Spain shuns Europe’s top physicist

A Spanish scientist has been voted as the best in Europe on the same day that a Spanish government committee rejected his CV as "not good enough".

Spain shuns Europe's top physicist
The Large Hadron Collider: secrets of the Universe are simpler to explain than Spanish committee decisions. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/FILES/AFP

The best young physicist in Europe is Spanish… but Spain doesn't want him.

Diego Martínez Santos, a 30-year-old Galician scientist, was delighted to be recognized as the best young experimental  physicist in Europe by the European Physics Society (EPS), reported local daily La Voz de Galicia.

Unfortunately, his dream of returning to work in Spain was shattered on the same day.

Martínez Santos has a three-year contract with Holland's highly regarded National Institute for Subatomic Physics but had applied to return to his homeland through the Ramón y Cajal programme, coordinated by the Secretary of State for Scientific Research.

Just after receiving the good news about his award, Sanchez Martínez was informed that his application had been turned down by a committee of experts on the grounds that his CV was not good enough.

The EPS prize, awarded every four years, was won by Martínez Santos for his work in CERN's Large Hadron Collider on the LHCb experiment which explores what happened after the Big Bang and deepens the understanding of the Standard Model of physics.

His work studying subatomic particles known as 'strange beauty mesons' explored a difference in the balance between matter and antimatter which could have led to the matter-dominated Universe that exists today.

The Ramón y Cajal rejection was met with bewilderment by Martínez Sanchez's colleagues in the scientific community.

Carlos Pajares, CERN's delegate in Spain, hoped that the decision could be overturned and added: "The commission that looked at, or rather didn't look at, his CV, perhaps preferred an older researcher who might not get another chance to access the Ramón y Cajal programme."

"But it is incomprehensible that they could say that he is not good enough."

Juan José Saborido Silvia, coordinator of the Atlas High Energies group at Santiago University, where Martínez Santos wrote his thesis, claimed that, "a person with a serious reputation in Europe is not valued in Spain."

Spain's attitude to science came under fire recently when Finance Minister Luís de Guindos's  claim to have shielded research from cuts was met with widespread rebuttals from the scientific community.

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