Pedro Duque: "Dame 700 million and I'll tell you how many scientists can return to Spain"

Pedro Duque, Minister of Science, Innovation and universities, has just released a new office and has personalized photos, aerospace diplomas and replicas of rockets and satellites. It only lacks a showcase to show some clothing of his life as an astronaut: the scuba of one of his two flights and gloves. On Wednesday, Duque (Madrid, 1963) slept on a plane returning from Guatemala, went to Congress, read a fragment of the Constitution, attended a meeting with his cabinet and topped the day receiving this diary. It seems, however, accustomed to these marathons. The moment when he has concentrated more attention in these months as a minister has been when he had to give explanations for the creation of a company in 2005 to manage their homes. "After seeing the results, if they had explained it to us well, we might have saved ourselves from paying so many taxes. I do not recommend it, "says Duque, who does not contemplate providing more documents to prove his version of what happened. "All right, there's no need to give more pabulum to these things."

question. Do you regret having entered politics?

answer. No, because I see that there are many things that can be changed. Many measures that can be taken. There is a very enthusiastic team that has entered with me, who has come from below knowing what is needed. Every day we meet with people who hadn't met any representatives of this level for years and that is an illusion.

Q. What was the role of the budget pact with can?

People have to know how much they will receive from scholarship before tuition

A. we participated fairly directly in the science negotiations, but the global amounts were carried by the Ministry of Finance.

Q. did you know that 45% of the additional 273 million euros agreed by the government and we can for science are loans? The PSOE promised not to inflate these items that then are not spent on public research, a trick that already used the PP to inflate the investment in science.

A. What we talked about did not enter the credits. My aspiration is not to put together the items in which the government injects money and the others in which it lends money. I would like from now on to talk about these numbers separately. The problem is that in the past the credits have been added with the subsidies, and from there the percentage of increase is taken out. That part of the deal could have been done better, that's right.

Q. can you tell the scientists that before Christmas there will be no tax auditors in the research centers, as they have been claiming for months?

A. no way. The auditors have to be there. But before the end of the year we will have a measure to eliminate the previous audit and move on to a permanent financial control. This is included in a package of urgent measures for science. We cannot remove obstacles without guaranteeing control of public spending.

Q. What more measures will the package include?

A. ensures that transfers between the State research agency and research agencies are not considered subsidy, which is easier for all without undermining the control of public expenditure. There will be exemptions to the law on public contracts to be able to select, for example, the type of appliance that needs to be purchased. The difficulties to pay the dues to international bodies will be eliminated. It will be a law decree, because in some small aspects it modifies some laws.

Q. in your agreement with we can promise more scholarships and a distribution that favors academic excellence. How will it be articulated?

A . we need to specify the measures in a committee with the Ministry of Education, because there is a joint budget for all scholarships. The idea is to improve the equity in the access to the university, that do not lose talents for lack of money. If budgets are approved, there will be money and talk to everyone.

Q. with former Minister José Ignacio Wert students did not know how much they would receive.

A . I was talking to the person who made the formula and had a leaf of calculus that didn't seem complicated at all. It went from a seemingly infinite game, to another that was finite, in which what was on each one depended on how many people asked for the scholarship.

Before the end of the year we will have a measure of elimination of the previous control

P. 30% of students were left without a scholarship. The new ones are also finite if you add up to what there was 536 million.

A. I don't know how that will finally be done. Budgets can be made with the possibility of growth, but that is Treasury techniques that I do not understand. We know that people have to know how much they will receive from the scholarship before they make the tuition. We also know that competitive science calls must always be in the same month. Don't Achantamos us. We are working on 100% of things, but not all of us can solve them.

Q. also ICO loans for a master's degree? Many affected say they are entering delinquent listings.

A. I understand that no one is already receiving letters of delinquency from the banks for two or three weeks. We have given that instruction to the banks. In a short time, we will have a global figure of the problem and see how it resolves. [The ministry specifies after the interview that "the financial institution is not requesting — the students — the payment of any commission, interest or principal of the loan"].

Q. What do you tell young scientists about the future that awaits you?

A . we have made a great effort with this budget agreement to increase research projects and scholarships. There is something left that I do not know how we are going to achieve in this climate of little dialogue in the legislature, the famous agreements by which I + D + I budgets should grow at a much higher pace than they have done so far. It was a non-law proposition passed in Congress [in December 2013]. The Congress of Deputies is the one that has to give the amount, and of that amount will depend that more scientists have future. We can't bring people back without having equipment, facilities, labs. The country needs it. I can take calculations, if I get 700 or 1 billion more per year I know how many people can return, but first I need the funding. We have to reach an agreement. It was the first thing I wanted to do when I got to Congress, but now it's a little difficult.

