With love…For all of you

Now that the course is about to finish, I would like to dedicate this post to all my colleagues.
It is almost six months since we met and we have had so many moments together; good and not that good. We’ve left behind our hard weeks in Germany and Madrid, our modules of work, some more intense than others but we’ve also got some very good moments to hang onto.
I would like to highlight our week in Oxford. I must admit that before leaving I was quite sceptical of this trip, fearing that it would be a tough one. I was pleasantly surprised though; I really enjoyed it!
We had a very nice time! Of course, we worked a lot but we also had time to see the city and to share good moments between us.
The charm of the city of Oxford, the “Spanish weather” that we brought from Spain, our tireless James and his family-friends stories, Ruth, Catherine, interesting talks, the running early in the mornings, but mostly the good company of all of you made this week unforgettable.
I feelt our close relationship and the good vibes around us. I felt we were truly a tightly-knit group. I never thought that I’d say this … but I feel sad that this course is nearly over!
With this course not only did I gain knowledge, I also made very good friends with whom I hope to keep in touch.
Thank you all!


Superheros and Technology

The concept of “superhero”, as we use it nowadays, was born in 1939 when the writer Jerry Siegel and the drawer Joseph Shuster created Superman. The publication of his adventures by Action Comics marked the beginning of a genre that was later enriched by many characters like Batman (1939), Flash (1940), Green Lantern (1940), The Fantastic four (1961), Spider-man (1962), Iron Man (1963) or X-Men (1963).

But, what makes a superhero? Sometimes, the special characteristics of a superhero are due to its origin, such Krypton in the case of Superman or Valhalla in the case of Thor, but many more are those that were initially common people that suddenly suffer a transformation that provides powers and/or extraordinary skills. We can speak about mutations (X-Men), accidents on scientific experiments (Spider-Man, Hulk), traumas (Batman, Daredevil) or obtaining revolutionary technologies or mystics artefacts (Iron Man, Green Lantern).

Analyzing the huge variety of superhero comics, it’s easy to see that technology plays a very important role in this genre. It appears on their accessories, vehicles, headquarters, and weapons… Basically, technology serves to complement their skills, compensate their weaknesses and improve their performance. But, which of those technologies are just science fiction and which are real? Could any of us become a superhero thanks to them? We will try to make an approximation to those questions analyzing the case of one superhero: Batman.

This character was born in 1939 through the hands and minds of Bob Kane and Bill Finger, although just the first of them is the official author, and is, together with Superman, one of the stars of DC Comics. Although there are many versions of the origin of Batman, the essence of them all is the same: Bruce Wayne, son of the millionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne, witness his parents’ murder in a robbery one night, what shocks him deeply. Later, Bruce goes through a hard physical and mental training becoming Batman, a dark superhero whose appearance is inspired on bats. However, Bruce is still a human being and requires technology (and his family fortune, maybe a super power itself) to get everything left to become Batman.

Cause, what is Batman without his bat-suit? The most evolved version of this costume is the one that appear on Christopher Nolan’s films (Fig1), Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This suit is made by Kevlar and Nomex, last generation materials whose properties seems to be science fiction: doesn’t melt, carbonize only at very high temperatures, presents a high chemical resistance, chemically stable under a great variety of exposure conditions, highly cutting resistance and quite light. Both Nomex and Kevlar have a huge number of applications, like extra protection against fire, anti-bullet jackets or extra resistant ropes, which shows that this is one of those cases where reality goes over fiction. As we can see, the incredible characteristics of Batman’s suite are quite realistic.

Another crucial element of Batman’s costume is its hood. Although originally its function was just keeping Bruce’s identity unknown, its last versions include some useful improvements. It’s made of Kevlar too, providing extra protection for head, has devices that provides Batman special vision, since infrared and nocturnal vision, a sonar that allow Batman imitating some of bat’s skills and some communication devices.

