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Proposals by the Scientific Community to Boost Science in Spain

Spain is at a crossroads. It must decide whether its future will be built on a knowledge-based economy, in line with the agreements made by the European Council, in Lisbon, 2000, or whether it will renounce this path, and with it the opportunity to play a leading role in Europe and in the world in the next few decades.

The Spanish scientific community has long been aware of the need to improve its commitment to Spanish science and technology. Therefore, in 2004, it decided to bring its most representative scientific societies together into a higher body: the Confederación de Sociedades Científicas de España, COSCE (The Federation of Spanish Scientific Societies). The objectives of the COSCE are: to contribute to scientific and technological developments in Spain; to act as a qualified and unified interlocutor for scientists, communicating with civil society and representative authorities; and to promote the role of science and contribute to its dissemination as an essential ingredient of culture.

COSCE currently has more than 50 member scientific societies, which represent more than 30,000 Spanish scientists. The federation fully represents the scientific community and can therefore act as its interlocutor. It also aims to provide knowledge that may be of use to different economic, social, and political agents. COSCE approaches science from a global perspective, rather than one that is merely academic or theoretical. It is capable of generating expert information to actively promote, support, and contribute to developing science- and technology-related initiatives affecting both the public and private sectors. The aim of these initiatives is to strengthen science and technology in Spain as factors of economic and social progress. In view of this, COSCE has become a corporate instrument capable of: encouraging research, improving science education, disseminating the scientific spirit, and promoting social appreciation for scientific values. COSCE’s members strongly and actively support the declarations made by European leaders in Lisbon: if Europe is to retain its position of privilege, the economies of its members must be based on the most competitive knowledge in the world. For this to happen, European society as a whole must be aware of the value of education and science as driving forces behind economic growth.

Science in Spain has made significant progress in the last 20 years. Nonetheless, a superficial analysis of the current situation suggests that this extremely positive growth has reached its limit, as clearly demonstrated by quantitative data obtained from the ministries involved and from different bodies devoted to assessing and monitoring Spanish research. Analysis of these data lead to the conclusion that the system itself should be thoroughly reconsidered, taking into account any other concomitant reforms that will be made. In response to these conclusions, COSCE initiated the first of several major lines of action, i.e. supporting the creation of five large committees of experts to carry out Acción CRECE (Comisiones de Reflexión y Estudio de la Ciencia en España, translated as Committees to consider and study science in Spain).

The five committees were charged with evaluating science in Spain from a totally independent position. Based on previously existing information and their own observations, they proposed actions that should contribute to strengthening the science–technology system in Spain and its links with all social agents. Acción CRECE has generated conclusions that were made concrete in the form of clear and workable proposals for revitalising, reforming and, if applicable, introducing structural changes to the Spanish scientific system. These proposals affect both fundamental aspects of the system and aspects related to its economic and social repercussions. Clearly, CRECE’s conclusions and proposals are aimed at those ministries involved in the Spanish R+D system, as they are responsible for setting priorities, creating funding instruments, and developing assessment methods to ensure that resources are allocated appropriately. The conclusions and proposals are also directed at scientists themselves, as they propose and carry out scientific research and directly manage the allotted finances. In addition, CRECE’s proposals send a clear message to other participants of the system, in particular to business sector and educators, and to society in general. This broadly directed approach is intended to ensure that scientific progress and technological innovation assume a greater presence in Spain.

Scientists, professionals, and experts in a wide range of fields have participated in the CRECE project. Their knowledge, experience, and prestige have enriched the project’s contents, and provided the soundness and depth that CRECE’s objectives need to guarantee the support and collaboration of Spain’s public and private sectors.
The leadership skills of the committee members and their ability to act have made Acción CRECE one of the strongest initiatives ever undertaken by the scientific community.

This venture’s first success was that a group of scientists collaborated with other members of society to offer practical solutions to the current problem of updating the Spanish science and technology system. However, Acción CRECE goes beyond this: it has taken on an ambitious and daring task, one that is of major strategic importance to sustaining development in Spain and which must proceed in the presence of great international competition: strengthening science as a cultural factor and an economic driving force. Everyone involved in this project, and COSCE above all, are aware that making suggestions and proposing actions for an issue of such far-ranging implications are not without risks, due to the scope and complexity of the project, and to its importance. However, it is no less certain that ignoring the urgent need for this study would entail even greater risks.

JOAN J. GUINOVART
President of COSCE


Papers:

     The structures and instruments of science policy

     Human resources in research

     Science and the company: towards a dynamic ecosystem for innovation in Spain

     Spain in Europe

     Science and society

Committee:

     Committee