downloadI am Manuel Pereira dos Santos, Full professor of Physics at the University of Évora, Portugal, and also vice-president of a teacher’s and professor’s union, representing this sector of higher education and research at the Education International.

In Portugal we have a very serious situation on research and science, because this government decided to cut the funding both to the researchers and the research centres:

• The number of the researcher’s contracts or grants has been reduced this year to about one third of the previous ones (and these are all precarious researchers);

• The number of research centres that will receive funding next year will be reduced to one half of the total.

Scientific research in Portugal was greatly developed during the last 20 years, bringing our level from the bottom of European research to the average, or even above, in some aspects. This improvement produced a new highly qualified generation of researchers, and had also the participation of many foreign researchers that came to work in Portuguese laboratories. That’s all this reality that is being destroyed during the last 3 years by this government.

The last attack on science and research was carried in the following way: even if, for the last 17 years, all the research centres have been regularly evaluated by international teams (including a visit to the centres and a discussion with the researchers), this time FCT (our science funding agency) decided to contract ESF (European Science Foundation) for this job, and the outcome was a disaster:

• 50% of the centres have not been approved for funding, or will receive small amounts, covering only administrative costs;

• This 50% percentage of cuts is the same for all subjects, and so this has nothing to do with quality assessments, but with previous orders;

• Many centres, previously assessed with “excellent” or “very good” in 2010, having raised their scientific productivity since, are now evaluated “good” or less, and will have no funds.
There are also some “strange aspects to notice:

• ESF, that will change the name to EUROPE SCIENCE next September, will have Miguel Seabra (our President of FCT, who decided the contract for this job) as its next President since then… and apparently he sees “no conflict of interests” on this!

• ESF has no previous experience on the evaluation of a national scientific system;

• The referee’s panel is quite short, many evaluated subjects had no specialists in this panel, and the curricula of many referees is not relevant on their subject… and then the number of basic mistakes is very big;

• None of the centres that will have no funds next year has been visited, they have been refused based only on written documents;

• The outcome of the evaluation is a huge concentration of the viable research centres within the bigger institutions, and a shortage of research on fundamental science;

• Nothing in all this process is transparent or clear.

We must inform everyone of this “attempt of murder of science” in Portugal, and the misapplication of national and European funds.



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3 Commenti

  1. Se il European Science Foundation è il corrispettivo dell’Anvur a livello europeo, si sta freschi. Questo è del resto un’anticipazione di ciò che succederà anche in Italia. Sono stata a luglio nelle Azzorre, e colleghi della giovane univ. di Ponta Delgada tiravano un sospiro di sollievo perché erano stati valutati, individualmente, molto bene. Ho chiesto dettagli: se per due volte non si era valutati oltre il ‘buono’, addio. Altro non so se non che erano tesissimi. Non so se siete entrati nel sito dell’ESF. Non ho avuto molto tempo per cercare di sapere da chi proveniva l’autorizzazione o la valutazione affinché loro valutassero. Anvur e ESF sembrano entrambe emanazioni politiche, per l’Anvur lo sappiamo, e per quest’altro ente? Che la politica debba e voglia dirigere la ricerca è chiara se non altro da questo: Janez Potočnik, commissario europeo per la scienza e la ricerca, sottolineava nel 2005 che le strategie politiche sono chiamate ad interferire con la scienza per indirizzarla verso obiettivi di rilevanza sociale (individuati evidentemente dalla politica o quanto meno attraverso la politica, come se, evidentemente, la politica fosse neutrale). V.
    Potočnik, Janez (2005): Science and political power. In: First World Conference on the Future of Science, Venezia: Fondazione Giorgio Cini. In rete all’indirizzo Chi è Janez Potočnik?
    Ora è commissario per l’ambiente. Aiuto.

  2. Dear Professor Pereira Dos Santos, in your post there seems to be a certain degree of confusion regarding the nature and remit of Science Europe. Science Europe is not a new name for the European Science Foundation, it is the already existing (since November 2011) European Association of currently 52 public national Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations. Its current President, Professor Miguel Seabra, has been elected by Science Europe members and has just taken up this role, which is additional to his post at FCT. Science Europe is a research policy organisation; it does not have any review panels and does not carry out any reviews or evaluations of institutions or projects. Finally Science Europe has always stressed the need for adequate funding for research in all scientific domains at national and European level and has strongly argued against cuts to public science budgets. For further details about the organisation I invite you and the readers of this blog to go to Science Europe’s website:
    Kind regards,
    Elena Torta

    • I have received this email from Prof. Dos Santos who asked me to post as a reply to the comment from Dr. Torta.


      I know that European Science Foundation (ESF) and Science Europe (SE) are not exactly the same organization with a different name: all the “science policy activities” have been transferred from ESF to SE”, ESF becoming only an “international evaluation service provider”, that is, keeping the major profiting parts (that for the first time ever ESF is experimenting on the whole Portuguese research system, at the demand of Prof. Miguel Seabra, the present President of SE).

      A quick look at ESF and SE sites indeed show how they are “completely different institutions”:
      – ESF has 66 organizations, from 28 countries, and SE only 57 organizations from only 28 countries;
      – 54 of the 57 organizations (95%) of SE are also members of ESF, coming from the same 25 of the 28 countries;
      – the activities of SE have been “transferred” from ESF.

      Sorry if it reminds me of the cartoon characters Dupont &Dupond. from Tintin – Thomson e Thompson in English.

      But there is a “significant” difference: ESF was involved in the discussions of the European Recommendation of 2005 (the Chart and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers), but the Roadmap of SE only refers the Code but ignores the Chart. In fact, during the ministerial negotiations, the President of FCT – and now also of Science Europe – was against implementing the rights of researchers as they are stated in the Chart, because “it was too expensive”, and then he preferred “grants” to “contracts” for them.

      M. Pereira dos Santos
      (Full Professor of Physics)

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