But what are all those gadgets for? Through special vision, the human visual system (HVS) can work out of its common limits, which can be studied under two different points of view. First of all, our eyes can see just a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum (see figure 2) since the rest of radiations are ignored by our photoreceptors. Batman’s hood includes a device that allows him to enlarge those perceived radiations including the infrared. But, how and why?

 

Infrared radiation is emitted by hot sources; hence it can be used to detect those sources (live bodies, for example) in absence of other kind of radiation (like the ones that we can see…). So, for somebody that looks for villains at night, this skill is crucial! This kind of devices exists on reality in several formats, but the most useful for Batman are the infrared cameras, which have sensors that are sensible to the infrared radiation and a software thatgive false colours to the infrared images for us to be seen and analyze (figure 3 shows two examples).

 

Another way of improving our HVS is making it more sensitive. Our photoreceptors need a minimum amount of radiation to work, but this minimum can be lowered using nocturnal vision devices. Those devices, the photomultipliers, are more sensitive than our eyes and through them we can see in very low illumination conditions. The main operational difference between these devices and the previously described, the infrared cameras, is that nocturnal vision devices works better when dealing with non-living objects that are not hot. Therefore, although it seems that having both devices can be redundant, its combination allow us to manage in a wider number of situations.

It’s especially interesting how Batman uses his hood’s sonar in the film The Dark Knight. In nature, some animals like bats and some cetaceans, use this method to navigate and hunt in the dark. The process is simple: a source emits a sound that bounds in an obstacle and goes back to the source, information that is used to calculate the distance between them both.

In the film, Batman applies this principle using as sources all the cell phones of Gotham City, thanks to a software developed in his company. Each cell phone gives an “image” of his sourrounding and, knowing its position thank to triangulation or GPS, Batman can make a 3D map of every place of the city where a cell phone is placed. Although the system looks very plausible, it have some big problems in the real life. First of all, not every cell phone can work as a sonar (iPhone have, of course, an App to that end), so our 3D map would have a lot of holes. Secondly, the phone only scans a little area of space (the one it’s pointing to). It means that in order to scan, for example, a room, we’ll need several phones pointing to different directions, which doesn’t use to happen. However, the greatest problem of this system is a legal issue, since it attacks the user’s privacy, reason that in fact provoke de resignation of Lucius Fox at the end of The Dark Knight.

Another element of Batman’s suit that has been improved notably in the last films is its cloak. As the hood, originally the cloak was just part of the costume, helping to build the dark appearance and giving cover in some situations. However, the recent invention of the “smart textiles and intelligent fabrics” (SFIT) have allowed to make this element much more useful.

SFIT include those textiles capable to alter their nature as a response to an external stimulus, modifying some of its characteristics. The one used in Batman’s cloak is call “shape memory textile”, a textile that can “learn” a shape: it looks like a common fabric but “remembers” a previous learned shape when applying an stimulus like an electric current. This kind of textiles exists nowadays and, although most of them are still on development phase, their uses in medicine, robotics, etc are quite promising. In the case of Batman’s cloak, the learned shape is a glider, so that the cloak looks like a common fabric, but applying an electric current makes it take the shape of a hang glider that allows Batman to glide.

We’ve seen that in Batman’s suite there are many real technological advances that were just science fiction few years ago. As we can see, science and science fiction are not so different, and each inspires the other one in many cases. Can we understand science fiction (and his little brother, the superhero genre) as a reflection of what the human being is trying to become? What about the motivation? We have lots of examples of real heroes whose only power is being able to overcome. So, what makes a hero?

 


NOW MORE THAN EVER

Yesterday I was having coffee with a childhood friend who I had not seen for a long time. We met in the street while we both went for a walk. We went into a cafe and we chatted all the afternoon. Neither of us had obligations limiting the conversation. We are both unemployed.

Our conversation revolved around our experiences of recent years. The reason for initiating the exchange of experiences didn’t matter: friends, family, football… They were always work related.

Together, we have both more than 20 years of professional experience, two university degrees, three master’s degrees, many training courses and expert training, hundreds of professional contacts, millions of Euros managed in our profession… We are both civil engineers. We have directed great building works which now adequately fulfill its role and serve society. We have both been looking for a job for months.

