Science is an activity that needs to be planned with a long-term perspective. It is the only successful way of doing science. The system in Spain has to be changed to be able to contract the best people in each field. It might also help if prestigious calls like the ERC grant calls could account for the fact that countries are being faced with economic hardship and therefore give their scientists a chance to compete on a more level playing field.
In Portugal, science friendly policies continue in current times of severe financial restrictions. Indeed, public budgets were preferentially spared and re-directed to the essentials. And a more efficient spending has brought more money to the system than in previous years. The decision of Pedro Passos Coelho, the Portuguese Prime Minister, to create and chair a new advisory body: the National Council for Science and Technology, in 2012 brought another positive initiative to support science in Portugal.
Last April, leading researchers, politicians and key players in European research funding discussed how Europe can finance and provide optimal conditions for excellent research. They adopted the so-called “Aarhus Declaration” which states that “when aiming for excellence, one should aim at the stars: a new knowledge which changes paradigms, invents new fields and opens opportunities for broad societal consequences.” Increasingly, European Union and national funding is anchored around the idea of excellence in research. But what exactly is excellence? Is this yardstick a fair measure of a scientist’s work? Questions are being raised about whether this distorts the research landscape in Europe.
The Deceived Wisdom: The classic Stradivarius violin has a unique sound that justifies the reverence with which these instruments are held and the million-pound price tags. That’s as may be, but scientific analysis of Stradivarius violins reveals there was actually no secret sauce in the wood nor the varnish used by the luthier ClassicFM’s Tim Lihoreau refers to as the Cremonese Creator. Indeed, repeated blind tests with expert listeners and virtuoso players has shown that they really cannot distinguish between the absolute top-quality modern instrument and a classic Strad.