We, the Spanish Federation of Early-career Researchers’ Associations (FJI/Precarios; founding member of Eurodoc), here report the aftermath of #MarchaporlaCiencia #EnMarcha19O, an awareness campaign that culminated in a ‘March for Science’ in Madrid on 19th October 2019, amidst an electoral campaign. Detailed commentary about the sociopolitical context leading up to it can be found in a previous article.
After two months of campaign, 40 other entities joined us: scientific societies and associations, workers’ unions (including the two biggest in Spain, UGT and CCOO), the National Youth Council, several civic platforms and some NGOs. Additionally, our Change.org petition gathered almost 100,000 signatures in support.
Just a week before the demonstration, the mainstream media finally picked up on us. FJI/Precarios activists were interviewed in the main national newspapers (El País, eldiario.es, El Mundo, El Confidencial, Infolibre, La Vanguardia and many others), radio channels (Cadena SER, Onda Cero, etc), as well as by many regional media outlets. Our coverage escalated notably after our success in motivating the international news agency EFE to relay our campaign to aforementioned the media platforms. We even sought the support of social media influencers. No front was left unattended.
FJI/Precarios leveraged this media exposure to put pressure on the political parties running for the upcoming general elections. Hence, our new goal was to have their signature in our manifesto, to ensure that irrespective of the elections result, all parties would have to compromise to carry out the basic reforms that the Spanish R&D system urgently needs. This was not an easy task, since we required all major parties as signatories; and the ruling party was proving a particularly hard nut to crack.
And D-day arrived! We dispatched free buses from several cities to bring protesters to Madrid. The image of hundreds of R&D workers marching through the streets of the capital featured in all the headlines that day. Even TV broadcasters made field reports and interviews for the national news (Televisión Española, La Sexta, etc). Finally, we received the long-awaited call. The ruling party informed us that they were sending no less than a State Secretary to sign our manifesto on their behalf. We had them all! Once the march arrived at the gates of the National Parliament, we read the manifesto aloud. Members of Parliament from the main political families then signed it, including PSOE (S&D), Partido Popular (EPP), Unidas Podemos (GUE/NGL), Ciudadanos (ALDE) and Más País (Greens). Only the far-right and the nationalist parties turned their backs on this overarching political agreement.
Science has now become a hot topic in the electoral debate. Presidential candidates made declarations and tweeted in support of our cause. In the following days, national and regional media persistently broadcast about the problems in Spanish science. Our message is out, loud and clear. Furthermore, we have now attained a ratified compromise that will serve as a framework for the negotiations to follow the general elections. Thus, the initial aims of #MarchaporlaCiencia #EnMarcha19O have been substantially surpassed.
FJI/Precarios would like to thank all the people that made this success possible, with special regards to our local member INNOVA Salamanca, an ECR association from a little city in the periphery of Spain. They conceived this whole campaign and did a lot of the heavy lifting. Next week after the march, even the Ministry of Science himself visited Salamanca and acknowledged INNOVA’s great endeavours at the beginning of a public speech. This offers a powerful and encouraging lesson for all the grassroots assemblies in Eurodoc: you don’t have to reside in a large European capital or form part of a renowned university to make a difference in your country. Any of us can prompt immeasurable changes in our national context, provided the will and the organization to do so.
Guillermo Varela Carbajal, Spanish Delegate (FJI/Precarios) and Eurodoc General Board Member.