Situations like this one repeat themselves alarmingly in Spain for months, for years. Highly trained professionals from different fields, well trained and experienced, are having serious problems to get a job. Great capabilities are lost, highly skilled human resources are being undermined and society is at risk of being damaged.

The current situation and forecasts are not very hopeful. The government preaches job creation through entrepreneurship, as a solution, among others, to improve the economic map. But at the same time, the government drastically reduces its investment programs. Programs of special importance, in many cases, such as International Campus of Excellence (ICE) of Spanish universities, which the ministry launched in 2009.

The administration’s bet for the ICE program can be discussed, but the importance of the initiative cannot be argued as it lies is in its initial approach: promoting strategic aggregations between institutions, capable of creating “knowledge ecosystems”, characterized by their ability to promote employment, social cohesion and economic development of their environment. All of this effort is oriented to improve the competitiveness of Spanish universities in the current global framework.

As a result of this eagerness of universities, different methodologies are being developed to optimize and integrate efforts between agents from different backgrounds and natures. As a result, new market niches can be exploited, which would not be accessible individually, increasing competitiveness at a national and international level. Furthermore, this joint effort serves directly and indirectly to promote comprehensive strategies and initiatives between government policies and resources that promote the range of solutions for achieving the objectives of the ICE.

Therefore, the importance of the work that universities are carrying out has been demonstrated, as well as the need to continue the line of work initiated. This effort will give the necessary response for the recovery of the Spanish economy and the encouragement of research and innovation to strengthen our production system. Therefore, it seems necessary that the authorities continue backing the ICE initiative. Now more than ever.

As a result, my friend and I can resort to the capabilities of the university, as we did for years, to improve our employability. We can now adapt our professional skills to the demands of a dynamic market through training and education. We will have better access to emerging occupations, new jobs. We can access information, assistance and advice programs to undertake new professional activities, to make the best possible use of the training and experience we have, generating our own work. Providing employment.


The place where the Spanish University should be

This expression is usually said in public offices of the Administration or amongst members from the so-called “Government Agency of the Educational System Management”.  The context that accounts for this expression generally entails comparisons of some academic activity indicators; besides, these indicators invariably demand some sort of immediate response. For instance, it is said that the Science Law 13/86 that helped setting off and establishing the Spanish Scientific, Economic and Industrial system, also let Spanish science gain an outstanding place internationally (9th position in the world) according to quantitative bibliometrics.  However, when correlating this academic scientific output with its appliedness and social use, there is an agreement about the existence of needs to reach “the place where the Spanish University should be”.

With regard to this expression, a message of commitment, responsibility and encouragement is clearly inferred. It is also an issue that demands mobilizations and structural changes carried out by any person who might be affected. I can also negatively think that there is an inherited fatalism that never allows the Spanish University to reach “the place where it should be” thanks to an unfair and an uncontrollable destiny.

However, if following the example, we take what happened to some of the main public initiatives launched in the last twenty years to strength the transfer of knowledge from the University to the company – foundation of Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO), implantation of Science and Technology Parks, office development of European projects, among others- we can see that, despite it’s clear structural vocation, they suffer from lack of reinforcement within the institutions they serve in.

Connected to this, and without going into question about its raison d’être, in other words, supposing these measures are justified whatever reason- an European Union strategy, the fact of being successful in other countries, or the support of a wise men council- we can attribute as a typical feature that all of them have been “purchased” by its potential beneficiaries, universities in this case, without excessive questioning.

International Campus of Excellence (ICE) would be contained in these strategic measures in order to cause a breaking-off in the Spanish Academic Ecosystem and the society itself. Its ambitious aims – to reach teaching, researching & innovative and territorial environment excellence- they acquire full meaning in a moment in which a change in the productive model, in the knowledge society and even the change of moral principles is being discussed. We need to recall that ICE have been conceived by the Administration as an ambitious challenge and accepted by the Universities as a bet of excellence.

Finally, the Spanish University would gain the place where it ought to be by keeping these commitments.


