February 25, 2021

One of the 25 most cited scientists in Spain is rejected to be a professor | Science


The physical Juan Antonio Aguilar is in position 22 of the CSIC classification of the most cited scientists in Spain, ahead of referents of Spanish science, such as physicist Ignacio Cirac or cancer biochemist Mariano Barbacid. In 2012, Aguilar was one of the almost 3,000 signers of international research that demonstrated the existence of the famous Higgs' Boson, the fundamental particle of matter that helps the rest of the particles have mass. However, despite this curriculum, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA), attached to the Ministry of Science, has repeatedly rejected his request to be accredited as a professor. Aguilar explains that there is already a term for the repudiated: the “flooded" Your case is over in court.

The researcher, tenured professor at the University of Granada, requested this accreditation in 2015, which does not imply obtaining a teaching position but is essential to apply for it. In addition to his collaboration in the Large Hadron Collider, located near Geneva (Switzerland), Aguilar wielded other dozens of own investigations in search of new fundamental particles of matter. A few months later, the ANECA commission – composed of 11 professors from other disciplines and only one from physics – ruled that "the applicant does not reach the required level."

Aguilar was one of the almost 3,000 signatories of the investigation that demonstrated the existence of the Higgs boson

Aguilar, a 47-year-old from Granada, rebelled. He has been complaining in all instances, until reaching a contentious in the National Court. The sentence, to which EL PAÍS has had access, defends the verdict of the evaluators. According to the magistrates, "the Administration does not apply mathematical formulas" when assessing scientists and it is normal that there is a "technical discretion."

ANECA's evaluations are so controversial that there is even an internet forum about them, baptized Teacher attached. The director of the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics, Carlos Salgado, It was also attached. After five years at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and his time at the University of Paris-South and the University La Sapienza in Rome, in 2013 he applied for the accreditation of a professor in Spain. Salgado figure in 68th place of the most cited scientists in our country. It was also rejected by ANECA.

“This system makes no sense. The ANECA accreditation is the biggest brake on the internationalization of science in Spanish universities. It is a system designed for people who are already inside, ”says Salgado, also a professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela. “Filling out the accreditation application in France took three hours. For the one in Spain I needed a month to gather all the documentation they asked for, ”he says. "I am in favor of eliminating all accreditations and that universities are responsible for what they do," ditch.

Carlos Salgado, director of the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics.


Carlos Salgado, director of the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics.

This year, Salgado has received an aid of 2.5 million euros of the European Research Council to study the collisions of particles caused in the Large Hadron Collider. ANECA laid down its request to be accredited as a professor, arguing that it did not have enough teaching hours. "It's like asking a player to be both a good forward and a good goalkeeper," Salgado reasons.

The new case of Granada's Juan Antonio Aguilar illustrates the process of accreditation of professors in Spain in recent years. The ANECA commissions judge three aspects: research activity (a section in which Aguilar achieved 53 points out of 55), teaching activity (18 points out of 35), and management experience (2 out of 10). The overall grade of the professor at the University of Granada, 73 points, did not reach the required minimum of 80.

"The criteria that apply prevail in heating the chair demanding years of teaching and undervaluing research," criticizes physicist Carlos Pajares

The Andalusian physicist does not understand the criteria used and denounces his "helplessness". The ANECA, regrets, does not offer a numerical breakdown that allows to know exactly how their scores are calculated. According to the commission, Aguilar's teaching curriculum "is, today, scarce for the academic figure whose accreditation is requested." But the physicist does not share the opinion. «Although I have been teaching since 2006, and as a tenured professor since 2010, I have given" few classes "because in the area of ​​theoretical physics there is little teaching load, about 10 annual credits per person. They should not penalize me for something that depends on the organization of the University of Granada, ”he argues.

After the rejection of ANECA, Aguilar counterattacked with three expert reports drawn up independently by three heavyweights of Spanish physics: Domènec Espriu, professor at the University of Barcelona; Vicente Vento, professor at the University of Valencia; Y Carlos Pajares, former rector of the University of Santiago de Compostela. The three defend that Aguilar has merits to be a professor.

"The criteria that apply prevail the heating of the chair demanding years of teaching and underestimating the investigation", criticizes Pajares. "Several of the members that are in the evaluation commission of ANECA have a scarce curriculum to be able to evaluate people like Juan Antonio Aguilar," says this professor emeritus, who was delegate of Spain to CERN. Aguilar, in his opinion, deserved 87 points.

Those rejected by the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) are called 'anecados'

Domènec Espriu, former manager of the National Particle Physics Plan, awards 85 points to Granada and stresses that its impact "exceeds the current average of university professors in their area of ​​knowledge." In the eyes of the Catalan professor, the assessment made by the ANECA of Aguilar's teaching activity "is clearly insufficient and, due to a lack of detailed (…), arbitrary argumentation."

In the last 15 years, Granada has taught in three bachelor's degrees – Physics, Biology and Civil Engineering – and in seven different subjects. “The teaching given by Professor Aguilar in degree is not only sufficient but complex. The subjects of Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory and Mathematical Physics are among the most complex of the degree and among those that require greater preparation and dedication by the teacher, ”explained the professor Vicente Vento in his expert report. "It is assumed that they should not only consider hours to weight, but assess the variety of subjects," says Aguilar. Vento, like Espriu, proposes a score of 85 points for the physicist from Granada.

“The reports, on the other hand, are individual and may differ from the criteria of other colleagues,” the geographer defends José Arnáez, director of ANECA and professor at the University of La Rioja, where he has investigated problems such as soil erosion. "An applicant to the figure of professor must gather specific merits that provide significant evidence of a leadership trajectory and external recognition," he argues. "The commission (of the ANECA) is made up of 10-12 experts of maximum qualification, which as an organism gives us maximum security," he adds. Carlos Pajares, a reference in the field of particle physics in Spain, disagrees: “In those commissions should be the first swords. And there is neither one nor there has been. That is a scandal. ”

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