The case is a good example of the paralyzing bureaucracy, the lack of stability, the precariousness and the nonsense of the research system in Spain
“It cannot be Ramón y Cajal because it is not IP, but it turns out that it cannot direct competitive projects because it is not Ramón y Cajal. To go crazy”
David Quinto, president of FJI-Precarios: “The effects of the savage cuts in science by Mariano Rajoy, who destroyed the system, are still in full force. He entered with a radial saw”
That he Spanish science and research system is a bureaucratic and Kafkaesque labyrinth It is something that those affected have been denouncing for years, decades. Researchers who raise their voices against the precariousness and nonsense of the system, Leading scientists at the forefront of covid vaccines who denounce their own precariousness, or associations such as the Federation of Young Precarious Researchers, which have been working for years to change this.
Also social networks have become a loudspeaker to report specific cases. The hashtag #Without science there is no future it is read on a recurring basis as soon as one takes a walk on Twitter. And from the networks it comes to us now a case that exemplifies very well what is happening. Javier Sánchez Perona denounces it, Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Pablo de Olavide University of Seville.
It has not happened to him, it is the case of an acquaintance, Explain. And his complaint is perfectly extrapolated to anyone who investigates in Spain. “Is the case an example of a reality that is occurring? Totally, ”says David Quinto, president of FIJ / Precarios.
An obstacle course
“Researcher of 40 years old, in full productive age, with extensive experience, a good number of articles and patents, who directs an R&D project for a company, with staff under their care, only find obstacles for its stabilization. Absurd”. This is how Sánchez Perona sums up the situation. And in this Twitter thread, he explains all the obstacles that make it impossible for him to get a stable contract.
I have been told about another outrageous situation that usually occurs in the Spanish scientific system and that hurts “young” researchers (yes, in science 40 years is young). I tell you in 6 comfortable absurdities: pic.twitter.com/hALMc8U61M
– Javier S. Perona (@Malnutridos) July 21, 2021
The Ramón y Cajal contracts, such as the one that was denied, are “aimed at promoting the incorporation of national and foreign researchers, with an outstanding career in R&D centers “. To achieve this, a rigorous candidate selection process must be passed based on their curricular merits and their ability to lead a line of research, based on scientific and professional experience. Are valued four points: contributions, participation in international activity, other merits and leadership capacity.
In the present case, the candidate They were denied it, among other things, for their lack of “leadership.” But How is that leadership evaluated? Explains the scientist who looks, above all, have directed projects: be a principal investigator (PI). In this case, the person does not get a stable contract (Ramón y Cajal) because they are not IP, but they cannot be IP because they do not have a stable contract. The whiting that bites its tail.
Sánchez Perona explains the amount of “absurdities” behind all this, which he describes as “outrageous” and “usual” situation. Fifths confirms it. “The research career in Spain is totally structured so that you have to end up being IP. Either you are IP or you die, you are out of the system ”.
Paper or reality?
Explain Fifth that “In Spain, if you spend a lot of time in someone’s shadow, your research career dies. In other countries, I know cases of very good researchers in multidisciplinary teams, who may have been there for ten years and their aspirations are not to be IP, but research, contribute, improve your resume, be able to pay for your house … Here it seems to be the only goal. It doesn’t look like it, it is ”.
It is true, he acknowledges, that “to evaluate leadership, you have to do it on the basis of some merit, of course.” But in the case that Sánchez Perona tells, “My acquaintance managed to lead teams of 15 people for 5 years in an R&D company … but it was not IP.” He was never a “principal investigator.” And therein lies the problem. “He has been directing, but on paper it does not have the main merit that accredits it “explains Quinto. Paper weighs more than reality. “It is completely absurd.”
Sánchez Perona explains that, “in the 21st century, effective investigation teams are large and not all can be IP ”. And he also denounces that “many of the IPs direct projects in which their research team is made up of… a single person! The IP itself! ”. “What leadership capacity does that IP have?” asks the scientist.