Let´s take a break

This course is in its evolving stage, there already are learning experiences, cooperation between partakers and after the second residential week in Madrid, we are able to draw some conclusions.

First of all, congratulate ourselves for giving the chance of providing a course of this nature. In second place, state the path towards making this initiative fully useful to the attendants in their challenge managing “Campus de Excelencia Internacional”.  In other words, we have started but there are many lessons to be gathered for future editions.

There are some things crystal clear for me, and to be discussed by all members helping us to confirm them, I summarise as follows:

1-   In greater extent, formal and theoretical lessons must be inserted with experiences lived by agents in the same developing track of new college elements.

2-   More time should be spent in participants’ own experiences. They are undoubtedly the magnificent protagonists of the change being sought, so their opinions should be known, debated and improved as a result of a broad discussion between us all.

3-    Business presence is useful in this course, if only to compare from reality, how things look from different prisms, but which necessarily have to converge.

4-   For many reasons foreign residentials are of great help and should be kept facing future editions, though the organization of this course could be modified.

These considerations along with many others related with the lessons performance, the use of digital tools, etc, sure are part of the essential final debate of this course. That training activity should be oriented to extract the best conclusions of your invaluable effort, in which people from all Spanish CEIs and those from abroad have participated. You’ve all made a team that contributed and gave us pretty different points of view.  The last exhibition session about the main progress of each CEI, was tremendously eloquent in diversity and differences in how various initiatives mature. This leads to continue that session in future meetings.

I encourage you to contribute with your point of view.

Francisco Marín, Director of Management Development Programme  for ICE


The more, the best?

In these recent years, as communication systems advanced, we have been constantly ‘bombarded’ with information from different sources.

With the advent of the Internet we don’t only get news from radio, television or printed newspapers, but we also have e-mail, web pages, blogs, Google and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and others, just to mention some of the most successful examples, as well as the mobile phone connectivity, and its many applications, (SMS, instant messaging…), communication systems at work, and many channels that deliver messages daily, surrounding us with big mass of information that we are often unable to control or process.

This saturation of content is called ‘Infoxication’, (a term invented by the physicist and communication expert Alfons Cornella Solans, who a decade ago predicted its impact on the future of communications).

The origin of this disorder seems to be due to the information overdose that is generated and received daily, since it is impossible to process in its entirety. This is where the trouble to cover all types of content and messages begins, producing a mental exhaustion that could trigger anxiety, confusion, isolation and even lead to the collapse.

According to some experts in neurology, the stress produced by information overload in a person greatly affects the brain and can lead to the development of other neurological diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. So it seems that, while the Internet has contributed to numerous advances in communication, it has also a secondary effect on users, producing this Infoxication.

According to some studies, these are some of the main symptoms of infoxication:

• Decreased ability to socialize outside the technological means.

• Failure to disconnect from technology, even in times of leisure and entertainment.

• Isolation of the real world. The infoxicated person believes that only by doing that will be able to catch up on the tasks remaining to be done.

• Loss of concentration at work and studies. No matter how much we want, it is impossible to cover everything at once.

• The feeling that all incoming messages are essential. The idea of not being able to address them in time causes distress.

• Irritability with others because of accumulated mental exhaustion.

• Anxiety and despair in front of a computer or network failure, because you tend to think that every minute you are missing valuable information.

Looking at all these symptoms, some may conclude that information overload causes significant psychological and social effects on the individual.

However, some authors have designed strategies to prevent infoxication:

• Select the relevant information, assess the quality of content and filter out only the information regarding your personal and professional interest.

• Use aggregators to search and store the interesting data, and never waste time in selecting information, because it will be already organized.

• Set a time limit on your navigation without wasting time in other contents, you will be more productive.

• If you are subjected to a huge amount of data at work, try to disconnect in your free time. Rest your mind or do other activities.

• Rethink the real priorities in life, only then you will realize that you do not need to keep up on the Internet, or social networks to live a meaningful life.

