Pedro Duque, Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, has just released his office and personalized it with photos, aerospace diplomas and replicas of rockets and satellites. Only one showcase is missing to show some clothes of his astronaut life: the scuba suit of one of the two flights and some gloves. On Wednesday, Duque (Madrid, 1963) slept on a plane returning from Guatemala, went to Congress, read a fragment of the Constitution, attended a meeting with his cabinet and finished the day receiving this newspaper. It seems, however, accustomed to these marathons. The greatest attention in these months was concentrated on the creation of a company to manage their houses. "After seeing the results, if they had explained it to us well, we would have saved ourselves from paying so many taxes. I do not recommend it, "says Duque, who does not intend to provide more documents to prove his version of what happened. "It's all right, there's no need to give these things a boost."
Question. Do you regret having entered politics?
Answer. No, because I see that there are many things that can be changed. Many measures that can be taken. There is a very enthusiastic team that has entered with me, that has arrived from below knowing what is needed. Every day we meet with people who for years did not meet with any representative of this level and gives hope.
P. What role did you have in the budget pact with Podemos?
People have to know how much scholarship they will receive before enrollment
R. We participated quite directly in the negotiations on science, but the global amounts were carried by the Ministry of Finance.
P. Did you know that 45% of the additional 273 million euros for science were loans? The PSOE promised not to inflate these items that are not spent.
R. What we talked about did not include credits. My aspiration is not to put together the items in which the Government injects money and the others in which it lends money. I would like that from now on we talk about these numbers separately. The problem is that in the past the credits have been added with the subsidies, and from there the percentage of increase is taken out. That part of the agreement could have been made better, it's true.
P. Can you tell the scientists that before Christmas there will be no tax auditors in the research centers, how have they been claiming for months??
R. No way. The controllers have to be there. But before the end of the year we will have a measure of elimination of the previous control to pass to a permanent financial control. This measure is included in a package of urgent measures for science. We can not remove obstacles to science without guaranteeing control over public spending.
P. What more measures will that package include?
R. Guarantees that transfers between the State Research Agency and research organizations are not considered subsidies, which is easier for all without reducing the control of public spending. There will be exemptions to the law of public contracts to be able to select the type of apparatus that needs to be purchased. Now it works asking for a tax exemption that is always granted. The difficulties to pay the fees to international organizations will be eliminated. It will be a decree law, because it will modify some laws in some small aspects.
P. In your agreement We can promise more scholarships and a distribution that favors more the lack of resources of the student than its academic excellence. How will it be articulated?
R. We have to specify the measures in a committee with the Ministry of Education, because there is a joint budget for all the scholarships. The idea is improve equity in access to university, Do not lose talents for money. If the budgets are approved, there will be money and everyone will be talked to.
P. With the former minister José Ignacio Wert the students did not know how much they would receive.
R. I was talking to the man who made the formula and had a little calculation sheet that did not seem complicated at all. It went from a seemingly endless game, to a finite one in which what was up to each one depended on how many asked for the scholarship.
Before the end of the year we will have a measure of elimination of the previous inspection
P. 30% of the students were left without a scholarship. The new ones are also finite if added to what there were 536 million.
R. I do not know how that will finally be done. The budgets can be made with the possibility of growth, but that are techniques of Finance that I do not understand. We know that people have to know how much scholarship they will receive before they enroll. We also know that it is necessary that the competitive calls for science are always in the same month. We do not cram. We are working on 100% of the things, although not all of us will be able to solve them.
P. Also the ICO loans to do a master? Many affected say they are entering lists of defaulters.
R. I understand that no one is receiving delinquency letters from banks two or three weeks ago. We have given that instruction to the banking entities. In a short time we will have a global figure of the problem and we will see how it is solved. [El ministerio precisa tras la entrevista que “la entidad financiera no está solicitando el abono de comisión alguna, intereses o principal del préstamo”].
P. What do you tell young scientists about their future?
R. We have made a great effort with this budget agreement so that there is an increase in research projects and scholarships. It is somewhat pending that I do not know how we are going to achieve in this climate of little dialogue that there is in the legislative power, the famous agreements by which R & D & I budgets should grow at a rate much higher than what they have done until now. It was a proposal not of law approved in Congress [en diciembre de 2013]. The Congress of Deputies is the one that has to give the amount, and of that amount it will depend that more scientists have a future. We can not bring people back without having equipment, facilities, laboratories. The country needs it. I can take calculations, if I get 700 or 1,000 million more per year I know how many people can return, but first I need the financing. You have to reach an agreement. It was the first thing I wanted to do when I got to Congress, but now it's a bit difficult.
