By ABIC, a young scientists organization of Portugal affiliated to WFSW.

The current Portuguese and European context, characterized by severe economic and social issues, has brought, besides difficulties, numerous challenges to all sectors of our society. Science is no exception to this scenario. Despite the crucial role science plays in human and social development, we are witnessing a lack of strategy and a growing disinvestment in the Portuguese National Science and Technology System (NSTS). This disinvestment and lack of strategy are apparent in the underfunding of Research and Development (R&D) Institutions, and in the degradation of the working conditions of those who do Science. The key role Science plays in Portugal’s development and in its ability to solve current economic and social problems has been severely compromised. We hereby appeal to a sense of planning, strategy, and funding for Science in Portugal, which must agree with the country’s needs in these troubled times.

The hard times we live in highlight even more the role of universities in qualifying citizens that more effectively contribute to the economic and social development of Portugal. We cannot accept that universities see undermined their ability, not only to contribute to training and scientific development, but also to formulate and disseminate critical thinking. Furthermore, R&D institutions should not be held hostage to a style of management favoring widespread cuts in its funding, and based on the paradigm of scientific mass production and oriented towards the production of impact indicators. The development of Science cannot be dissociated from the promotion of change and the democratization of knowledge. Financial constraints to the functioning of universities, as well as scientific institutions and workers, impose serious obstacles to the full development of Science’s functions.

The current economic model of low investment in Science and in its human resources hopelessly condemns the renewal of the NSTS with new generations, as well as the prospects these generations might have of, one day, being integrated in the NSTS. This situation was exacerbated by the recent cuts in the number of PhD and post-doctorate fellowships given by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, the Portuguese national funding agency for Science, research and technology). Such circumstances result in a serious threat to Portugal’s scientific knowledge legacy. For the coming generations, this will potentially result in conforming to existing logics with no guarantee of the diversity and adjustment needed for the future.

The disinvestment in scientific research mirrors the disinvestment in the ability to find solutions to our everyday problems, whether they are of technological, environmental, social or political nature. To invest in Science is vital for the relaunching of an economy and society based on knowledge that places citizens at the heart of ongoing debates.
In this context, it is of extreme importance to commit to a model of economically sustainable development, which forcibly requires the strengthening of the NSTS as advocated by the EU growth strategy Europa 2020. The lack of investment in the NSTS infrastructures and R&D units weakens their internationalization ability. In addition, it is crucial to recognize the importance of qualifying and stabilizing human resources in scientific research and of dignifying their working conditions, as advocated by the European Charter for Researchers. Therefore, we consider that the improvement of the working and social conditions of those who do Science is of key importance. All researchers, whatever their degree or status, should be recognized as workers and be given freedom of action and debate. For these reasons, we advocate a different policy for Science.

The open letter can be signed by individuals and organizations at:
http://cartaaberta.pt.vu/

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