Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Spanish scientists protest against spending cuts countrywide

Friday saw hundreds of Spanish scientists along with their supporters, marching through the streets of Madrid, as well as 18 other cities including Barcelona and Seville.

The march on Friday was a nationwide protest against government cuts to research and development which scientists say are forcing them to leave the country.

Some wearing their white lab coats, the protesters blew whistles and chanted as they headed to the Economy Ministry.

Once there, they delivered a petition signed by more than 40,000 people, demanding that the government reinstate and raise spending on science.

Public spending on research and development has been cut by 40% since 2009 according to the petition, which calls on the government to boost spending on science "to avoid the massive exodus of our human capital".

Part of the petition reads:

"The government cutbacks are causing the Spanish science and technology sector to suffocate." "We are on the brink of the collapse of what we believe to be one of the essential ingredients of the recipe that will allow us to get out of the economic crisis."

The protest marches were organized by "Open Letter for Science," a platform grouping the main scientific bodies in Spain including unions, universities and societies that specialize in science.


One of the protesters was Irene Amigo, a 25-year-old biotechnologist. She told the media, "The cuts have been brutal. Many labs can't carry out research because they don't have the means."

Amigo was seen to be wearing a hat made from styrofoam and cardboard, which depicted a human brain as a symbol of the "brain drain" Spain is facing. She said that she plans to seek work outside of Spain once her internship at a public research center ends early in 2014.

It was not only scientists protesting, as many academics also joined the march, due to the effect of the cutbacks on disciplines across universities. A 32-year-old Spanish linguist, Xose Alvarez, has been working in Portugal since 2009 because he could not find a job in Spain.

He attended the march in Madrid with a sign on his back that read: "Researcher for rent. Good price". 

Alvarez said, "I would like to work in Spain, it is my homeland, it is the country that invested in my education. Spain could benefit from my work, from my training. It was Spanish taxpayers who paid for my education."

One protester said: "Our situation? Well, as the song goes, we have three solutions. By land, by sea or by plane. Currently there is no future for us in Spain and its not because we lack the will."

Another said: "We are just asking for funding in the research field and for the deadlines of the projects already approved to be met."

"Today these projects are paralyzed. The whole field of science if paralyzed in Spain."

However, despite the brain drain, which must have a serious effect on the country as a whole, Spain is struggling to trim bulging annual deficits, which are rapidly pushing up the overall public debt.

Mass demonstrations countrywide have been ongoing, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vows to find €150 billion ($195 billion) in savings between 2012 and 2014 through a painful austerity program. The big question is, what will be left should these savings finally be found? 

To the source: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/352313