• Reduce non necessary communication. Disconnect the phones in the leisure time, turn off the TV at family gatherings, read less the newspaper and rest of the computer for at least ten minutes a day.

• Give preference to human relations and contact with nature. Take a nap (yeah!), relax, breathe fresh air, lying on the lawn, going for walks and other activities that contribute to desinfoxication.

un poco de publicidad:

http://youtu.be/31TAsIO1xnM

 

 


UNIVERSITY, CAMPUS OF INTERNATIONAL EXCELLENCE: ROLE AND IMPACT

We are but one link in a chain, gifted with a heritage that we must take onward and upward. It is our responsibility to do better. At the very least we must endeavour to do so.

Applying this to the university context gives rise to the question: what can universities do to help improve our society and our environment? What can they do to help create a better future?

Universities are active agents with a tremendous influence on their environment, agents that  are having to assimilate new functions and new responsibilities. If we take a map of the European regions and represent the top 100 European universities, we find that they are located in those regions with the strongest economic indicators, the strongest indicators relating to the information society, or the best ratio of patents per capita.

Lisbon indicators, information society indicators, patents and regions

European universities and regions

It is for this reason, many authors argue, that the functions of universities have broadened to include:

  1. Knowledge creation.
  2. Creation of human capital.
  3. Transfer of know-how.
  4. Technological innovation.
  5. Capital investment.
  6. Regional leadership and influence
  7. Production of knowledge infrastructure.

All these, in particular the last two, are closely related to the CIE initiative and to the university’s direct commitment to its environment. But to drive these functions forward and manage them effectively, they need to be measured – in other words we must ascertain the actual effect of their activity, even if only in approximate terms. Thus, their impact can be monitored, changes can be made, and strategies can be re-thought, as required. Otherwise, there is no meaningful basis for action. The university community, while so concerned about measurement and rigor in each field or knowledge specialism, has shown no such concern for impact measurement in its own performance (or at least it has not incorporated it into its core management processes).

When talking about impact we must distinguish between two types of link:

Let us consider this, then, in light of the current crisis.

Economic theory recognizes that in certain situations, an increase in productivity cannot be produced simply by increasing the physical capital per worker. Beyond a certain level, there is no growth unless human capital increases.

The solution? Training, and the development of complementary skills in new technologies through lifelong learning which in turn enables individuals to adapt to continuous improvements in technology and advances in knowledge. The more suitable the training, the greater the chances of employment, higher income levels and the capacity to adapt. This means improved social inclusion, crime reduction, and more responsible guidelines for healthcare, society and the environment. These are but some examples.

The endogenous growth theory recognizes that knowledge is produced in just the same way as other forms of capital – it is not exogenous, and it doesn’t grow on trees. It requires input to the growth process, in the form of human capital and knowledge capital, along with conventional, physical capital, both public and private.

Alongside this, we must highlight the need to create specialized clusters capable of developing organizational capacity (a fundamental concept).

This is the pledge made by the university and the CIE. And the rate of return (on the physical, human and knowledge capital) is the best indicator of society’s net profit in relation to university funding, be that return private, public, social or individual in nature.

As you know, the CIE initiative is designed along these lines. It’s an interesting idea albeit with a lot to improve on in its implementation. It aims to deliver improvements to the University system by focusing efforts on achieving excellence, partnership working, differentiation, and internationalisation, with Universities working in collaboration with players from the public, private and social sectors.

A CIE project is not, and nor should it be, something that is being done ‘by others’, something that was already happening anyway, a mere communication plan, or a sales pitch for supposed successes based on exaggerated claims. It is not even conceived as a means of drawing in funding. On the contrary, a CIE project is designed to be:

To derive the greatest benefit from this opportunity, the direction to follow is to work towards, and invest towards, a scenario in which universities and CIEs can develop strong human capital, generate knowledge, and increase the appeal of their environment. But this must be measured.

This will be the best possible legacy.

 

 


Unemployment. Something else than labour market rigidities.

