Light is finally glimpsed on the horizon of research at sea in the Canary Islands after the en bloc resignation of the dome of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and its inability to spend funds fully reached the Islands, also collapsing the canary projects. The IEO will become a National Center under the umbrella of the State Agency Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), as well as two other centers: the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME) and the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA).
These three centers, which have accumulated years of administrative and scientific management problems, will therefore cease to be independent public research organizations. It is a decision of the Ministry of Science and Innovation embodied in a Royal Decree, currently in process and which is expected to be approved in the autumn, according to the agency Efe reported yesterday. Workers will keep their jobs, the centers will keep their budgets, their institutes or laboratories, as well as their historical identity or name, and synergies will be sought with CSIC centers that investigate in the same fields.
The Minister of Science and Innovation, Pedro Duque, told EFE yesterday that it is about “responding to the difficulties that we have seen accumulate over the years and that affect administration problems, scientific production or services ” “The goal is that scientists in their research work and researchers and technicians in their service work have the agility, the necessary administrative support and the correct rules, as similar to those of other scientists.”
This decision comes after trying other measures -such as eliminating the previous intervention- that have not borne sufficient fruit. For Duque, “it is time to make an important change, which will benefit the entire technical and scientific part. It is pragmatic and does not need the approval of a law”, the science law of 2011 contemplates the reorganization of this type of organisms. The head of Science explained that other possibilities have been suggested, but this is the “only possible”, which also complies with what scientists and technicians say: “everyone has understood that as they are they could not stay and, in the short term, if you want a substantial improvement this is the option “, be at the CSIC.
“Clearly we have done it thinking of the majority, so that people stop working in precarious, restrictive and, in many cases, incomprehensible conditions,” said the minister, who added that work will be done so that everyone finds their accommodation. Duque wrote to the IEO, IGME and INIA staff in a letter, stating that one of the main issues he encountered upon arrival was the “difficult situation” of public investigative organizations, after a decade in which turned their backs on science in general. “After listening to the opinions and proposals of researchers, technicians, managers and union representatives of the three organizations and analyzing the situation in depth, we are taking the necessary steps so that they become National Centers within the structure of the CSIC State Agency “he details.
The solution restores optimism to Canarian research after scientists attached to the oceanographic center located in Santa Cruz de Tenerife for more than seven months have been unable to spend a euro on gloves, buoys or personnel. Added to this was the bureaucratic situation of the public research organization (OPI), which, together with the Covid-19 contingency, prevented them from going out to sea to collect samples and thus continue studying the marine environment of the Canary Islands for almost a year and medium.
All contingencies caused a consequent loss of execution time for competitive research projects at national and European level. However, despite tiredness and uncertainty, scientists have tried to continue their studies based on any data that comes into their hands – even if it is not their own – to meet the strict requirements of these public subsidies. According to the minister, “we do it convinced that it is the best option” to increase the capacities of Spanish research and to improve the scientific and administrative management of the centers.
In the letter, Duque stops in the case of the IEO, which “is going through a particularly complicated situation” and before which the Ministry intervened for months. Thus, a working group was created with scientists and managers from both the Institute and outsiders to prepare a report on the situation and propose measures. For example, a few months ago the IEO had trouble buying fuel and groceries and hiring crew, which could have caused its ships to remain in port. To avoid the stoppage while the problem was solved, it was decided that the CSIC would transfer fuel.