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Facts, not words

Government policy is ruining the Spanish scientific system

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Facts, not words

Mariano Rajoy was right to affirm, after a visit to National Center of Cardiac Research in 2014, that " generation of knowledge is essential for economic, social, cultural and intellectual progress of a society". He n announced a clear commitment to science as soon as crisis was overcome. The problem is that facts have not corresponded with ir words. The crisis has fallen behind and yet Spanish scientific system is experiencing moments of anguish and depression. The chronic lack of resources and a castrating bureaucracy that reaches ridiculous limits are about to spoil effort that had been made to reduce gap that was separating us from Europe.

Previous Editorials

Science, in Dry Dock (02/12/2017)

Growth gap in R D (12/04/2017)

An agency for R D (15/11/2015)

The distance is increasing. Investment in R D has receded in Spain to levels ten years ago. Between 2009 and 2016 has fallen by 9.1%, while in UK or Germany grew 39.3% and 37.9%, respectively. At moment we are only 1.9% of our GDP in R D, when European average is 2.03%. Private investment has always been rickety in Spain. Innovation in productive system needs to be encouraged, but in meantime it is vital to increase public investment, which has fallen by 12% since 2009.

The result is that public bodies and universities lose strength and international competitiveness. To continue, we will never be able to equate to our community partners despite having one of most valued assets: a well-prepared scientific community with high competitive capacities. The participation of Spanish teams in international research programs has gone from 32% in 2003 to 46% in 2015. Thanks to this effort and pre-crisis investments, Spain has become eighth world power in research, but that position is now seriously threatened. With overloaded and aged templates, system barely has room for replenishment and generational renewal.

To this we must add bureaucratic obstacles which aggravate situation. Science must be evaluated, of course. But rigidity in meeting deficit targets has resulted in expenditure control mechanisms that constrain scientific development. The government has shown an alarming lack of sensitivity to clamor of scientific community. Thousands of investigators work with temporary contracts in projects subject to a great uncertainty by absurd rules that Treasury imposes to control expenditure. The previous intervention is applied in such a clumsy and rigid way that some years have stopped spending half of appropriations and funds allocated. And some teams are losing external funding from international competitions for those same obstacles.

There is no greater display of futility in management than having few resources and also not knowing how to spend. The Government must be aware of damage that this policy is doing to Spanish scientific system and immediately correct a negligence that we will all pay very expensively.

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