Spain is usually accused for its heavily regulated labour market. According to World Bank, redundancy cost in Spain averages 56 weeks of wages, more than twice the OECD level. During recessions, the decline in labour demand usually increases the unemployment rate and, therefore, hiring and firing restrictions do not exert the major influence on firm’s decisions to employ additional units of labour. However, the persistence of strong labour market regulation imposes significant economic costs.

Nevertheless, economists are not unanimously in agreement with recent reform introduced by the Zapatero government removing the restrictions for dismissals on a fair basis and deregulated dismissal procedures on indefinite labour contracts. Some argue that the labour market deregulation and fewer firing restrictions will further increase the unemployment rate since the major cause of it is the lack of labour demand. On the other hand, a handful of economists claim that Spain’s persistent labour market rigidities are the major cause of country’s high unemployment rate.

I am not going to argue for or against the labour market reform. In fact, I do believe that it must not be the only reason for suffering the highest unemployment rate in the Euroarea (EUA). Paraphrasing some well known sentences we can ask ourselves: is there live beyond labour market regulations? Yes, it is!

Some time ago there was a lot of discussion about the “economic model”. It was denounced that the economy were based on “bricks” instead of “bites”. In other words, while Spain had to improve investments addressed to underpin knowledge based economy, it flirted with housing bubble. But, in my opinion there were a higher and hidden danger, a structural deficiency in our level of education. Eurostat uses the percentage of the adult population (25-64 years old) that has completed upper secondary education as a measure of the share of the population that is likely to have the minimum necessary qualifications to actively participate in social and economic life. In 2007 in Spain this percentage was 50.4% (52.6 in 2010) while the average of Euroarea (EUA) was 65.9% and of Europe-27 (EU-27) 70.7%. Looking at figure-1, I wonder how we could get full employment in competence with European economies, but it would be another blog.

But, still, we can consider that this structural weakness, due to the level of education, can predict somehow the evolution of unemployment rates. When the housing bubble blew up and in a scenario of recession where to find new sources of  employment? Figure-2 shows the level of secondary education of countries or areas in 2007 (HK-2007), just before the crisis, and the level of unemployment in 2011. As expected, the higher the level of education the lower the level of unemployment. We cannot immediately conclude a causal effect but, at least, a new way of thinking apart from labour market rigidities.


The political and social economy of Excellence

A politically incorrect objection to some inconsistent messages

By Nestor R. Sanchez
Director of the Graduate School of Management and Technology
Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA)

Much is being written about International Centers of Excellence. Most words point towars competing with famous universities worldwide as if Harvard, MIT, Oxford or Cambridge were the mirrors we wanted to be reflected in.

Thinking big is a must, of course. What should all of this be about if not? But, what “thinking big” means or shall mean to us?

Here are some answers we typically give: “be a cost-effective leader”, “become very attractive to the best brains worldwide”, “optimize (human and economic) resources better than others in order to survive”, “merge two or more complementary centers to create one that is ‘more’ than the addition of the separate components”, “be international”, “become unique in our specialty”, etc.

My perception is that explanations above seek replying to “someone else’s expectations” rather than meeting our most genuine aspirations.

In fact, I frequently hear concerns about “budget cuts”, “political pressure”, “international trends”, “rating and ranking reasons” and so on. We wouldn’t be neither honest nor realistic if those aspects shouldn’t be taken into account: they are for real and must be faced and managed. That’s not under question; the manner of doing it is.

I wonder what is or should be the place we grant to those issues. Shall they be on top of our priority list or they are meant to go along with a more significant purpose? Say, aims closer to the “reason of being” of our universities. Moreover, the reason of existance of higher education and research centers in the context of our cities, states, countries. Can we all understand, justify and pursue “excellence” the same way?

What if we framed our excellence concept, plans and deployment in accordance to our closest stakeholders? That may imply a “prioritization”, in terms of relevance to our true interests, relationships and affection, out of all posible stakeholders of our centers of excellence.

In that sense, I propose thinking of our students, professors, graduates and researchers first of all at the moment of planning our “excellence” initiatives. I encourage our decision makers to embrace our communities by taking care of them. Please, do not let them behind.

