The main political parties are committed today to Spain to reach the European average in research, innovation and development (R + D + i), a field in which our country has fallen back to levels of a decade ago, just as contrary to the main EU economies.
In a strange atmosphere of consensus, PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos, Podemos and representatives of the Catalan nationalist parties have expressed their commitment that Spain invest 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in R & D, the average of the EU. The bet is not feasible within the term of a legislature if you look at the evolution of the country in this field. Since the advent of democracy, Spain has never even reached a level close to 2% – at its peak, 2010, it represented 1.4% of GDP, achieved only after a continuous decade of slow growth – and at present it has fallen to 1.2%.
"We must reach and even exceed that 2%, this is not a policy to make headlines, but a cross-cutting axis of any Government", has assured Alberto Casero, responsible for Environment of the PP and mayor of Trujillo (Cáceres), during a debate election on science organized by the Confederation of Scientific Societies of Spain (Cosce) held in Madrid. "In Spain we suffer a persistent lack of interest in making lasting scientific policies," said Nazario Martín, acting president of Cosce. "We need a drastic change of direction," he assured. Three days ago, 27 directors of leading research centers alerted an open letter published in THE COUNTRY that the public R & D & I system is on the verge of collapse due to the continuous lack of funding and a delay of months in granting funds to 6,600 research groups, one third of all those in Spain.
PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos, Podemos and the Catalan nationalists have expressed their commitment that Spain invest 2% of GDP in R & D + i
"Our commitment is to reach 2% before the end of the next legislature and reach 3% by 2030," said Gemma Heras-Juaristi, from Podemos. The strategy of this party is to double private investment using tax incentives, subsidies and other measures in addition to increasing public items. Both PSOE and Citizens agree to reach 2%, although they do not date it. Irene Rivera, deputy of Citizens, has promised that her party "will spend 100% of the money allocated to science", something that would mean a radical change compared to previous years, when it is left without spending up to 70% of the R & D budget. Rivera also assured that if he governs his party he will do something that neither the governments of the PP nor those of the PSOE have not been able to: publish the calls and resolutions of research programs "on fixed dates", just like the scientists they come demanding.
These parties also promised a State pact to solve other endemic problems of Spanish science, such as providing research with its own legal framework that facilitates its management and giving stability and strategy to the R & D & I system outside the political cycle . "If nobody pulls the car this initiative will not come out, so we commit ourselves to lead that state pact," said Juan José Moreno, PSOE. This is also one of the classic themes of the political debates on science for decades, although a lasting consensus among all the political formations has never been achieved.
"We need fewer bullfighters and more scientists in Congress," said Joan Olóriz, from ERC, who is also president of the Science, Innovation and University Commission of the lower house. "I tell the scientists to get into politics, I feel very lonely in Congress," said Rivera, a graduate in physical sciences and a senior officer in systems and information technology, who also said that his party will create the figure of scientific adviser to the Government, as demanded by Cosce.
More uncertain is the future of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, which astronaut Pedro Duque directs, and whose survival only seems certain if the PSOE wins the elections, as it is the only party that has committed to keep it beyond the 28th. April.
The great unknown of the debate has been Vox, who has not been invited, since only parties with parliamentary representation were taken into account, according to the organizers. Among the 100 measures of its electoral program, only one mentions these issues in a generic way: "Support for R & D & I and the international expansion of Spanish companies".