scientists to understand how a private institution could better serve the scientific community.

“Serrapilheira” is the Portuguese word to refer to the surface layer of forests, formed by leaves, branches and other organic matter. Main route for returning nutrients to the soil, it is essential for its fertility. The name was chosen because the institute wants to “fertilize the land” of Brazilian science — and its sound is pleasant.