Last time I spoke with Mariano Gago, it was a few weeks after we published the open letter “They have chosen ignorance”. It ended up being a one-hour phone-call! He was horrified by the recent research cuts in Portugal. He was also very concerned about the fact that the human resources dedicated to scientific research, that he largely contributed to develop, were suddenly destroyed as a consequence of the blind austerity policies.
He was insisting that national governments obsessed by their short term views were not able to understand how important it is to defend the human capital engaged in scientific research and driving the development of a knowledge-based society in a long-term perspective. It was, for him, a dramatic deception to see how the enormous work he did to contribute to a better recognition of research in Portugal, as well as in the EU, was reduced to almost nothing. Indeed, the last generation of scientists was obliged to enter into a brain drain process or to quit research.
We–mainly the Southern European co-authors of the open letter–have been very impressed when we meet him at a conference in Barcelona. Indeed, during this first HSE conference, in November 2013, he shared his huge concern for the future of scientists.
Heading science in Portugal and in EU for many years, did not cut his wishes to contribute to the development of a bottom-up approach of research, based on meritocracy. As he saw this approach as allowing scientists to flourish away from the negative atmosphere imposed by an ideology closer to ignorance than to science. It was for him the most important point to solve now: he behaved as an outstanding humanist and showed a generous attitude. Let’s hope that the community of European scientists will succeed in meeting his wishes!
May his soul rest in peace!
Featured image credit: Sunlinformacao