P. the rectors ask for more autonomy and then to submit all the accounts requested. Do you agree?

A . yes, its autonomy is included in the Constitution, and we respect that very much and we are willing to increase that autonomy whenever there is a stewardship. We want universities to have more flexibility in their budgets, but with a control over efficiency in that use. There we are aligned, then the devil is in the details.

We are working with universities to be responsible for the quality of their titles

Q. What is your benchmark in this change in university management?

A. we are looking at other countries that have made these reforms. I was with the Polish Minister of Education, but there they are starting and there are still no results. Then there's Portugal that accosted him a few years ago. Autonomy must be increased, but accountability is also given to an entity in society that has yet to be defined.

Q. There are a thousand audit filters, but the Public Law Institute of the Rey Juan Carlos University did what it wanted 15 years. Is it an isolated case?

R. it is. People have been looking everywhere if there is another; And there isn't. One of the priorities in the new law's work tables is the certification of titles. The quality control must be brought closer to the activity, just as it has been done all its life in the technology of the Rockets. We are working with universities to be responsible for the quality of their titles. Not to be put on the shoulders of the ANECA (National Agency for Quality Assessment and accreditation) all the control, the agency does it exhaustively, but it does not reach all the sites. Obviously then there is a higher control.

Q. the rectors get away with it.

A. I don't know if they're delighted. We are also going to check your quality system, as is logical. And they will have to implant it as well.

Q. the rectors think that a campaign against public universities has been orchestrated taking advantage of the scandal of King Juan Carlos.

R. man, campaign... Let's hope that there are no people so terribly malicious, but there has been a tendency of the population to see the university worse than they saw before. That we are reversing, in its globality is very good. There are other countries with four great universities and the rest... I think we beat them. We have to keep saying that the public university does not have a generalized problem of quality. That the case of that institute, which had even accounts of its own, is truly isolated. Maybe if talk less of it and yes of other things...

Q. like what?

A . we have created a new administration of knowledge transfer, the technological six-term that existed seems to have not worked well. This is also for the social sciences, for the humanities. It's ready, at speeds that have surprised me a lot, for the next call of six.

P. The investigating judge of the master case says that King Juan Carlos "has not helped anything in the clarification of the crimes." Have you asked the Rector for explanations?

A. I have spoken [with Javier Ramos] amicably several times and also with the counselor of Madrid [Rafael van Grieken], who is who should speak with him really. And we agree that we have to do more. You have to learn from what has happened so that there is co-responsibility in quality.

We will sanction the charlatans with the shame

P. the rectors of the public believe that private universities do not investigate or innovate. Do you agree?

A . the subject is delicate and will certainly be part of the conversations of the new University law. In this team we believe that it is basic that the university has strength in teaching, research and transference.

Q. What is the strategy against the Pseudociencias that your ministry has announced, there will be more severe punishments for charlatans?

A. from our ministry we provide knowledge. Punishments and legislative measures will be taken by the Ministry of Health. The Carlos III Institute will conduct a scientific evaluation of the different areas where promises are being made that are not valid, and we'll make an official document as it has been done in England, Australia, Canada and other countries. In the month of December we will take a campaign to get people to understand what is science and what is not. We can sanction with shame. If people have more knowledge they will understand better than if a therapy is not in the national health system, with the 99% probability is because it does not work.

P. in 2004 you wrote the prologue to a book on chiropractic, which has no scientific endorsement.

A. I have completely changed my mind. My mother was very enthusiastic about this. What I did was to tell that in my experience it was worth. It's been 14 years, I've talked to a lot more people since then and many years ago I know that all the benefits I saw are better achieved by going to the physiotherapist. I hadn't read enough about it. That's why you have to explain these things to people well.

Government promotes credit to companies

If budgets are achieved, the Ministry of Science will launch in 2019 several measures to encourage investment in R & D + I of companies, which in Spain contribute substantially less to the global effort than in the major economies European. The project includes the start-up of the Cervera network with a call for "about 20 million euros in subsidies", says Duque. To that, transfer projects with credits with tranches not reimbursable for "about 250 million euros" are joined. There will also be a program to incorporate doctors into companies and centres of excellence for 20 million euros and innovative public procurement programs. "There will also be a fund involved with the European Investment Fund to leverage the monies of the Government of Spain. There would be between 20 and 40 million euros for proof of concept. In addition, there will be a fund shared with investment funds. We will try by all means that all the credits that we can dispose of reach the industries, "highlights Duque.

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