Even a Nobel laureate would now be unlikely to be appointed to the science teaching faculty in many of Spain's best universities. This absurd situation is a result of tenure-track positions becoming conditional on a fluency in Spanish and/or the university's regional language. The restriction, intended to promote local languages, shatters any hope of attracting brilliant minds from abroad into our system.

The national call for 2016 pre-doctoral fellowships, Spain's only public scheme for funding PhD candidates, also demands that applicants have an intermediate diploma in Spanish or in the official regional language.

We do not question the need to protect all of our languages, which are an important part of our culture. But science is a realm in which content should take precedence over form, the 'what' over the 'how'. We should instead be following the lead of other universities in providing language tuition, if necessary, once a post is taken up.

Spain cannot afford further gambits with its science, which is already seriously compromised by the international financial crisis and questionable short-term science policies.