Chronicle of “Homo scientificus europeus: In the search for a sustainable future for European science” roundtable
Raül Toran (ACCC). The Ateneu Barcelonés hosted last November 7th a panel discussion entitled Homo scientificus europeus: In the search for a sustainable future for European science. The “la Caixa” Foundation and the Catalan Association of Science Communication (ACCC), among other entities, have collaborated in this event that will bring together some of Europe’s scientists committed to the defence of the science in the continent.
The crisis has hit hard the investment and human resources of science in many states, and even in the EU budget. The cuttings were especially hard in the countries of southern Europe. But science is the way out of the recession, because Europe remains a cultural reference because an economy based on knowledge allows it to compete internationally and to improve and maintain the quality of life of its citizens. In this meeting some of the scientists in favour of European science talked about the situation in which we find ourselves, and the necessary steps to keep us on the path of progress.
The Euroscience, the European grassroots organization of scientists and all those taking an interest in science, was introduced in the first part of the meeting. It is the voice of European researchers, across disciplines and countries; promoting dialogue with researchers worldwide.
Precarious researchers in Spain
Amaya Moro, Ramón y Cajal researcher at CSIC and developer of Dignity Research Platform said that countries that invest less in R&D are the countries that have just been rescued and possibly that were not accidental. “Spain has set a goal of reaching 2% of GDP on R&D in 2020, which does not make us competitive with other countries that have more ambitious goals and to a lesser term”, said the researcher. She explained that the expenditure on R&D has declined by 42 % between 2009 and 2014, and to make up the accounts credit the game increases, that in about two-thirds is not executed. All this affects the scientific community. Since 2011 has been cut by 41% in the budget for research projects of the R&D National Plan (NP). In addition to the cuts, there are the delays. The last NP was approved with 11 months of delay. All this causes at the researchers who have no fixed place have three choices: leave the research, emigrate or become precarious. There is a brain drain and no opportunities for foreign researchers to come to Spain.
“There are not too many researchers in Spain and they are not expensive. The productivity of a Spanish researcher is the same as a French researcher, but salaries can be even half. As a researcher at CNRS earns about 60,000 euros/year, a researcher at the CSIC with the same category earns about 30,000 euros/year. Spain has to invest in R&D in order to have a different economic model and avoid future crises “, said Moro.
Is education expensive?
“If education is expensive, try ignorance” Varvara Trachana, an assistant professor of cell biology at the University of Thessaly in Larissa (appointment pending for two years), began with this quotation her intervention. “In Greece, there are researchers who carry two to four years without a steady job or with very precarious contracts. It gives brain drain or exile has reached outrageous levels. Since 2010 there has been no call for new places in Greece or in universities or research centers. “The staff has been reduced and the quality of higher education and scientific research has been degraded. The budgets of universities and research centers have been reduced by 50%, and the subscriptions to scientific journals have been not renewed. The Greek Ministry of Education wants to reduce by 40% more the staff working in universities”, concluded Trachana.
Same kind of problems in Italy
Francesco Sylos started his talk telling that they had the same kind of problems in Italy, but with different intensity. “Politicians are interesting in the short term, not in a long way. Then how to make them interested into Science? Science requires money and time, and also exploring new ways of exploration. I take take part of ROARS (Return On Academic ReSearch) to fight the neoliberal attack to education and research and feeding the public discussion with scientific evidence from the academic world, that is essential in order to find the way in a world where ideology and economic interests dictate the agenda”, explained the Italian researcher.
The research career
José Manuel Fernández, from the Spanish Federation of Young Researchers: “When research career is over, researchers wonder whether or not to continue their investigation. In Spain it has taken 15 years to get contracts from fellowships. A quality research career needs flexibility, stability and continuity, avoiding brain exile to other countries. The doctoral thesis should end with contracts to avoid working for free.
Is science in Europe dying?
Jose Maria Gago: “Science in Europe is not dying, but is not progressing. The scientific publications are on the rise. The Europe Science Gap could be widening. The American Budget in Science is higher than the European, including all budgets national and from the European Comission”
The change is now visible
By a video Federico Mayor Zaragoza, President of the Peace Culture Foundation, explained the importance of the economy based on knowledge. We can be active and participants in the public power. We can express free ourselves everyday. We can compare. For the first time in history we start to have women in the power. The change is now visible. We can have an evolution, to keep what must be kept, and change what must be changed. The 80% of the people is living in the not prosper world, and this situation is not sustainable. Food, energy, health, research and education are the priorities.
In the discussion it emerged that it would not be a problem that the 30% of researchers would leave the country when incorporated the same amount of researchers. It was also noted that there was no long-term planning in research. Moro said we need a state agency that controls a multi-year budget, with a long-term scientific policy.
You can see the tweets with #futurocienciaUE hashtag of this roundtable in this storify. Shortly they will see the video.
In the following links you can download the presentations of the speakers:
- Mission; key activities EuroScience.
- ROARS. Return On Academic Research.
- The future of science in Europe.
- Towards a more competitive National Scientific and Technological System in Portugal.
- ¿Cómo debería ser la carrera investigadora?