Not enough qualified people for all the science projects in hand – science minister
“Employment opportunities” in the science industry in Portugal “have never been so many”, particularly for researchers, said the minister of science and technology on Tuesday.
Elvira Fortunato was participating in the 10th GraPe (Portuguese Graduates Abroad) Forum, which took place online, and served to encourage the country’s qualified youth to return or remain in Portugal.
“We are currently facing a problem … we don’t have enough qualified people for all the projects we will have in hand (…) There are a number of initiatives that the government will provide, but by tender,” stressed Fortunato.
The minister stressed that all researchers are “invited to return”, with Portugal offering the tools, through higher education institutions, research centres or collaborative laboratories.
“Obviously, they are all welcome. There is no specific quota. Opportunities will be launched by tender, and the hiring is done based on CVs and professional experience,” he said.
Precarity of research careers
Musicologist and researcher Inês Thomas Almeida told Lusa news agency that there is an “immense precariousness in research“. After living in Germany for 13 years, she admitted that, in her case, it was her family that encouraged her to return (to Portugal).
“It is extremely difficult” to pursue a career in research, she said, “because there is precariousness, not only linked to the length of employment contracts, but also to the difficulty in accessing employment contracts,” she stressed, adding that researchers are “neither protected nor supported“.
The minister of science and technology stressed that “it is only possible to compare what is comparable“.
“If we look at the Portuguese Gross Domestic Product [GDP], it has nothing to do with the GDP of the UK. (…) In other countries, there are more grants, there is more investment in science,” she pointed out.
“There has never been such a big bet on researchers as in recent years. I think ‘precariousness’ is not the most correct term. There is, though, a lack of investment in laboratories, infrastructure and equipment. That is true,” admitted Elvira Fortunato.
Ana Antunes, head of international relations and scientific events of Mabdesign, an association of the French biomedicine industry, said Portugal had to be prepared for the “digital nomads” that increasingly exist in the country.
“It’s a reality that came with the pandemic and will continue. It is important that there is clarification about the duties and rights of workers who have contracts abroad, and not only in Portugal. The other difficulty is at the administrative and fiscal level (…) It is not always easy to access information,” she pointed out, adding also the differences in the health system.
Ricardo Henriques, director of the research laboratory at the Gulbenkian Science Institute, highlighted the “friendly and extremely competent” scientific community existing in Portugal, a country where “very good science is done, with very little support”.