universities have broadly similar functions in the innovation systems of most industrial and industrializing countries; however the relevance of their role alters substantially. in brazil, universities are the most important knowledge producers. we demonstrate that even though the largest allocation on financial resources goes to 'hard sciences', there is a large allocation of human resources within humanities, applied social sciences and linguistics, arts and literature (soft sciences). this distortion in the distribution of researchers with a relative high concentration in humanities and applied social science may directly affect brazil's capacity of innovation. brazil may not be producing the quantity of pertinent human resources expected to compete in the world's technological advanced markets.