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Reactions to the adoption of the new Science Law

The extraordinary plenary session of the Congress of Deputies today approved the reform of the Law on Science, Technology and Innovation. After being passed in the Lower House without any votes against it on 23 June, the bill was approved in the Senate on 20 July with an amendment referring to indefinite-term contracts, which was rejected today in Congress. 

25/08/2022 - 17:46 CEST
Expert reactions

María Blasco - ley de la Ciencia EN

Science Media Centre Spain

The first thing I would like to stress is that the approval of this reform of the Law on Science, Technology and Innovation is news to celebrate, because it takes up the historic demands of the Spanish scientific community. 

The text, as approved, aims to guarantee that science will have stable and growing public funding. It creates a new permanent contract for scientists and technicians associated with lines of research, without the need for prior consultation with the Treasury and without depending on the replacement rate. It also reforms the postdoctoral contract to bring it closer to stabilisation; includes indemnities for pre-doctoral contracts; and simplifies the justification of grants, among other improvements.   

An important aspect is that it seeks to equalise the employment rights of scientists to those of other workers, promoting permanent contracts. This is an aspiration to which I have no objection. Any initiative against job insecurity seems to me to be positive, including from the point of view of productivity. When you are worried about the future of work, it is more difficult to do good science.  

There are still issues to be resolved. There are still obstacles to recruiting staff with the institutions' own funding, because these cases still depend on prior authorisation from the Treasury and on the replacement rate/salary rate. This limits our ability to retain and attract talent. And, of course, changes in recruitment modalities imply changes in the management of the centres, with possible consequences that cannot be ignored and must be approached with care.  

In any case, the Ministry of Science has so far demonstrated its willingness to collaborate with those of us who run research centres and to face the challenges of applying the law. I believe that this, collaboration, should be the way forward.  

In fact, it is logical to think that if the attractiveness of scientific careers increases, by improving their working conditions, the excellence of the centres where they are developed will also increase. 

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

Luis Serrano - ley de la Ciencia EN

Luis Serrano

Director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation and Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO)

Science Media Centre Spain

Today is a day of mixed feelings. On the one hand, the science law is approved with many positive aspects. On the other hand, a letter signed by 55 of the country's research centres and supported by the universities is being scorned, and a Podemos amendment to the law is passed that, contrary to what the government says, will not reduce precariousness, but will result in fewer contracts and will, in many cases, negatively affect the careers of young researchers. 

If we really want to reduce precariousness, we need to put more money into science and free up the ceiling on permanent contracts that universities and research centres have. 

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

Perla Wahnón - ley de la Ciencia EN

Perla Wahnón

President of the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies (COSCE) and emeritus professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid

The new Law on Science and Technology, which amends Law 14/2011, was definitively approved this afternoon by Congress, without incorporating an amendment approved in the Senate last July, against the granting of indefinite contracts to research personnel linked to projects financed with European competitive funds. 

Separating competitive projects according to the source of their funding does not make much sense, although the necessary and beneficial mobility of scientists should be considered in all of them. Permanent contracts linked to competitive projects will entail significant economic costs in the medium and long term. 

In general, the new law represents an improvement in the science system as it takes up some of its historical demands, such as: regularly increasing public spending to reach 1.25% of GDP by 2030, reducing the precariousness of research careers, helping to retain and attract talent, and, very importantly, reducing the excessive bureaucratic burden suffered by the Spanish science system. 

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

María Mayán - ley de la Ciencia EN

María Mayán Santos

Research Group Leader at the Center for Nanomaterials and Biomedicine (CINBIO) of the University of Vigo

Science Media Centre Spain

The reform of the Science Law is good news for the scientific community. It addresses different points, although in all of them we would have liked it to be more ambitious. The system has been suffering cuts in funding and job insecurity since 2008. The reform of the law provides, among other aspects, basic rights that were not contemplated in the scientific field. Much remains to be done, but at least we have a framework for improvement, especially in the hospital field where, to date, there is still no research career. 

A scientific career is a very demanding job and requires a great deal of experience and specialisation. In Spain we are capable of doing top-level science. Research personnel have shown that they are up to the task. Now we need to demand that our managers create a favourable environment. There is a lot of work ahead. 

She is a member of the advisory committee of SMC Spain.


Jesús Pérez Gil - ley de la Ciencia EN

Jesús Pérez Gil

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, director of the Biophys-Hub research group and former dean of the Faculty of Biology at the Complutense University of Madrid

Science Media Centre Spain

In general terms, it seems to me that, although there are still some important aspects that need attention and that the Science Law that has been approved does not yet resolve, this law makes a positive contribution and a significant improvement in some necessary aspects. For example, it seems to me that it was very necessary to address the working conditions of staff working in research, which until now have been unsustainable and unfair compared to those of workers in any other field. In my opinion, this still needs to be developed further, for example, to adapt the working conditions of all types of workers, including those of technicians and support staff, which are essential for quality research, or to update the ridiculously low salaries of research staff in Spain, without comparison with those of equivalent positions in other European countries, which greatly hinders the competitive incorporation of research talent in our laboratories.  

