As a Spaniard doing research abroad I feel I should have an opinion of the state of Spanish science. On the other hand I feel I have a more solid experience of the state of Science in places like the UK or Germany than in my own country.
For that reason I am always happy to read and listen to people and publications that discuss the potential of Spanish research in relation to that of the leading Scientific countries of the world. One of the things that, in my opinion, is easier to have when you see things from afar is a slightly more impartial view. According to reports like this a few years ago in Nature and authored by David King (then the chief advisor to the British government in scientific issues) Spain is far from being the worst place in the world to do science but neither is close enough to be an ideal destination. Good science is possible if you work hard and refuse to submit to burocracy and all the organisational mechanisms designed to keep in the conformists and out the rest. I know some Spanish scientists and I know that it is possible to produce good research but I also suspect that any of them would have had a much easier life if they had decided to move to a different place.
The editorial in this week’s Nature on occasion of the coming general elections seems to point in that direction too. It mentions the efforts of the current administration significantly increasing the proportion of the GDPinvested in Science which now has reached the level of 1.1% (which is clearly well bellow the quantity and quality invested by many EU countries, let alone Japan or the US). It also mentions what remains to be done which is to restructure the R&D of Spain and especially the main research council, the CSIC, so as to make sure that the new money that has arrived (and that should keep arriving) will reward the best scientific projects and the best researchers.
It is quite remarkable that the article keeps referring to a future silver age: as opposed to the cultural front, Spain has never been part of the scientific elite. In any case, with all this time smelling bronze, silver should be a welcomed change.