It has been a long path since the Spanish young researchers (early-stage and experienced researchers mainly) realised the lack of social rights and regulation of their situation within the research career and decided to fight for their rights and a proper research career in Spain.
The present situation is different from the existing one some years ago but not much better. There have been some little steps towards a better regulation of early-stage and experienced researchers situation but they are not enough. One of these steps was the approval in 2003, during the government of the Popular Party, of the Statute of the Research Fellow1, which implied that the researchers in their last two years of doctorate had some social rights. After this, the Statute of the Trainee Research Staff2 came in 2006 during the government of the Socialist Party. This time the early-stage researchers in their two first years acquired some social rights and the ones in the last two years got a training contract, while all experienced researchers were recognised as workers.
The problem of these statutes is that they cover a small amount of people in a very limited way and thousands of university graduates are working in research without any social right with the excuse that they are not workers but trainees. Supposedly, they don’t produce and, therefore, the organisms they work for can’t get a profit from them. Actually, most of the research produced in Spain comes from the work of early-stage and experienced researchers, mostly doctoral candidates. From a study on early-stage and experienced researchers' productivity3, it came out that 49% of the scientific papers published in international peer-reviewed journals produced in Spain had early-stage or experience researchers as first authors, and more than 90% included at least one author with that status. So, it is clear that these researchers are in fact workers, because they produce and bring profits to the organisms they work for. Remove these people, and the Spanish R&D system simply collapses.
The European Community knows this reality and wrote the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers4. In this Charter and Code they advise the private and public organisms in the European countries to hire the researchers from the beginning of the research career. Of course, the Spanish government hasn’t given its support to this Charter and Code and there are only few organisms that have done it in Spain.
In fact, with all these recommendations and legal framework there are still many private and public organisms that keep early-stage and experienced researchers funded with scholarships. The Spanish Young Researchers Federation (FJI-Precarios) has reported these frauds of law to the Labour Inspection5 several times and this Inspection resolved that those people were working for the organisms and they weren’t simple trainees. Therefore, in many cases sanctions were imposed to those organisms.
It seems that the Spanish government is not listening to the European experts on research or the experts on labour subject, or doesn’t commit to research. Another example of that is that in the framework of the economic crisis the Ministry of Science and Innovation has suffered one of the highest budget cuts among the different ministries6. In addition, they are hindering the approval of a proposal of law that implies the modification of the Social Security Law to admit all research activity as work so everybody getting paid for it can be consider as a worker.
This is not a new proposal of law. On the contrary, it’s the proposal that has longest been delayed in the parliament in its history. This proposal comes from the Andalusian Parliament that approved it in November 20037 with the support of several parties, such as the Socialist Party of Andalusia, and the 4th of December of that year the Spanish parliament accepted it to start its processing. Since then the proper processing of the proposal has been delayed several times changing its denomination up to three times. The last one was the 2nd of April of 2008. From that moment the Spanish Young Researchers Federation has had several meetings with different political parties to ask for their support to this proposal and made a public campaign for the society to know about it. Finally, the 16th of September of 2008 the proposal entered the process to be voted in the parliament. But this is not all. So far, the period of amendments has been extended up to 30 times being the 16th of June of this year the last one.
During these years the Government hold by the Socialist party has tried to stop the processing of this proposal and change its original aim. But now, the Spanish Young Researchers Federation is collecting signatures supporting the approval of this proposal (so far there are around 5000 signatures) and the support of other national and European organizations. In addition, letters asking for the support to this proposal have been sent to the members of the parliament and a campaign to get media coverage of the situation is in process.
We don’t know yet the end of the story but the Spanish young researchers are absolutely disappointed with the present government and its president. A president that promised to follow the European recommendations about recruiting researchers and said, back in 2002, that to do research is to work. A government that is preparing a new Law of Science that doesn’t abolish the possibility of keeping the scholarships to fund researchers and which nobody in Spain likes.
We don’t want just words. We want facts. We want a clear government bid on Research.