Young, bright and on edge: new investigators despair over contract award delays


Young, bright and on edge: new investigators despair over contract award delays

The contracts for young researchers – called FPU – will delay their resolution this year, at least, until September. The first list that will come out will be the 850 students selected from the 2,500 who are currently on hold. However, the list will be provisional, which means that, in the best of scenarios, the research for which they have been awarded grants will not begin until the end of October, which must culminate in a doctoral thesis.

The delay in the publication of the list was communicated to the collective of FPU Investigates via mail on July 8. The Ministry of Universities, a competent body, has had a communication channel with this group for a few months, where they transfer information and resolve doubts. However, from the same association they assure that the communication of the delay was made official to the injured a few days later.

“We have the feeling that the Ministry is unaware or ignorant of the realities of those who are in this situation: many are precarious young people waiting for this resolution to be able to organize their lives,” says Lucas Taoro, of the Red Tide Research Coordinator. “There are people who without financial funding cannot carry out the thesis, we are losing research personnel due to this problem,” says Isabel Esquerra, from the FPU Investiga collective.

To apply for FPU funding, doctoral students must be admitted or pre-enrolled in their thesis at the university that has admitted it. Therefore, it becomes your priority. “I have not been able to register in the Generalitat Employment Exchange for teachers because I am awaiting this resolution,” laments Joan Antoni, admitted to a PhD thesis in Philology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. In addition, this delay affects him economically: “in September and October I will no longer be able to work on anything else because I will be aware of this. It is a very big problem considering the rental contract. The two months in Barcelona are 830 Euros that I have to pay, with the possibility that they will not make me the contract. If I do not join I will lose the money “.

The case of Jorge Muñoz, enrolled in advanced studies of the humanities (Philosophy) at the University of Malaga, is similar: “I am without payment. I have started to do the thesis during the weekends, in my free time, but I work as a professor of languages ​​in a full-time school in order to support myself. ” “If I want to do a decent thesis, I need to be paid for it, it is almost impossible to combine my work with the thesis,” he adds. Jorge defends that it is also a problem “of social classes”, “very few can afford not to charge anything during the 4 years of the thesis”.

“The wait is an ordeal. There is a great mismatch to organize my life, the initial idea was that today I would already know if I can really start investigating or not,” insists Jorge Muñoz. Furthermore, he regrets that he has had to reject another offer from the Ministry to be an assistant professor of French in France. “It was for September and if they called me while I was there, I would have to come back. If the resolution had been in June and they didn’t catch me, I would have left. Now I run the risk of being left with nothing,” explains Jorge, who already has a degree and two master’s degrees. related to philosophical studies. “It is a very precarious and very stressful situation, I am fortunate to be able to go to therapy and others to manage it, but it is hard not knowing what will become of you in the future,” censorship.

For Daniel Fernández, enrolled in the doctoral thesis in Marine Sciences at the Biological Oceanography group at the University of Vigo, the situation qualifies as “fed up”. “We have been waiting since the beginning of December – when the procedures begin – and it will be almost a year of waiting,” he criticizes. He says that he was lucky enough to have been hired during last November and December in a research group in the same department. “That also motivated me to continue,” he explains to this newspaper.

Daniel considers “being lucky” to do the thesis in the place where his parents live, in Vigo. However, “I know that I do not have to pay rent, I get along very well with my parents and there are those who are much worse off, but I am 25 years old and one begins to want to become independent”. This researcher has been working at the Institute of Marine Research, in the Oceanography and Climate group and later for the University of Tromsø, in Norway. Still, he doesn’t want to have to go abroad again. “I would like to be able to stay in Galicia”. But if he stayed, “it would not be fair if he had to do the same job as someone else, but without getting paid,” he confesses.

Nor are the selection criteria up to date. “They are obsolete”, criticizes Joan Antoni. They ask people who have finished the degree to have done years of university teaching or to have a national End of Degree award, “when these awards today are given at 4 years from the end of the degree”, underlines Antoni . “These requirements score a lot, but being out of date they are inaccessible for those who are presenting for the first time.” In addition, it is also valued with up to 5 points to have a prize from the Archimedes research contest, but, “last year it was not convened”, indicates Antoni.

