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Headlines Published on 14 January 2005

Title Spain revamps its postdoc repatriation scheme

Like most – if not all – EU members, the Spanish government has taken onboard the Lisbon and Barcelona strategy in an effort to boost innovation and its knowledge-based society. One key element in this, as confirmed by a Commission-appointed expert group last year, is ensuring there are sufficient human resources in science and technology. A recent Spanish scheme targets the postdoctoral research job market.

Getting a reading on Spanish reactions to the new postdoc scheme. © PhotoDisc
Getting a reading on Spanish reactions to the new postdoc scheme.
© PhotoDisc
Spain’s Education and Science Ministry has announced a new scheme which aims to provide postdoctoral researchers greater job security, especially for those returning from study abroad. A total of 900 permanent positions will be created, reports say.

In the plan unveiled on 15 December 2004, 300 permanent positions at universities and research centres will be created annually over a three-year period for postdocs with four or more years of successful research under their belts. To fund the scheme, the ministry will set aside up to €10 million a year for different regional governments.

According to The Scientist on-line, the government has been trying to plug the brain drain since 1992, when it set up a reintegration programme to provide work for Spanish scientists who had received postdoctoral training elsewhere. Under this scheme, the researchers were given three-year repatriation posts.

Lured back
However, some tweaking was needed to this scheme, so between 2000 and 2003, Spain launched its Ramón y Cajal programme to lure back top junior scientists. The 2 000 applicants who qualified for it had to prove they spent at least 18 months working as postdocs abroad. The programme included a tenure-track system, but no guarantees of a permanent place afterwards, according to reports.

The latest plan is intended to address this problem by boosting the number of postdoc positions and giving some stability to the research job market, the ministry suggested. Although the details of the plan have yet to be ironed out, the government told The Scientist that decisions about individual appointments will be made by the contracting research centre, not the ministry. From January, the ministry will be negotiating the details of the first posts to be advertised with regional governments.

Early reactions to the news in Spain’s scientific community have been positive but guarded. Several researchers are quoted in The Scientist as saying that the scheme is a step in the right direction but that 900 posts may not be enough. One stem cell researcher asked what would happen, for example, to the other half of the scholars in the Cajal programme, adding that a definition for “scientific careers” in Spain was still lacking.

Source:  The Scientist

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More information:

  • Postdoc stability in Spain? (The Scientist, 23 December 2004)
  • Big changes afoot in Spain (The Scientist, 29 March 2004)
  • Barcelona Objective (Towards 3% of GDP)

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