Diana Morant, a praised and little-known minister who assumes extra powers | Science | EUROtoday

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Diana Morant (Gandía, 1980), who repeats as Minister of Science and provides Universities within the new legislature that’s now beginning, has recalled on a number of events a message that her mom despatched her when she was appointed Minister: “Your grandfather was a driver and you are now “You have a driver.” The candor of the revelation shocks some progressives who faux to consider that those that rule and people who serve are equal, nevertheless it displays a standard thought amongst Morant’s dad and mom’ technology. If you tried exhausting, you’ll stay higher than your dad and mom and provides your kids alternatives that they by no means had. In the identical interview the place he informed the anecdote of the message, Morant accomplished his socialist thought of ​​a meritocracy that he now rejects in tutorial circles: “I want to continue being the person who grew up in a simple family and, thanks to the efforts of his family, , has become a minister. That’s why I want all people to have the same opportunities that I have had.”

Morant had a different profile than his predecessors. She is a telecommunications engineer, but she had not worked in research nor had she held responsibilities in innovative companies, such as Cristina Garmendia or Carmen Vela. After three years of work experience in the R&D department of a company in her city, Alhena Engineering, in 2011 she became a councilor of the Gandia city council for the PSOE, and in 2015 she became mayor. She arrived as a professional politician in a very technical Ministry to replace Pedro Duque, a minister allergic to politics and with the aura of wisdom that surrounds astronauts.

During her first weeks as minister, she attracted some attention by insisting on her personal story, of a woman from a humble family who manages to reach the top thanks to public education promoted by socialist governments. Shortly after, with the first results of the CIS, she began to accept the nature of the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Like the La 2 documentaries, she is always among the highest-rated ministers, but she is the least known, according to the survey data. Although it was assumed that her appointment would serve as a platform to later run for the presidency of the Valencian Generalitat, she was in the ministry from which it is most difficult to do politics to appear on television.

One of the sources consulted for this profile values ​​her as “politically skilled.” “She has that magnetism that good politicians have and that ability to remember faces and names so that everyone feels recognized,” she explains. In her first time period in Gandia, she got here to energy regardless of being second with nearly half as many councilors because the PP, agreeing with the remainder of town council teams. That negotiating talent helped her unblock the reform of the Science Law and approve it with out votes in opposition to in Congress, considered one of her successes in these two years.

This reform, which creates several types of more stable contracts for researchers and technologists, has caused it to receive a positive assessment from associations such as FJI Precarios. “The deal has been better and more fruitful than with the Ministry of Universities and during the Pedro Duque era,” says Francisco Palazón, spokesperson for the Federation of Young Researchers (FJI). One of the keys to this good treatment with researchers is the role of the Secretary General of Research, Raquel Yotti, former director of the Carlos III Institute, the institution that finances biomedical research in Spain, and on which Morant has relied to supplement their lack of experience and technical knowledge in the matter.

Boosted by European money from post-covid recovery plans, the R&D&i budget grew by 60% in 2021, with Duque leading the ministry. The record figure was surpassed a year later and Morant can boast of the approval of the largest budgets for science and innovation in the history of Spain. As has happened on other occasions, these sudden increases can turn into frustration and mistrust if, when the European supplement disappears, shortages return. From Science and Innovation they recognize that avoiding or mitigating this step backwards is one of their challenges for the next legislature.

The abundance provided by European funds is behind, according to almost all the sources consulted, the good image that Morant has, in addition to the aforementioned capacity for dialogue and negotiation. However, of the two areas that the minister has had to manage, there is a favorite. Science, financed mainly by public subsidies, is closer to its political sensitivity than innovation, which occurs in the private sphere. “He doesn’t like going to lunch or dinner with people from private companies to hang out,” says one of the people consulted.

This coldness has been noticed by these business representatives, who, although satisfied with the rain of money, believe that European funds could have been used to modernize the system and bet on innovative companies that could convert science into technological applications made in Spain. “Coffee has been given to everyone, without prioritizing innovative sectors that support the system and that contribute when we no longer have European money to distribute,” laments a business representative. “At a time with greater investment they could have been more creative, on issues such as innovative public procurement or sandbox [ambientes experimentales para el desarrollo de modelos de negocios innovadores], but they have followed the path and other ministries have taken the lead,” explains another innovation expert. “But the world of science is more combative, and those of innovation, as long as they are not harmed, are not going to write tribunes complaining,” he justifies.

There is a moment in his previous mandate, referred to by several attendees, that clashed in an area accustomed to other types of ministers. On June 20 of this year, shortly before the elections, Morant participated in the presentation of the Asebio report (Spanish Association of Biocompanies), which presents data on the biotechnology industry in Spain. After highlighting the achievements of his government, something common, he warned: “Today I have to tell you that all this is at risk, I fear for what has been built and I am not the only one.” And he began to give reasons why Núñez Feijóo and the Popular Party were a danger to science and innovation. “The speech was very bad, she made a completely political speech in a place where science is usually talked about, she seemed like a minister from another branch or a mayor,” says one of those present. “It was a brutal mistake, not understanding where she was,” he says.

Two years later, Morant remains the least known minister in Spain (with the exception of Héctor Gómez, of Industry, appointed shortly before the elections), but also one of the best valued. She “would love to have more focus, but she was afraid of making mistakes and she has been conservative; “She has often bitten her tongue to avoid getting into puddles,” comments a close person. “She has been a friendly face who came with money and friendly reforms for science, she has gone down better than someone outside the system could have gone down a priori,” says someone very well connected to the system.

Its continuity indicates that President Pedro Sánchez is also satisfied with his work. For the next legislature he will have to fight to maintain funding for his Ministry, approve a space law and reduce the bureaucracy that suffocates scientists seeking funding for his projects. He also adds the challenges of the Universities, where his biggest challenge is to convince the regional governments to finance the LOSU (Organic Law of the University System), he reports. Elisa Silió. The first calculations indicate that 3.1 billion more will be needed each year so that the standard can be applied (dignify staff, attract talent and means to investigate). Furthermore, a new organization of the departments, a controversial issue, was even presented as a draft royal decree, but was paralyzed by the elections. Morant will continue to fly low, but surely, although perhaps more attractive challenges for a professional politician will come in the future.

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