June 23, 2021

"The next president of the Government must have a science advisor" | Science

"The next president of the Government must have a science advisor" | Science

Nazario Martín (Madrid, 1956) was the first of his family to go to university. Born in the Vallecas neighborhood of the capital, this professor of organic chemistry at the Universidad Complutense ensures that his life is an example of how higher education works as a social elevator. The same happens with the scientific research to which he has dedicated his entire professional career, since it is "essential for the development and well-being of any country," he points out.

During the last four years, Martín has been president Confederation of Scientific Societies of Spain (Cosce), which groups more than 40,000 scientists. During this time he has sat down with representatives of two different Executives, one from the PP and another from the PSOE, to defend the same demands that, in his opinion, have not been met by either of them or by others. One of his biggest frustrations is to see how the irregularity suffered by the public R + D + i system affects young scientists who begin their career. "Some get desperate and go to other centers, other jobs or other countries," he says.

His research group is one of the most advanced in Europe in studying carbon nanostructures such as fullerenes, spherical objects very similar to microscopic soccer balls to which other compounds can be added to manipulate their properties. Thanks to this he has created fake viruses able to block other true ones like Ebola, and develop organic solar panels. Martín does not appear to be reelected in the presidential elections of the Cosce that are celebrated this month, because he wants to rededicate himself to science 100%.

"It will take a decade of continued investment for Spain to return to the level of 2009 in scientific funding

Question. What demands do you make to the next President of the Government?

Answer. The same as the current one, meet the four points of the manifest by science. The first was to create a ministry of science, the only one that has been fulfilled. The continuity of this ministry is indispensable, essential. We also want there to be a state research agency that works and this has not yet been fulfilled. To date, the agency has not changed the life of any scientist in Spain. Right now it is impossible to know when the calls for scientific projects are opened. This creates an uncertainty that affects mostly younger scientists, who do not know if they will have a job the following month.

P. And in terms of financing?

Pedro Duque has all the ingredients to be a good minister. But he has failed to prove it

R. With the crisis they have stopped investing in science about 20,000 million euros since 2009. We have to make a greater investment, but also have a solid, predictable infrastructure that makes us more effective. We ask the new government for a 6% annual increase in research funds for a decade to be able to return to the same point we were 10 years ago. It will take 10 years to return to the state of 2009. There is another claim that has not been fulfilled. The Executive must have an official figure of science advisor. In the Parliament a proposal was approved not of law to ask that Spain invest in science 2.5% of its GDP, but the reality is that it invests 1.2%. That is why it is the Executive that has to be convinced and have all the means to increase investment. The next president should have a scientific adviser. I'm not running, but the Cosce president, whoever the next one, has more than 40,000 scientists behind him.

P. Yes Pedro Duque repeat as a minister, will it be good for Spanish science?

R. Since Cosce we have supported him and he has all the ingredients to be a good minister. But he has failed to prove it.

P. Do you approve your management?

R. We support the decree of urgent measures. If science does not pass, science would have died of suffocation. But it was a measure in extremis, we can not live with these convulsions.

P. How to avoid them in the next legislature?

R. We do not have to wait for a problem to arise, we must avoid these swings. Politicians must show their support for science. They must explain to us what project they have for science and technology. For this we will organize a debate on April 1 to which we expect all parties to attend.

P. Can the possible rise of Vox affect science?

R. I do not know the Vox program in science. If we understand Vox people who think that the Earth is flat or that denies the theory of evolution can do a lot of damage. If the idea is that science is an engine of progress, it should not be a problem. Regardless of their ideas, no politician can belittle science.

Q. Do you think that Spain should adhere to the Plan S to guarantee open access to science financed with public money?

It is going to publish in open any investigation financed with public funds, I do not have doubts. We are totally in favor of that. But the publishing companies that publish the magazines have to charge in some way and they will do it. There will be a few years of readjustment but the problem will be solved.


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