Along these lines, I consider it very important that Amendment 76, which was introduced during the passage of the law through the Senate and which introduced different treatment for people contracted for European projects, has not been consolidated. The very fact that workers could be treated differently depending on the source of the funds with which they are contracted seems to me to be aberrant and unsustainable because of the injustices it would introduce in laboratories.   

I believe that the change in working conditions will be good for the health of our laboratories. I sincerely believe so, although it is true that it will force us to adjust the way we manage contracts and the dynamics of research that is too subject to changing conditions - another fundamental problem of our science that, unfortunately, I do not think the law will change unless it also introduces a very significant increase in R&D funding - and also in terms of access to resources. A few years ago we also went through tensions and furious debates about whether or not it was appropriate for the research system to replace grants for younger researchers with contracts, and I don't think there is anyone today who questions that this change was made in the right direction.

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

Lluís Montoliu - ley de la Ciencia EN

Lluís Montoliu

Research professor at the National Biotechnology Centre (CNB-CSIC) and at the CIBERER-ISCIII


Science Media Centre Spain

Congress has finally approved the new Science Law, which will replace the previous one, from 2011, after rejecting the amendment introduced in the Senate that introduced an exception to the indefinite contract that marks the labour reform for researchers hired under competitive European projects. I think it was important that all researchers hired under scientific projects, without distinction and regardless of the source of funding, should be eligible for the benefits of the labour reform. 

This will require institutions, universities and research centres to adapt administrative procedures to manage the start and termination of these contracts, with their corresponding updated indemnities, like other workers. The ERC parliamentary group has announced an agreement it has reached with the government, through the Ministry of Science and Innovation, to increase the indirect costs of projects funded by the State Research Agency from 21% to 25%, in order to be able to deal with these cost overruns in compensation.  

Pending the details of this agreement, which also proposes to study a new funding system for science, this seems to be good news, as long as this increase in indirect costs is not deducted from the total project and the total amount of the project is increased in the same way. The new Science Law incorporates a number of improvements that will undoubtedly improve the national science system, particularly with regard to all research personnel, from management, technicians, researchers in training, young researchers, to more established researchers. There is a plan to progressively increase funding to 1.25% of GDP, which will certainly be insufficient, but it is welcome. The rights of researchers from different backgrounds will be equalised. There is a commitment to reduce administrative bureaucracy. The scientific career of researchers is restructured with a pre-doctoral contract of four years, followed by a post-doctoral contract of three to six years, which would end with the indefinite hiring of these researchers, as long as there is still funding for the laboratory line (not for the specific project), which could also end with dismissal for objective reasons, with compensation updated to 20 days per year worked.  

The Spanish Research Ethics Committee is also reconverted to incorporate the task of acting as a National Commission of Scientific Integrity, a body that was previously lacking in Spain. In short, we have the third Science Law of democracy, after the two previous science laws of 1986 and 2011, which advances the labour rights of research personnel and other improvements that are all welcome. Congratulations to all those who have worked for several years to achieve this parliamentary consensus that is the new Science Law. 

However, let us not forget that the Spanish scientific system still needs a substantial injection of structural money into the basic research projects of the National Plan, the basis of our system, the one we have to take special care of, the one that allows the middle class of science to develop projects, the one that can give in some cases the flashes of excellence and impact we are always looking for, forgetting that these only arise when there are enough well-funded projects underway that answer a multitude of questions. The answers to these questions can generate unexpected benefits over the years.  

A certain Spanish researcher, an expert in microbiology, discovered 17 years ago how bacteria defend themselves against the viruses that infect them. Seven years later, this basic research served as the basis for two researchers to propose a new tool for editing the genes of any living being, and these two researchers ended up receiving the Nobel Prize in 2020 for it. The entire biomedical scientific community has come to universally use these new gene-editing methods. And it all started with a basic research project. 

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest

Elisa Fernández - ley de la Ciencia EN

Elisa Fernández Núñez

Senior Specialised Technician at CSIC and Secretary for Employment and Youth of SAE FSC-CCOO

Science Media Centre Spain

The new Science Law includes far-reaching improvements. Historical demands such as compensation for pre- and post-doctoral contracts, the inclusion of all contracts in the collective agreement, the recognition of the entire research career for the purpose of applying for five-year periods, and the opening up of a professional career for both technical and management staff, as well as hospital research staff. 

But the most important is undoubtedly the full application of the Labour Reform to the research sector. After 11 years of being an island of labour exceptionality, we are taking a giant step closer to being able to eliminate the word precariousness as a synonym for research in this country. 

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest
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