"When I got to Tenerife, I unknowingly chose the death of my professional career. It gives me a lot of pain, my line of research had a lot of potential, doctors told me. " Who speaks is Cristina Gil-Lamaignere (Madrid, 1970), a molecular biologist who investigated cancer in mice, and who has gone from having an enviable curriculum-working with a Nobel-to live with his son in his mother's house and work in a computer company while studying a higher distance FP in programming. In between, it has survived with the maternal pension, chaining very precarious jobs in a country, Spain, which has decreased its investment in R + D + i 2,400 million annually since 2008.
Gil-Lamaignere has been left out of the system and does not expect to return. And it is not the only one. "The biggest problem that science has is that half of the research groups have been lost with the crisis", laments the Secretary General of Universities, José Manuel Pingarrón. Some research teams, drowned, have chosen to merge to be strong; while others, after the retirement of their boss, have been diluted and those who were not on staff have had to emigrate or look for another occupation, some in the private university. Now each free space is covered in public, but the damage is irreversible.
"Anyone who can not produce articles in the magnitudes that are now being asked to obtain a competitive project has fallen by the wayside. They are forgotten people, "says Ana Crespo, professor of Plant Biology at Complutense. "Having reduced the money, the most usual way out is to give it to the best groups, which are the ones with the highest numerical results of publications. If you have a small group - you and two other people - it is very difficult for you to reach these figures, "explains Crespo, a member of the Academy of Sciences.
That is the case of this biologist who hired two predoctorals in a group that vanished. Started with a European scholarship his career at the University of Thessaloniki (1998-2001), where he won a very disputed Merck pharmaceutical prize and three years later read the thesis at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where he had graduated. "I wanted to be quick and I only drew blood on weekends - I needed donors for the experiments - to finish as soon as possible." He ran, but in Spain there was no work and he went to two German universities (Wuerzburg and Heidelberg).
There in 2006 he met Bruce Beutler, who would get the Nobel Prize in Medicine five years later. "I asked him if I could work with him and I went to his laboratory in La Jolla (California). Then the Ministry of Education granted me a two-year postdoctoral fellowship to be there. " Cristina's experiments were unsuccessful and for the eagerness to publish -The race stops in Spain if you do not do it- it's gone. "Beutler did not understand, he felt bad," he admits. Finally in the laboratory of Floyd Romesberg managed to publish. With this brilliant presentation, the pregnant researcher obtained the first place in Epidemiology in the disputed Ramón y Cajal contracts, designed by Spain to recover talent.
I did not have a sponsor - most of the box they already work in a group when they apply for the contract - and in 2008 they settled where they offered work with better conditions: the Hospital de la Candelaria in Tenerife. He assembled his team and obtained 120,000 euros for his project. But time passed and he was not able to close other contracts. He attributes it to Canarian politicking. He says that the Spanish Cancer Association did not achieve it because the team members - La Candelaria service chiefs - could not prove joint experience.
The contract of the cajal included the commitment of a stable contract if the conditions were met, but the hospital alleged in 2013 that it could not pay for the replacement rate. The final setback was to ask for the research sufficiency I3, a program that had associated almost 300,000 euros for the center to stabilize the professional. He got a no when being the main signer of one and not two of the three required items, although Cristina compensated the deficit with the funds obtained.
She could not emigrate for family reasons, and I3 appealed while she tried to continue investigating for free but there were no means for those inside the university. In 2015 they awarded the I3, but it was late. "It's a piece of paper to frame that does not help me at all. Scientifically I'm dead for not publishing in two years. I'm stubborn and I'll go back to science through the back door, programming genetic tests. "
With the weak leanings of the crisis the debate arose: Should we invest little in all the research groups or concentrate resources on the powerful ones of the great universities? "I always say that the University is like in football, to have four teams in Champions you have to have the League", compares José Manuel Pingarrón, general secretary of Universities. That is, four leading campuses flourish in a medium-quality scenario, so small centers and programs can not be neglected, which can also be very demanding.
"We have a good average level of science, which corresponds to us. Between the 10th and the 15th in the world in any variable that measures the degree of development of a society ", praises the Prince of Asturias Award Juan Luis Arsuaga, from the Complutense University "In the United Kingdom there are only four better universities than the Spanish ones and we need to have those four. That excellence is achieved by attracting talent and for that you have to pay more, that these centers have other rules. Let's be realistic to move forward. "
But Ana Crespo, from the Academy of Sciences, warns: "A small group has many difficulties to get ahead and, if it's good, we have to let it grow. What today are tangential knowledge tomorrow may be needed because of a paradigm shift. You have to be judicious. "