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Higgs and Englert back Spanish concerns about austerity measures

The parents of the Higgs Boson, Peter Higgs and François Englert, winners of the Physics Nobel Prize this year believe that the cuts in research in Spain will lead the country to lose its place at the forefront of science and a more intolerant society.

During the last three years, the Spanish government budget devoted to research and development has been reduced by 37%; and 25% of that cut was made during 2012.  The voices of the Nobel Prize-winning physicists are not the first, but perhaps are the ones with most international recognition, however the concern is shared by scientists, teachers, students and the wider society. This was shown by the general education strike that took place in Spain the last 24th of September to protest against the cuts in this sector that have resulted in the loss of quality and efficiency in education and investigation.

The Higgs Boson parents were awarded last month with one of the largest awards in Spain, the Prince of Asturias Prize in science, and they used their visit to Spain for the award ceremony to speak out about the risks of the cuts that the country is making in R & D. Higgs stated during the press conference prior to the awards that research cuts will jeopardize the progress made in the country over the last 30 years to catch up with the rest of Europe in the scientific field, and he remarked that it would be a shame for Spain to fall behind again.

Meanwhile, his colleague Englert emphasized the importance of science and its dissemination through education; two fields that have suffered deep cuts in recent years in Spain. The physicist remarked the role of education and science had been a barrier against intolerance,  giving people the ability to achieve rationality, and pushing away old irrational and intolerant thoughts that were actually harmful for Spain and Europe in the past. Achievements he argued may be threatened by a drop in the quality of education in the country.

The Nobel Prize winners’ concerns shows that the international scientific community, Spanish students, academics and society, all share a common concern about the effects that the budget cuts might cause in the short and long term future of the country. Sharing the common idea that education and research are the building blocks towards the end of the economic crisis and increased development of the country, the calls for attention to the government asking for a more rational austerity system are numerous.

Thanks to the Higgs Boson’s international recognition, amid the large number of news stories that the media shows daily about the cuts that are affecting many different sectors in Spain, the parents of the Higgs Boson have made local, national and international media as: La Nueva España, El Diario or La Jornada, lay their eyes on the importance of R & D and education. They have been successful in counteracting the lack of attention that Spanish scientists and academics have received in the past when warning the country about the high risks of reducing the budgets in these fields.

Edited and Translated by Aida Peláez

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