Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Open letter for the future of research in Spain

In face of the worrying future of Spanish research, and given the imminent discussion in Parliament of the partial amendments to the new Law of Science,  an Open Letter has been written to denounce the dire current situation and urge the Government and the opposition to accept the researchers' proposals. Today is been left at Moncloa (Spanish Government building) with the signatures of almost 2500 researchers.

The behaviour of our leaders in scientific matters is unbelievable. This is cutting Spain's possibilities to grow and to be competitive.

The letter here:

During the last two years, in the context of the current economic crisis, Spanish research has been a victim of drastic budget cuts, with the Public Research Centers (OPIs) suffering cuts twice the average (30% compared to 16%). This implies a loss of credibility and competitiveness of the Spanish science policy, and prevents the needed change in the country’s economic base from the current one, to one rooted in Research and Development (I+D). Particularly worrisome has been the steep decrease and almost disappearance of research positions beyond the postdoctoral level (a 90% cut in the case of the Spanish Research Council – CSIC). This reduction affects not only the researchers under the current 5-year, tenure-track Ramón y Cajal program (whose researchers have already passed numerous selection and evaluations processes), but also the postdoctoral community (that has suffered from the small number of opportunities to access the system). Spain faces the real danger of losing several generations of researchers that have enable the growth of its science productivity in the last few years. In this context, there is the need to discuss the current draft of the “Law of Science and Technology”, which is being debated in the Spanish Congress. We consider this draft deficient in its design of the research career for the following reasons:
  • Previous drafts anticipated the existence of 5-year, tenure-track contracts with evaluations during the third and fifth years that, if passed, would imply the stabilization of the position. Even though the current draft establishes that the results of these evaluations would be considered in a selection process, it does not make any compromise regarding the existence of these tenured opportunities. (i.e. a “track” to nowhere).
  • The current draft allows for research scholarships in the private sector (instead of contracts), and establishes that the salaries of the researchers could be between 25% and 44% lower than those required by Law for workers conducting similar activities. This undignifies the research labor.
  • The current draft unregulates the postdoctoral stage of the research career.
In this open letter, we request for Spain a clear and dignified science career by making the following demands:
  • To honor the compromises already made under the current 5-year, tenure-track Ramón y Cajal program, with the creation of positions that enables the stabilization of the researchers in the program that have passed the evaluations.
  • That the budget-cuts do not disproportionally affect Research and Development (I+D), maintaining or increasing its percentage with respect to the Gross Domestic Product.
  • A social contract that allows for the long-term planning of human resources in Research and Development (I+D).
With respect to the current draft of the “Law of Science and Technology”, we ask for the following changes:
  • That the new 5-year, tenure-track program anticipates the stabilization of the researchers that pass the evaluations, taking into account the needs of the research centers.
  • The transfer of the current RyC researchers to above program, taking into consideration the evaluations already passed.
  • The regulation of the postdoctoral stage of the research career.
  • The substitution of research scholarships, including those in the private sector, by contracts.
  • That the salaries of researchers should be, at least, the minimum established by Law for workers conducting similar activities.

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