Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Spanish Science does not need scissors

Blunt Scissors Spanish Science Consortium, Spain

Science in Spain has undergone a steady but constant progress along the twentieth century. In Ramón y Cajal’s old times, the enthusiastic neurologist from Petilla de Aragón carried by himself, all the way to a meeting in Berlin, his home-made preparations, his microscope and his hand-drawing depictions of neurons, just to show his results to his sceptical European colleagues beyond the Pyrenees. Afterwards, he was laureate with the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Later on, during the obscure and silent times of the mid-century, the devoted Amador worked out tireless in the outskirts from Madrid to obtain reliable supplies of animals intended for basic research on mice oncogenesis. Some years later, thousands of strains of transgenic mice fill up the animal houses from several Spanish research institutes of excellence, and the cure of cancer and many other diseases is getting closer and closer in this country according to the newspapers. At the end of the century, the Homo antecessor was discovered in Atapuerca, Burgos, proving that the very first hominins in Europe were Spanish. More recently, the improvement in social- and science-related achievements has made of Spain one of the more important European countries in terms of international notoriety, the spectacular winning of both the 2008 European Football Championship in Austria and the 2009 Eurobasket in Poland being the culmination of it. This successful progress would have been impossible without a proper and maintained investment in Research and Development (R&D) along these years. Thus, shortage in R&D funding would jeopardize the prospective of Spain in the twenty-first century competitive modern world. The Blunt Scissors Spanish Science Consortium (BSSSC) was spontaneously created in September 2008, as a result of the prediction by the Spanish Scientific Community that the Spanish Government was going to announce, sooner or later, a severe cut down on the R&D budget, under the excuse of the financial crisis in the world, which was starting to affect strongly to Spain. As expected, the announcement was made real in September 2009. Scissors being the more important administrative tool to cut down on budgets, the first task of the BSSSC was to test the necessity of scissors in Spanish Science. Representative disciplines covering all scientific areas, from Sacred History to Aeronautics, were selected, and kits containing different varieties of scissors, including kitchen-, surgical-, moustache-, toenail-, dressing- and garden-scissors, were sent out to the appropriate Spanish laboratories or research facilities for their use in the research routine work. Sets of protocols in the distinct official languages of Spain, together with a professional scissor sharpener, were included in the sending. The scientific productivity of the laboratories and research departments using scissors was scored along one year, and compared with that of matched control research teams, in which scissors use was substituted by teeth-cutting. Although the statistical analysis of our data is not yet complete, mainly due to the misuse of the teeth in the control group, the preliminary examination of our results indicates that scissors did not improve, but rather slowed down, scientific productivity in Spain.

We conclude from our study that Spanish Science does not need scissors, and provide two good reasons for not diminishing the investment in R&D in Spain: 1/ Spain is still far from the average investment in R&D in Europe; and 2/ being Spain the favourite team for the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it would be a pity to lose, just because of a handful of euros, this opportunity to become, for the first time, football world champions. More good reasons at aldea-irreductible.

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