Research “Made in Spain”

Today El País newspaper (here for the article in Spanish) runs a news about the Spanish government withdrawing from a Humanities research program (Humanities in European Research Area – HERA) because the 1.7M euros to be paid by the Ministry of Finances and Competitiveness for participating in the program cannot be paid to a non-Spanish entity. Fundamentally, because of a silly bureaucratic/legal “rule” Spanish scientists cannot submit research projects to this European program (which is worth a total of 23M euros), or to participate as researchers in a project submitted by other nationals. Spain seems to be unable to play the modern game of research, its rules seem to be steadily set in the 19th century, hampering (in the short run) first rate researchers as well as loosing money and contracts for the unemployed. In a long term perspective Spain is simply avoiding the necessary investments in fundamental research that will create the economy of the future. It is sad that the current government is blind to all this. However, the best is the comment from the Ministry: “Hemos negociado con los coordinadores desde diciembre pero, finalmente, no quieren cambiar esa condición” (we negotiated with the coordinators since december but, eventually, they did not want to change this rule). Unfortunately, this is the fate of much research funding in Spain: trapped in a cobweb of outdated regulations, strangled by tedious procedures and completely oblivious of the changing world.

BTW, HERA has a laconic message on its  website warning Spanish social scientists about “not be(ing) eligible to apply to the HERA Call for Proposals as Project Leaders, Principal Investigators or Project Members”.

Scholarships vs Loans for University Students

For quite some time I have been pondering about blogging but work overload simply meant that I did not have the energy left when coming home. Things did not change from that side but, unless I put myself to do it, this blog will never start. So, here I am with this first post.

Yesterday the secretary of state for education (Montserrat Gomendio), while talking at the Fórum Europa, discussed the perspective of changing the university scholarship system from, well… scholarships to loans. It is rather weird that one of the governments that spends substantially less (as proportion of GDP) than the European average in education and R+D, considers that the expenditure for the university system is very high. Also, there seems to be a misdirected perspective, as for the secretary of state the problem is not if the university education system is free or not, but who is paying for it and in which way (“no es cuestión de gratuito o no, sino de quién lo paga, cómo y cuándo”, according to Gomendio).

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