The 8 actions that Spanish science needs to better serve society

The world and its economic environment have changed. Aspects such as the value of the intangible or the circular economy are already on the table. The bets for the future of the research system must take into account the new scenarios in which we find ourselves.

The authors of this article identify 8 areas in which it is necessary to address changes in approach, structure or policies in Spain:

  • Are needed efficient channels of communication to society of the procedures, of the results, and of the relevance of the activities linked to R&D. It is essential to encourage and recognize the dedication of research staff to communication and social transfer activities. It is also important to know how to take advantage of the initiatives launched from civil society, such as patient associations, which can cooperate and boost research activities carried out from academia.

  • The maintenance and development of the R&D system in Spain will require incorporate a large number of young people in the coming years, that complement and give relief to the research staff that supports the structures of an R&D of the magnitude that corresponds to a country like Spain. It is essential to offer young people complete and transparent information and training, as transversal as possible, on different alternatives in professional careers linked to R&D.

  • You have to enter new ways of evaluating the quality of R&D projects and their results, in such a way as to guarantee equity, gender equality and the consolidation of healthy work environments. They must also facilitate and promote the integration into the Spanish science system of research personnel trained abroad. The recent reforms of science evaluation promoted from Europe are already collecting the diversity of elements to take into account to analyze the proposals and contributions of the research staff.

  • It seems essential to change the model starting from robust baseline funding of public R&D structureswhich provides a framework stability temporary, protected from temporary economic fluctuations. Only with the consolidation of a sufficient base of structural research fabric will it be possible to guarantee a level of R&D results such as that corresponding to a country like Spain.

  • The fundamental instrument in the consolidation and necessary growth of the Spanish R&D system is the financing of the National Plan, objectively insufficient at present. This funding must sustain the base of the country’s research groups, both those already consolidated and emerging groups. These groups can and should be nurtured in addition to private financing, but always from a stable and lasting public financing base.

  • urgent review the working conditions of public R&D research staff, dignifying the work carried out by the entire staff. It is essential to update salaries so that they are adapted to what corresponds to the required training levels, eliminate inequalities within personnel on the same scale and truly commit to the professional development of R&D personnel.

  • Are needed meeting spaces and opportunities for public and industrial R&D agents, so that they can meet their mutual needs and stimulate real integrated cooperation at all stages of R&D. Universities, public research centers and organisations, through competent transfer offices, must provide information on the product and technology portfolios of their research staff to companies that can take advantage of this knowledge to increase the added value of research activity and convert it into products or services of interest to society. Researchers must also learn to relate to companies in order to aspire to the success of these interactions.

  • The reform in process of the 2011 Science Law has made it possible to incorporate some of the historical proposals to improve the management of research in Spain. However, other equally important issues have still been left out of the reform and must be addressed in the near future. In particular, there is an urgent review of regulatory frameworks to eliminate barriers to the management of research resourcesas well as to facilitate the start-up and development on reasonable time scales of business projects or public/private collaboration based on R&D activities.

  • This article gathers the reflections and conclusions of the summer course “The future of science and research personnel in Spanish society”, held in San Lorenzo de El Escorial on July 27-29, which brought together prominent personalities from the research in this country, to discuss the current situation of science in Spain and the measures to be adopted to improve the future of Spanish research and science personnel and their recognition. The names and affiliations of the experts who met there (from the scientific-technological, academic, political and knowledge transfer fields) are included in the list of speakers for this course.

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