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Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores (FJI/ Precarios) on addressing the challenges of ECRs in Spain

Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores FJI/ Precarios

Congratulations to our Spanish National Association – Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores FJI/ Precarios – on the National Day of Spain (October 12)! We publish this article to celebrate this holiday and acquaint you with the activities of ECRs in Spain. So, meet our Spanish NA!

In your opinion, what are the main challenges for early career researchers in your country?

The Spanish science system has been suffering from budget cuts and restrictions over the last decade as a negligent response from the successive governments to the 2008 crisis. For this reason, different national postdoctoral and PhD programs have been negatively affected. Consequently, low salaries and middle-term job insecurity are the main issues that most PhDs, Post Docs, and early career researchers suffer in Spain. In our National Association organisation, we have analysed the loss of purchasing power due to the low salary of the governmental national postdoctoral programs, that has not been updated for years - in the case of public-funded postdocs - for more than a decade.[1] This situation is mainly the consequence of different budget cuts that affect the stability of the researchers in Spain.[2] Despite very recent budget increases (2021-2022), linked to the EU-next generation funds, purchasing power keeps decreasing as these don’t compensate for high inflation.

Besides these problems with salary, the most alarming problem researchers in Spain face is the complete lack of career stability. After completing a PhD, there is a very limited number of opportunities in both academia and the private sector. This is the reason why many researchers in Spain move abroad upon completing their PhDs. This is worsened by the lack of a clear career design. The budget cuts and lack of opportunity make obtaining a permanent position a herculean task. A clear indication of this difficulty is that 43 years is the average age to obtain a permanent position at a university in Spain.

Another important point to raise is the situation of research in the Spanish private sector, as introduced in the previous paragraph. There is a clear misunderstanding and underestimation of a PhD, or any academia involvement, from the industry. There is very little research in the Spanish private sector, and very little communication, transfer of technology or feedback from academia. In most cases, the PhD degree is not valued, and sometimes, it is even disadvantageous. As for the entrance or promoting among the public sector, having a PhD has few, if any, consideration.

Although there are opportunities for PhDs (grants on national and regional levels, like FPI, FPU), there is a significant lack of grants for postdoctoral and permanent researcher positions, which is causing a bottleneck effect: a lot of resources are used in training PhD candidates, who, afterwards do not go on to have a research career.

In addition, one of the key issues is Spanish low investment in Research and Development in comparison to other European countries. [3] [4]

Another exasperating issue is bureaucracy. Every public contract for a PhD or postdoc takes months, and sometimes, more than one year to allocate after application, forcing people to work frequently on their own savings or part-time jobs.

How does your NA address those challenges?

We are a community of researchers who share a vision for improving science and the researchers career, hence we gather our efforts and work together towards building a better scientific environment.

-We make reports where we analyse the working conditions of PhD candidates and early career researchers (regarding salaries and other employment benefits).[5], [6] 

-Currently, we are conducting a survey for early career researchers in Spain to collect representative data regarding different aspects that interfere with their careers, with the aim to design better policies to tackle these problems.

-We are developing a guide for harassment and mobbing in order to highlight and enumerate the different problems that can arise within the power relationships that exist in academia.

-We are in permanent contact with the media so we can raise awareness and discuss both the general and the specific situation of our researchers.

-We attend meetings with different political parties and the government. Also with the CRUE - the Spanish universities chancellors conference.

How does the cooperation with Eurodoc help in solving these challenges, and what else can be done?

By being part of a European community of associations similar to us, we get inspired and motivated to work towards the same goals, enabling better working conditions, professional development, and better health for early career researchers and PhD candidates, and that is the foundation for better science and a united Europe! We would like to get to know the working conditions and challenges which other NAs face in order to share best practices and tackle these important issues together! The work done by the working groups in Eurodoc has been very helpful in shaping policy and lobbying on a European level. As the working group coordinator of the employment conditions and representative of Spain in Eurodoc, I am thrilled to be working and leading a group on such an important topic. Hopefully, the policy recommendations for employment conditions on the European level will be a tool we can implement in lobbying to improve the precarious situation of many researchers in Spain.



[2] precarios.org ¿Cuánto cobra un(a) postdoc en España?

[3] Informe COSCE: Fondos Nacionales y Europeos destinados a ciencia en los Presupuestos Generales del Estado (PGE 2022)

[4] Evolution of science and technology in Portugal and Spain


[6] Salary Increase Guide

Learn more about the Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores FJI/ Precarios: