Quite often we hear or read how our most significant researchers, and the younger ones too, rate the health of Spanish science as «deteriorating rapidly» or even «dying». It would be easy to fall into defeatism in light of such a poorly stimulating scenario, especially if we accept that the ultimate cause of the problem is our attitude; something that is difficult to change.
In this context, what can the newly born Fundación GADEA por la Ciencia provide? Clearly, not much if we resignedly believed there is no solution to the problem. But I believe this attitude will only lead us to perpetuate the problem and delve in our deficiencies, especially when there are symptoms that encourage cause for hope. There have been changes over the last fifteen years that can help to surmount our historic scepticism and that lead us to believe it is possible to correct this path.
Perhaps the most transcendental change of our time is communication/globalisation; a phenomenon that is affecting our life at all levels, and science in particular. Our best scientists no longer work in isolation, but do so in cooperation with scientists from other countries; they compete for international resources in an open research environment that seeks talent wherever it is. Science, which has always been global, is more so now than ever before and in real time. Geographical borders have blurred and networked work as well as the development of the Web 2.0 have contributed to generate a new mentality, to absorb an international interactive culture, which is perhaps the remedy that most directly attacks the root of the aforementioned problems. Remaining external to this reality would be basically suicidal and lead us to marginality as a society and as a country. Dr. Santiago 100 years ago, wrote:
«Consider that each new idea, not countered by another born among us,
is another link in our mental easement; it is a contribution we will pay in gold».
S. Ramón y Cajal
Rules and advice on scientific research. Los tónicos de la voluntad.
Libro consagrado a la juventud española, 8ª edición. Librería Beltrán, Madrid, 1940
Undoubtedly, scientific culture must have a bearing on society. Using the simile proposed by Fernando Baquero, scientific knowledge grows in the same way as a pile of sand: «In order to increase the height of the vertex a little, one must add much sand to extend the support base». Therefore, apart from dedicating more resources to research, we must ensure that our society understands the benefits of having a top level science. Hence, the importance of improving education at all levels; to instil in children a taste for knowledge, making questions and seeking answers, to develop in them an entrepreneurial spirit; to recognise and reward researchers and their teams, contributing to make them admired by society and, more specifically, by the youngest; to continue promoting discussion, reflection and investment in science to show society that scientific discoveries notably contribute to improve our quality of life; to commit to the complicity of the universities and companies to transform knowledge into realities that create richness and contribute solutions.
At Fundación GADEA por la Ciencia we want to contribute to close the R&D&i circle, favouring the cooperation of social, economic and business players in an international environment in which Spain plays a prominent role in terms of European Research. Only through this conviction will we find the basis of a stable future of progress.
There is evidence in our scientific environment that change is possible, that «it can be done», and that our arrival in a global world has already started to change our way of facing a better future. We must all be committed, especially our own scientists, with their own voice, loud and clear.
José A. Gutiérrez Fuentes
Director of Fundación GADEA por la Ciencia