Poor Economy Encourages Scientists To Leave Spain

More than 40,000 scientists in Spain have signed a petition calling on their government to freeze budget cuts blamed for an exodus of the country's best and brightest researchers. As the Spanish government struggles to avoid a bailout, it has cut the number of university jobs and research grants.

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More than 40,000 scientists in Spain have signed a petition calling on the government to end cuts to their budget. They're blaming austerity for an exodus of the country's best and brightest researchers.

Lauren Frayer has more from Madrid.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Spanish spoken)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hundreds of lab-coated scientists delivered their petition to Spain's Economy Ministry. They marched there last week because the Science Ministry, itself, was closed in budget cuts.

Spanish universities are now allowed to fill only one in 10 jobs that open up. And researchers are still waiting for grant money due last January.

ANXO SANCHEZ: You don't have the money, you can't start the project. And this I am seeing all around me.

FRAYER: Anxo Sanchez is a math professor, who's seen his department gutted. And he worries if there will even be a next generation of Spanish scientists.

SANCHEZ: I feel that my research is going to suffer soon - both my research and my family. So far, I believe my kids are receiving a good education. But as more and more good university professors are leaving, this may not be the case anymore.

FRAYER: Research has been cut 40 percent in the past three years. Ruling conservatives are offering tax breaks to private sector labs instead. Marta Elvira is a management professor.

MARTA ELVIRA: There have been opportunities for partnerships. But obviously, that doesn't make up for the unavailability(ph) of public funds.

FRAYER: Elvira returned to Spain five years ago from California. Had she waited any longer, she says she probably wouldn't have found a job here.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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