Presentation of the 2019 IUNE Observatory report on university R+D+i

The growth in research carried out within the framework of the Spanish University System (SUE in the Spanish acronym) has slowed since 2003, according to the conclusions of the latest annual report on university R + D + i drawn up by IUNE, an observatory of the 4U Alliance (the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra ).

The 2019 IUNE annual report is part of the sixth edition of the IUNE Observatory and it covers the activities of public and private Spanish universities during the period from 2008 to 2017. Broadly speaking, this look back at the last six years reports shows that the Spanish University System (SUE) is becoming progressively weaker as regards the most significant indicators of scientific activity, such as the evolution of public spending on university education and the dedicated human resources, among others.

The evolution of Public Spending on University Education (obtained from the historic sets of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training) shows that university education grew at an average annual rate of 1.47% in the period between 2003 and 2010. Since then, the growth rate has been decreasing, standing at 0.93% for the decade from 2006 to 2015 (IUNE2017). In both the previous and the current editions of the IUNE Review – in the middle of the economic crisis - negative growth has been reported, down to an average of -1.16% per year in the current edition (IUNE2019).

As for human resources, the number of lecturers grew at an average annual rate of 1.47% in the decade from 2003 to 2012, compared with 0.71% in the decade from 2008 to 2017. The same trend is reported in the SUE publications gathered in the Web of Science (WoS) database, which show a decrease of more than three percentage points in the annual growth rate between the first and most recent decades analysed (8.73% versus 5.3%).

In terms of productivity, average annual growth per decade has also decreased (from the 7.15% per year reported in IUNE 14 to 4.55% in the current edition), although the number of papers per lecturer has grown steadily over the years, from 0.39 papers per lecturer in 2003 to 0.85 in 2017. "This may be due to the plateauing as regards the number of lecturers compared to the growth in the number of publications," the authors of the report explain.

Annual growth in the number of papers published as international collaborations fell two percentage points between the first and most recent decades analysed, from 10.87% to 8.73%. The impact indicator has also been affected, since the number of papers published in first-quartile journals (the most prestigious in each field) has decreased by four points, from a previous growth rate of 10.71% to the current rate of 6.52%.

Publications by subject field

The sixth edition of the IUNE Observatory includes  the activity of public and private Spanish universities during the period from 2008 to 2017. Broadly speaking, this look back at the last six years reports shows that the Spanish University System (SUE) is becoming progressively weaker as regards the most significant indicators of scientific activity, such as the evolution of public spending on university education and the dedicated human resources, among others.

The most active subject field is that of the Experimental Sciences, which publishes 37.36% of the SUE total, followed by Medicine and Pharmacology with 29.97%. An analysis of the evolution of the different subject fields shows that those that showed most significant growth were Arts and Humanities with 185.03%, followed by Social Sciences with 133.38%.

In terms of the Autonomous Communities, Catalonia was once again the most productive, with a total of 120,141 publications (25.48% of the SUE total). It is followed by the Community of Madrid with 19.86% of the SUE output, and Andalusia with 16.08%.

A total of 4,936 patents were granted by the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (OEPM in the Spanish acronym) in the ten years between 2008 and 2017, with a cumulative average growth of 5.29%, down from the previous decade’s 7.37%.

In terms of attracting talent, Spanish universities have lost 25.68% of their Ramón y Cajal contracts, although Juan de la Cierva contracts have increased by 37.57%.

The number of FPU (University Teacher Training) contracts fell from 3,384 in 2008 to 594 in 2009, a decrease of 82.4%. Since then average annual growth has been 1.85%, with 688 contracts in 2017, which represents a fall of 79.66% compared to 2008. As regards FPI (Research Staff Training) contracts, the total for the period numbers 6,299, falling from 652 in 2008 to 624 in 2017, a decrease of 4.29%. The average since 2013 is around 593 scholarships/annual contracts.

Full report 

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