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Is not enough money to maintain current projects

CSIC research institute warns that budget not cover the financing needs of research projects


A ripple of alarm is spreading among researchers at the Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC), in Spain, after its president, Emilio Lora-Tamayo, established a "spending availability" for each institute that may frequently not cover the financing needs of research projects.

The CSIC´s revenues have been dropping since 2008, which marked a historical high of 879 million euros – the last year with a surplus. And now that the Economy Ministry is cutting back 180 million from its yearly contribution, the research agency is forecasting a deficit of 102 million euros. "The situation is cataclysmic," said Lora-Tamayo on Tuesday.

Early this year, the CSIC chief announced that his agency needed a bailout of 100 million euros to cover that deficit. Six months after that, the Economy Ministry, which it answers to, approved a transfer of 25 million. But the government is not contemplating raising that to 100 million – rather, the ceiling appears to be 75 million euros.

The CSIC represents 19 percent of all Spanish scientific output, according to its own data. There are just under 1,000 projects underway at the moment, and Lora-Tamayo says that the agency´s international prestige remains intact. Meanwhile, sources close to the state secretary asserted that "the CSIC is not going to fall as an agency; if it´s clear that [the money] is not enough, there will be more." But those additional funds would not be released before 2014, in any case.

The CSIC chief´s report specifies that the continuity of ongoing projects is guaranteed and that personnel contracts linked to projects will be a priority. The document goes on to detail the funds available to the 115 CSIC institutes, which have a collective 25,911,240 euros to spend.

Nearly 40 researchers and technicians at the agency have already signed a letter proposing to consult with outside sources regarding the legal validity of these measures. The new limits mean there is not enough money for all the expenses that scientific work entails, some investigators complain. "It is hard to choose which type of project gets priority over another one when you have made commitments to all," explains Jesús Ávila, a researcher at the Severo Ochoa Cell Biology Center.

Many scientists feel that the situation is critical because it could put entire projects and research groups on hold. "With the kind of money that´s being assigned to each institute, we cannot even pursue our ongoing projects."

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