Funding would prevent waste of research time

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Sir

It has become clear over the last decade that doing research in Spain is quite a heroic task (see, for example, Nature 407, 428 & 941; 2000). Poor funding and lack of prospects for young researchers are among the many obstacles that have precluded the rise of Spanish science to the very top. Although an increase in the amount of money devoted to research is an obvious prerequisite, the many problems that young investigators face haven't been analysed in detail.

A numerical comparison with our EU counterparts (not to mention with the United States and Japan) shows the need to create positions to absorb many of the excellently trained postdocs that Spain has sent abroad during the past 15 years. But nobody is discussing the conditions under which these new hirings should take place. The fact is that Spain has no policy of providing start-up packages for the newly hired group leaders. This has unfortunate consequences, as new researchers sit in their offices (if they have offices) and begin chasing grants for a period of up to three years, losing all continuity with their research projects.

If Spain is to have a core of young investigators doing science at its best, these scientists should be provided not just with positions but also with funding for research. Otherwise, talent is wasted, again.

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