Mobilization in defense of the Spanish science!
Research and innovation are crucial for the development and wellbeing of society, especially in times of economic downturn. It is currently becoming clear that the supposed prosperity that the construction sector offered was only temporary, and the Spanish economy remains deeply rooted in the crisis that neighboring countries, which have opted for a more solid economic model, are already leaving behind.
After a decade of complacency, it is now, during the downturn, that the urgency of changing the economic model to one that provides sustainable growth has become apparent. However, we observe alarmed and with frustration that the investment in research and development is the first "collateral damage" in the Spanish budget, this in spite of the fact that Spain only dedicates 1.35% of GNP to R&D (1), rather than the 2% that the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) had aimed for in 2010 (2), or the 3% that the Lisbon Agenda and the Barcelona Objective fixed as a goal (3-5). It is also notably less than what northern European countries invest (6).
The damage is not limited to the State budget, because a majority of regional governments have also cut spending on research and/or Universities, in some cases a very significant percentage. A collective very affected by these cuts will be that of aspiring researchers. Specially, researchers with temporary contracts will notice that, in many cases, these contracts will not be renewed, this after many years of work and continuous training financed by the State, which will thus lose its investment.
The research sector has been completely neglected in the recent special anti-crisis measures, when a "Plan-E" dedicated to research and scientific infrastructures would have met the same goals the real "Plan-E" (7) sought. At the same time it would have meant a quality impulse that would have been profitable in subsequent years, while many of the actual projects financed by the central government do not provide this. In the same way, the rise in unemployment should have led to an urgent national training program for future researchers and technicians, recycling former workers laid-off in sectors most affected by the downturn. Furthermore, it would have been an excellent time to promote R&D activity in the private sector and especially SMEs (small and medium-sized companies), which have been most affected by the downturn. There is no lack of opportunities to combine economic stimulus with advancement of science and technology.
Indeed, instead of an effort to obtain funds and devise stimulation measures, R&D has been the main sufferer of the newfound "austerity", which will mean that, necessarily, many goals will not be met. Behind the perhaps abstract concept of R&D lay specific matters such as climate change research, discovery of new medicines, optimization of energy use, development of alternative energy sources, the fight against cancer, etc. The financial cuts inevitably mean delays in these and other research areas.
This cyclic threat, although very worrying on its own, is further aggravated because the Spanish research system has a series of endemic structural deficits. Among these, we point out the following:
- Continuous changes in persons responsible for research management and in the management structure.
- Lack of a fixed calendar of calls for research, infrastructure and others grants and bureaucratic delays in their resolution.
- Absence of continuity and stability in the Human Resource programs, with repeated changes in call dates and delays in their resolution.
- Arbitrarity and lack of planning in the selection, promotion and stabilization, which imply a deficiency of a solid, competitive and long-term Human Resource policy.
- Paralyzation of the new Science Law and other legislative initiatives (EPDI, 8; PL-A, 9; PL-FJI, 10), which are necessary to regulate the different types of science careers (science management, teaching, technical assistance and research).
The scientific community has expressed its firm rejection of the current situation. We believe it is time to go out into the street to transmit the following message in a clear, direct and forceful way to the Spanish central and regional governments and to society as a whole. We demand:
- A broad agreement to promote Research and Science, to take a clear and decisive step towards a society based on research and development, these being the pillars of a sustainable future. We demand a binding long-term commitment from all political parties, unions and employers, both at national and regional level, to equip the Spanish science system with the necessary stability and prestige.
- A real increase in public and private funding for R&D—not based on loans—, so that in a short time period, Spanish R&D spending equals the European average and, within ten years, spending exceeds this average. In this way, the Spanish economy will be converted into a solid and stable motor of wellbeing, at the level of other developed countries. At the same time, R&D subsidies to private companies should be revised and evaluated according to obtained results and political strategies.
- A research career designed by rational planning of its different stages and the professionalization of the different actors in the scientific system. This should be accompanied by a rigorous and coherent Human Resources policy that favors stability for researchers that have successfully surpassed the necessary evaluations and promotion of personnel of proven value.
The associations, societies, groups and researchers that sign this manifesto believe the moment has come that the whole scientific community (managers, professors, technicians, researchers) and society in general join forces for a large demonstration. We launch a serious message: we must all support science and innovation in a clear and decisive way.
LET'S ALL GET TOGETHER ON THE 6 OF MARCH 2010 TO GET THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE ACROSS:
"RESEARCH IS AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE"
(2) www.psoe.es/download.do?id=37214 (page 167)