P. The rectors ask for more autonomy and then render all the accounts that are requested. Do you agree?
R. Yes, their autonomy is included in the Constitution, and we respect that very much and we are willing to increase as long as there is co-responsibility. We want universities to have more flexibility in their budgets, but with a control over the efficiency in that use. There we are aligned, then the devil is in the details.
We are working with universities to be jointly responsible for the quality of their titles
P. What is your reference in this change in university management?
R. We are looking at other countries that have made these reforms. I was with the Polish minister, but there they are starting and there are still no results. Then there is Portugal that he did a few years ago. We must increase autonomy, but also accountability to an entity of society that has yet to be defined.
P. There are a thousand audit filters but the Institute of Public Law of King Juan Carlos He did what he wanted 15 years. Is it an isolated case?
R. It is. People have been searching everywhere if there is another and there is not. One of the priorities in the working tables of the new law is that of certification of degrees. Quality control must be brought closer to the activity, just as life has been done in the technology of rockets. We are working with universities to be jointly responsible for the quality of their titles. That does not put on the shoulders of the Aneca all control, the agency does exhaustively but does not reach all sites. Obviously then there is a superior control.
P. The rectors get away with it.
R. I do not know if they are happy. We are also going to check your quality system, as is logical. And they will have to implement it too.
P. The rectors think that a campaign against public universities has been orchestrated taking advantage of the scandal of King Juan Carlos.
R. Man, campaign … Let's hope there are not such tremendously malicious people, but there has been a tendency for the population to see the university worse than they saw it before. We are reversing that, in its globality it is very good. There are other countries with four great universities and the rest … I think we beat them. We must keep saying that the public university does not have a general quality problem. That the case of the institute, which had even its own accounts, is really isolated. Maybe if we talked less about it and yes about other things …
P. As which?
R. We have created a new six-year period of knowledge transfer, the technological six-year period that had seemed to have not worked well. This is also for the social sciences, for the humanities. It's ready, at speeds that have surprised me a lot, for the next six-year convocation.
P. The investigating judge of the master case says that King Juan Carlos "It has not helped in anything in the clarification of the crimes". Have you asked the rector for explanations?
R. I have spoken [con Javier Ramos] amicably several times and also with the counselor of Madrid [Rafael van Grieken], who is the one who should really talk to him. And we agree that we must do more. You have to learn from what has happened so that there is co-responsibility in quality.
We will punish charlatans with shame
P. The rectors of the public consider that private universities neither investigate nor innovate. Do you agree?
R. The issue is sensitive and will certainly be part of the law talks. In this team we believe that it is essential that the university has strength in teaching, research and transfer.
P. What will be the strategy against the pseudosciences that your Ministry has announced, will there be more severe punishments for charlatans?
R. From our ministry we provide the knowledge. The penalties and legislative measures will be taken by the Ministry of Health. The Carlos III Institute will carry out a scientific evaluation of the different areas in which promises are made that are not valid and we will make an official document as has been done in England, Australia, Canada and other countries. In the month of December we will launch a campaign so that people understand what is science and what is not. We can punish with shame. If people have more knowledge they will understand better than if a therapy is not in the National Health System, with a 99% chance it is because it does not work.
P. In 2004 you wrote the prologue to a book on chiropractic, which has no scientific endorsement
R. I have totally changed my mind. My mother was very enthusiastic about this. What I did was to say that in my experience it was worth. It's been 14 years, I've talked to a lot more people since then and for many years I've known that all the benefits I saw are best obtained by going to the physiotherapist. I had not read enough about it. That's why you have to explain these things well to people.
If the budgets are managed, the Ministry of Science will launch several measures in 2019 to encourage investment in R + D + i by companies, which in Spain contribute substantially less to the global effort than in the main European economies. The project includes the start-up of the Cervera Network with a call for "some 20 million euros in grants," says Duque. To this, transfer projects with credits with non-refundable tranches for "about 250 million euros" are joined. There will also be a program to incorporate doctors to companies and centers of excellence for 20 million euros and innovative public procurement programs. "There will also be a fund involved with the European Investment Fund to leverage the monies of the Government of Spain, there would be between 20 and 40 million euros for proof of concept, and there will be a fund shared with investment funds. all the means that all the credits that we have available reach the industries ", highlights Duque.