Most of our governments are mainly concerned about budget cuts nowadays. In Argentina, for instance, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation stated recently that “the Country is not obliged to guarantee jobs” to those scientists and researchers who claimed after the discontinuation of their precarious contracts with CONICET (the Argentinean National Council of Scientific and Technical Research) by end 2011.

That’s right but, is it a simple problem of a lazy attitude to look for a job? Or is it that no other opportunities for researchers are available in the private sector? Please tell me, if governors do not open positions in the public sector and do not create room for the private companies to invest and hire those scientists, what is the way out? The international airport perhaps? Weren’t we looking for “capturing the best brains” of the world? Something is not working here…

My point is: What is the rational behind the policy of promoting the science, the innovation, the “excellence” and so many other abstract nouns if we, as a society (Government is the administrative representative of it), create an environment that push PhDs towards a taxi-driver career who, at their time, block the working space to the genuine taxi-driver candidates? Understand me well, driving a taxi is an honest and necessary job, but it does not exactly meet the professional expectation of someone who studied so in depth any scientific discipline. Moreover, we encourage people to follow a PhD path by promissing them a professional future according to it. Don’t we?

Argentina is, nowadays, expensive in real terms, meaning that any good or service bought here is more expensive than the same item in Europe or in the USA when prices are compared on the same currency basis.

So, if our currency does not represent the real cost of our economy, I may infer that a devaluation (so as to get “more pesos” for each dollar we collect from exports, for example) of our artificial currency would be more fair than cutting budgets by not granting a contract extension to our reserchers or by cutting university expenditures, most of which go to maintain their sorroundings alive. Their communities alive.

Similar situations I see other countries being suffering from, where many PhDs are either unemployed or working in jobs for which they are clearly overqualified. But people need to provide their families so they end up by accepting (in a regrettably sadly way) those humiliating positions.

Are university-budgets’ cuts acceptable under these circumstances? Are they going to solve our systemic problems or are they going to worsen them?

It is quite clear to me: If we don’t manage our costs properly (by making our currency quote according to our economic reality), unfair and brainless decisions are typically taken with, sooner rather than later, undesirable consequences.

The degree of inclusion of our respective communities should be, from my standpoint, a good and useful indicator of the excellence we attain. Let’s imagine a better society by having more research, more researchers, more excellent centers, not less. Less budget means just less, neither better nor more efficient itself. Not now and even less in the future.

By the way, what about the future? Aren’t we playing dangerously with it when looking solely at the short term?


A mantra for the 2011 lost generation

Financial help is usually denied to the teachers, the creators and the scientists as they are viewed as unproductive professionals. In the actual economic Spanish scenario we show how the money for universities is once and once reduced, how the labour of the secondary teachers is attacked when they go on a strike for the future of the education or how the Ministry of Science just disappeared.

Miguel de Unamuno said once its famous quote “¡Qué inventen ellos!”, often referred as a symbol of the perceived low performance of the Spanish science (although it was not the author intention). In the case of research a reduction of the 8% in the total public funding has been approved this year, after two years of progressive cuts outs, we see Spain in the levels of the 2005 again, when we were supposed to increase our R&D investment at least to a 2%GDP.

Especially sad is the case of the Spanish young researchers who support the research system with this effort and ideas. However normally are the most expendables. Last year said goodbye with a new call for research funding in the framework of the national R&D program under its arm , but the call for research human resources program will have to wait for the new year. This call included help for PhD students, postdocs researchers, technologists and experienced researchers. This blank call just means a lost generation.

They will emigrate as other did before whereas the cost of their education, received in Spain, will not be recover. They will be the best ambassadors for Spain wherever they go. Let`s say a word for this lost generation.

“Science is a way to teach how something can be known; what we do not know; how certainly things are known, as anything can be known for sure; how to handle doubt and uncertainty; how to think about things in a way a evaluation can be formed; how to differentiate truth and fraud, truth and show” Richard Feynman.

 



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