For all this, from the different groups, they claim the need to “establish a fixed calendar for the different calls depending on the Ministry of Universities, which allows applicants and beneficiaries to plan their work and personal life, together with a firm commitment to compliance of the same”. FPU Investiga insists on “the urgency” to dignify the scientific and research career in its initial stage, “allowing it to go from being a continuous obstacle course to becoming a true professional alternative that contributes to the scientific, economic and social growth of our country. country”.

From the Ministry of Universities, when asked by elDiario.es, they explain that the call for FPU20 grants has been affected “singularly” by “the collateral effects of the crisis situation caused by Covid-19”. Thus, the significant dates in the “relevant milestones” of their processing “present a proportional lag in dates with respect to the preceding FPU calls. Specifically, the deadline for submitting applications for the FPU20 call in process ended on December 11, while in previous calls that same term ended practically a month before (November 14 in 2019 and October 29 in 2018) “, they recognize from the agency.

“We are making an enormous managerial effort to try that the definitive concession of this FPU20 call takes place in the month of October”, they assure from the Ministry and add that if so, “it would coincide with the date of the FPU19 concession”.

However, for Isabell Esquerra of FPU investigates, “it is becoming ordinary to delay a contract, something that should be extraordinary”, and stresses that “it is a big problem. In addition, remember that there has also been a delay in aid to the mobility, which is granted to those who already have a contract and this year they were given on July 30. “They used to leave in May, but this year they have been delayed for two months,” he assures. “This is a chore for those involved, about all because of the paperwork between universities, the accommodation abroad… In the end it seems that in all the stages we find bumps ”, he laments.

The delay in the resolution of the financing is not the only problem faced by those who want to dedicate themselves to research. Of the 2,500 people selected in a first screening, now only 850 will obtain the contract. But, the minimum salary of a FPU – and that of any predoctoral researcher – was regulated with the publication of the Statute of Predoctoral Research Personnel in Training in March 2019 .

Based on this, the research staff receives during the first two years 14 payments of 1,188.55 euros gross per month. They do not see their salary increased considerably until the fourth year of the thesis, where they would reach 1,591.81 euros gross per month. Despite this, “as many are forced to start the thesis the first year without funding, they do not get paid that last year, because once the thesis is delivered, they stop charging”, indicates Lucas Taoro of the Red Marea Coordinator of the Investigation.

Another problem that doctoral students encounter is with “the bottleneck”, with postdoctoral funding after finishing the thesis. Of the 850 people who obtain the FPU, only 200 places are offered to carry out the post-doctorate. In other words, only a quarter of researchers can stay in Spain to continue developing their research. “The research system is thus destroyed; most of the research personnel leave it or go to other countries where their work is financed,” says Taoro.

This spokesperson believes that “it gives the impression that they are trying to reduce the funding of investigative officials and increase their temporary and precarious conditions.” “It is unfortunate, but as the research career progresses, it is more precarious,” criticizes Isabell Esquerra of FPU Investiga. “The fact of investigating requires a vocation that closes other doors, these are people who want to contribute positively to society,” insists Esquerra.

Currently, the investment of the Spanish State’s GDP in Research and Development is 1.25% in 2020, according to the INE. It is far from the 2.27% world average. “We asked to raise it, not even to the world average, with 0.5% more the situation would improve considerably”, assures Isabell Esquerra. “Investing in science is investing in the future, it is strange, but it costs people to see it,” says Lucas Taoro. “It seemed that with the budget increase the situation was going to improve, but it has not been like that “, censorship.

From the different groups, they have organized a general campaign of complaints to the Ministry of Universities for the general registry. They acknowledge considering social mobilizations “similar to those of the MIR“, but” being 2,500, COVID-19 and being each from a different place complicates it a lot, “explains Isabel Esquerra,” although if this continues, more noise will have to be made, “he acknowledges.

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