Spain faces the loss of a generation of young researchers

Today, November 28, the Aseica-Joven working group is officially born. I am excited, excited and proud while alarmed and worried, very worried. He explained why these mixed feelings. 

Just over a year ago, from the Spanish Association for Research on Cancer (Aseica), we excited lyced the creation of the Aseica Youth working group in order to guide, make visibility and defend the work of the researchers in oncology more young people in the country. Aseica-Young is made up of PhD students, postdoctoral students and leaders of emerging research teams. One of our first initiatives has been the launch of campaigns that reflect the success of our young researchers in obtaining funding for their research projects in highly competitive calls both nationally and internationally.

I confess I was thrilled to see many familiar faces from my student days among the awardees. In addition, in the context of the II Educational Symposium of Aseica held these days in Madrid, we have promoted a video contest with which PhD students explain their research projects in a simple and very informative way. I am delighted to see that young science is motivated, committed and excited by her work. We've even received videos that have collaborated graphic illustrators to make a comic book! This indicates that, despite the difficulties we face, scientific vocations are still alive and active in our country. This is a source of pride and hope because it indicates that the quarry of scientists, our future in the short term, is still there wanting to do things and immune to discouragement,

These positive feelings are mixed, however, with others of alarm and concern. From Aseica we have long warned of the deteriorating situation in our scientific system, where the rollback of funds earmarked for our R&D system has gone back to the levels existing fifteen years ago. Yes, it's not a typo: fifteen years. This data alarms me especially as it puts at risk the viability of our young science. Yes, the same one that was alive and moved only a few lines up. With this precarious scenario, Spain faces the possible loss of a whole generation of young cancer researchers, brilliant scientists, committed and motivated. But Aseica-Young keeps moving because, yes too, we refuse to assume that these clouds cannot be fought,

Taking advantage of the long-term development of Aseica-Young these days, we have presented a document that reflects the situation in which many young researchers find ourselves. The Xeldes the young researcher in Spain is the result of a survey conducted by Aseica a researchers under the age of 40 working inside and outside our borders in order to know their concerns and expectations for the future. 

90% of the Spanish researchers currently working outside our borders think that they will not be able to work in Spain again in the near future

I start reading the results and the truth is that, initially, they paint well. All young professionals who research cancer have worked or will work outside Spain during the early years of their career. Training abroad is a very positive and enriching experience both professionally and personally. However, 90% of Spanish researchers who are currently working outside our borders think that they will not be able to work in Spain again in the near future. I'm devastated. Devastated because the moment comes to mind when, being in England and away from my family, I was offered a research position to return to Spain. One of the most exciting moments of my life, no doubt. And to think that 90% of young researchers have lost hope of being able to feel that emotion, I am concerned and a lot.&

The responses of the researchers working in our country have also heightened my concern. 48% of them do not believe that the future of their research line is assured and think that if they want to continue working in research, they will surely have to do so outside our country. The thousands of jobs that have disappeared in recent years, the low and devalued call for public employment, the gradual deterioration in wages, the loss of autonomy of work and the degradation of working conditions that have occurred over the last fifteen years represent today, a genuine damocles's sword hanging over the shoulders of all generations of young scientists in our country.

Just over a month ago I attended a leadership course. In it we were very insisted that a good leader cannot motivate his team, since it has to be the team that is motivated. The role of the leader is to work on NOT demotivating the team and giving it the necessary tools to do so. One of the conclusions I draw from the data I have presented to you is that young scientists are starting to become demotivated, so they are stopping moving. We cannot and must not allow it. Aseica-Young has been created so as not to settle for this situation and fight for it to change. It is not that difficult, if we think about the small percentage of funding that would be required to achieve it. It is a matter of the country's leaders becoming aware and taking, as well, letters on the matter. 


I wonder, where's the leader? Unfortunately, it's one of the few questions that science can't answer.