The letter signed by Pau Ferrer et al. (Nature 407, 941; 2000) accurately describes the severe problems that young researchers face in rejoining the Spanish research system after several years abroad. Although I fully share their frustration and concern, the letter contains some statements that need clarification.
The writers mention a “lecturing policy document” produced by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Our policy has been to create transitory five-year posts for people who already had a very precarious teaching contract with the UAB. The posts are occupied by PhDs, some of them with research experience abroad. Such positions are equivalent to teaching assistantships in the US academic system (not to assistant professorships, as the letter says). After the fifth year, there will be tenured positions by public and open competition, and any citizen with a PhD is welcome to apply.
Academic rights within the UAB were established through our democratic bylaws 15 years ago; they are our 'constitution'. Unfortunately we could not predict, so long ago, that the Ministry of Education would select and fund reincorporated scientists. This is why they are not now represented on the university's elected body. This issue, however, may be revised in the near future to allow for this and other unforeseeable situations. In other important aspects of academic life, people in these situations face no discrimination, to the best of my knowledge.
The scientific community considers it an absolute priority for Spain to improve its efforts in R&D. Let me emphasize that we consider young researchers with experience in good universities and prestigious research centres to be essential for the future of our society.