Spanish research gets a nice budget boost—but scientists say it will be

first_img Spanish research gets a nice budget boost—but scientists say it will be of little help Javier Lizon/EFE/Newscom Scientists test a satellite named Deimos-2 at the National Aerospace Technology Institute in Madrid in 2013. The institute gets a 34% increase in the government’s 2018 budget. By Elisabeth PainApr. 10, 2018 , 3:50 PM BARCELONA, SPAIN—The Spanish government has announced plans to raise the country’s overall public R&D budget by 8.3% in 2018, from €6.5 billion to €7 billion—the biggest hike since the economic crisis hit Spain in 2008. But science advocates aren’t exactly overjoyed. The raise sounds far better than it is because more than half of the government’s budget is reserved for R&D loans to companies, and more and more of the money for public research centers and scientists can’t be used because of byzantine accounting rules.The proposed budget, presented in a bill on 3 April, represents “a small increase [for researchers], and this is good,” says Luis Serrano, director of the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) here. But “the big problem … is a whole series of things that hamper our ability to do our work with what we have.” Part of the Spanish scientific community will present an online petition signed by more than 277,000 people about the problems in science to parliament tomorrow.The Spanish community has learned there is usually a catch when it comes to the budget. A preliminary analysis published yesterday by the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies (COSCE) here shows that out of the overall €7 billion announced, only €2.8 billion—up from last year’s €2.6 billion—will feed the public research system with funding for research centers, competitive calls for research projects and scholarships, and support to infrastructure. The remaining 60% will essentially be loans for industrial R&D, even though few companies ever apply for them. (Many scientists have decried the loans as a political maneuver aimed at inflating the budget.) In 2017, more than €3.2 billion in promised science funding, most of it loans, was left unspent, COSCE says. Emailcenter_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Military research got a much higher boost than civilian research. Among the national research organizations, the biggest winner is the National Aerospace Technology Institute in Madrid, overseen by the defense ministry, which gets a 34% increase. Others do less well: The Research Centre for Energy, Environment, and Technology and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) get only 3.6% and 1.0% more, respectively, whereas institutes for research in agriculture and mining see their budget slightly decrease. The budgets “are perpetuating a policy of asphyxia of the public research sector,” says Alicia Durán, a physics professor at the CSIC Institute of Ceramics and Glass in Madrid who is also a trade union representative.And that’s not the only problem. Laws and regulations introduced in recent years to curb deficits and corruption in the public sector, in part under EU pressure, have led to Kafkaesque administrative and financial constraints for universities and research centers. For example, all public bodies that want to buy more than €15,000 in products or services must now issue tenders; for CRG that translates into more than 200 public calls a year, which is “administratively impossible,” Serrano says. National research organizations must also get approval from state auditors before spending money, even if it comes from outside Spain, which has severely delayed research projects and recruitment. “We have reached a situation of practical paralysis of centers and installations that, even when they have the resources, are not able to spend them,” Durán says.Last month, COSCE and several other organizations went to parliament to present a series of demands; tomorrow, the newly founded Spanish Association for the Advancement of Science, the Federation of Young Investigators, and several grassroots associations will present lawmakers with a petition launched by Durán and others in February that decries the “abandoning of science.” They will ask for research funding to go back to precrisis levels by 2020 and a relaxation of the accounting rules.Whether the budget bill, set for a vote in late May, will win a parliamentary majority is unclear. The ruling Popular Party doesn’t have enough seats and will need to find additional votes. That also offers chances, because other parties are more aware of the importance of science, says COSCE President Nazario Martín. In 2013, protesting scientists had to tape their letter to the gates of the ministry overseeing science; that they’re now able to hand it over signifies “a much more responsible attitude from the political class,” Martín says. The time to for Spain to become a knowledge-based economy is “now or never,” Martín says.last_img read more