"Many things have to change so that we emigrated scientists return to Spain"

The reform of the science law, approved this Friday by the Minister council, starts leaving a great pending task on the table. The new legal framework, As explained by scientific societies and professional platforms, outline improvements to improve the conditions of the Spanish scientific community. But it fails to deploy all the necessary tools to pay off the 'debt' with the Spanish researchers who had to emigrate abroad looking for opportunities and who now want to return to work in Spain. The Ministry of Science, for its part, argues that it is already working on a specific plan to recover this scientific talent emigrated.

The challenge of stopping (and being able to reverse) the 'brain drain' is monumental. "Many things have to change to get us emigrated scientists to return to Spain," he says. Ana Moyano de las Muelas, a Spanish virologist who had to emigrate to South Africa to do her doctorate and who now develops her line of research from Germany. "It is not enough to offer indefinite contracts or career plans if when we arrive at the Spanish laboratories we see that there are no funds and that we cannot investigate. Spain needs to invest more in its science and in its scientists and offer conditions at the level of other countries", says the scientist.

"Spain needs to invest more in its science and its scientists and offer conditions at the level of other countries", Ana Moyano de las Muelas, virologist in Germany


One of the critical points in this debate is the salary difference (and conditions) that separate the career of a scientist in Spain from that of a professional who emigrates abroad. Especially in the early stages of formation. "The first scholarship I got in Spain I barely had enough to live on. But when I got one in Amsterdam I saw that the salary difference was almost double and that, in addition, I had better working conditions," he explains. Jeniffer Sanguino Gomez, Spanish researcher specializing in neurodevelopment and now based in the Netherlands. "It is very sad to see that in Spain there are many researchers competing for very few grants and that this system ends up expelling very good people," he adds.

"It is very sad to see that in Spain there are many researchers competing for very few scholarships and that this ends up expelling very good people", Jeniffer Sanguino Gómez, neuroscientist in Amsterdam


Beyond salary, another factor that tips the balance of emigrated scientists is the difference in working conditions. For example, regarding the policies of work-life balance (and all that it implies for the personal development of professionals). "While my PhD colleagues in Amsterdam are having children and raising their families, many of my spanish colleagues still live with their parents", explains, by way of example, Sanguino Gómez.

Researchers Jeniffer Sanguino Gómez and Ana Moyano de las Muelas explain why many Spanish scientists are forced to emigrate to continue working. EPC

Lack of opportunities

There are thousands of stories of Spanish scientists emigrated abroad. In the case of Moyano de las Muelas and Sanguino Gómez, both scientists affirm that they did not emigrate for pleasure, but rather out of necessity. In the case of the virologist, the trigger was not getting a paid scholarship to start your investigation. And in the case of the neuroscientist, the problem was that in Spain there are very few research groups focused on her area of ​​study (and this, indirectly, means that very little is invested in this subject). In both cases, the scientists point out lack of funds and opportunities as the main reason for looking for a life outside of their native country.

In places like Germany, explains Moyano de las Muelas, "the leading laboratories are full of Spaniards." "Scientists trained in Spain are highly valued abroad because they have a very good level. This shows that the problem is not ours", comments Sanguino Gómez. "If we had more opportunities to stay, many of us would not leave. And if more was invested in science and scientists, many of us would return to investigate in Spain", reflects the virologist. According to several studies carried out on the matter, only a small part of the Spanish scientists who emigrated abroad plan to return in the short term. Or, to put it another way, there is still a large majority of professionals who is 'resigned' to continue investigating outside of Spain.

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