Contracts to get contracts
We see then that This “leadership” that is so important to get a contract is evaluated, to a large extent, by the projects managed as IP. But to run a project, you first need to be given it. The Kafkaesque thing about it is that they may not give it to you because they are not hired. And with that, we return to the starting box.
Fifth explains it. “In order to be IP, The first thing you have to have is some kind of contractual relationship that lasts longer than the project you are going to request. and, furthermore, you already have to be hired when you request the project ”. And give an example.
“We are going to suppose that one presents, now, to a call for a project that will begin in January 2022 and that lasts two years. Well, from the moment you show up until the end of the project – end of 2023- you would have to have a contract with the entity with which you do the project. All the time, while it lasts ”.
If you have a Ramón y Cajal contract, for example, perfect. But this requirement would no longer be met in the case reported by Sánchez Perona. So there is no solution. “If you do not have any type of contractual relationship, you will not pass the filters of certain calls ”.
Sánchez Perona explains that his acquaintance “It cannot be Ramón y Cajal because it is not IP, but it turns out that it cannot direct competitive projects because it is not Ramón y Cajal. To go crazy”. Moreover, “he cannot even sign contracts with companies because he does not have a labor contract”, so he cannot demonstrate “leadership” capacity either. Explain what it is his boss who signs the contract, but he is the one who coordinates it, conducts the experiments and directs another researcher.
The cuts in science and the “radial” of Rajoy
Fifth explains us what lies behind all this. “Somehow we have to evaluate, and the resumes that are presented are all” mega excellent. ” We are in a spiral of resumes so good that everyone should get the contract. But the problem is that there is no cake for everyone”.
There is not because the science system in Spain has never had the necessary funding, and above all, denounces Quintos, “because the effects of Mariano Rajoy’s savage cuts in science, which destroyed the system Spanish for science when he was beginning to position himself ”. He sums it up like this. “The crisis came, there was no money and where do you cut from first? Where the electorate will least notice it. But that man did not enter with a scissor, he entered with a radial saw “
And in that panorama, This criterion of “excellence”, explains the president of the IJF, “is an enormous absurdity if there are not enough resources”. With the limited resources in Spain, he denounces, only “those with super excellent resumes will survive and, furthermore, they were already in the system and at superlative levels. Those who don’t are not going to get in. They are left out: you just have to leave Spain or change your profession ”.
The “excellence” trap
Always very critical of the precariousness of the Spanish research system, they explained that They have spent years and years linking contracts assigned to projects, which is the usual thing. And that not getting a place, in Spain, is not a problem of value. “We are all invaluable. If you see the resumes of all of us who show up when vacancies appear, they are amazing ”, said Zúñiga.
But there are no places for everyone, and that’s where it comes into play -as to get a contract- the trap of “excellence”. García Arriaza explained it. “As there is usually only one place, the one who finishes first takes it. Y who takes it, deserves it. But of all those that we usually present ourselves, we would deserve it many more. There has to be more supply, to be able to stabilize all the people who deserve it ”. Because if not, “when you want to find out, you are 45 years old and your employment situation is the same as it was when you were 25”.
Not only “Messis” in the team
Fifth advises that the reform of the Science Law proposed by the Government will not solve anything, because it is “more of the same”. And it warns, once again, that generations and generations of researchers are being lost.
What doesn’t make sense, he says, is “Have brilliant IP in front of teams that change periodically, abusing the vocation of those researchers ”. And he resorts to a simile so that it is understood well. “A team cannot be sustained on 11 Messi, or on 5 Michael Jordan, it has to have different complementary figures ”.
For the same reason, “you can’t find that everyone is IP, that everyone is Messi and that, in addition, he plays alone ”. And the worst, yesand at some point along the way to achieve it you get hung up, you enter a loop that you cannot get out of ”. The case reported by Sánchez Perona on Twitter is a good example of this.