Strategic Action on Health 2021: Better Salaries, A CIBER for Infectious Diseases and New Research Networks

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Strategic Action on Health 2021: Better Salaries, A CIBER for Infectious Diseases and New Research Networks

Further to a proposal by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, on Tuesday the Council of Ministers approved the agreement to allow the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) to launch the 2021 call for Strategic Action in Health (AES) funding applications for the amount of 134.4 million euros, 33.2% more than in 2020. This amount may be increased by 55 million euros once the EU recovery plan has been approved. The 2021 call for funding applications includes important developments in terms of salaries and promotion of network-based and cooperative research.

AES is Spain’s main tool for financing biomedical and health research through the annual award of different grants for the development of research projects and the recruitment of researchers. The overall objective of AES is to help promote public health and well-being and develop aspects relating to the prevention, diagnosis, cure, rehabilitation and palliative care of diseases, thereby enhancing the international competitiveness of the Navarre Health System (SNS) in terms of research, development and innovation.

AES 2021 includes important new developments that focus on the commitment to cooperative research as a cohesive force in high-quality, results-oriented health research and on salary recognition to accompany the promotion and protection of scientific talent.

Specifically, it gives fresh impetus to cooperative network-based research through two main actions: firstly, the creation of a new Biomedical Research Center (CIBER) for Infectious Diseases and, secondly, the creation of a new operating model for the Thematic Networks of Cooperative Research (RETICS), CIBER and cooperative networks.

CIBER and networks

With respect to the new CIBER for Infectious Diseases, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need to harness the country’s scientific excellence in infectious disease research through the creation of a specific CIBER. This CIBER, which will form part of the existing CIBER structure, will make it possible to obtain national structural funding for research on emerging infectious diseases such as Covid-19 and priority areas of research carried out by the ISCIII and SNS, such as HIV-AIDS and antimicrobial resistance.

The new AES also proposes a new organizational model for Thematic Networks of Cooperative Research (RETICS). Given the strength of the relationship between the different research groups that have long been involved in the current RETICS, the objective now is to develop their role as a cohesive force for SNS R&D and innovation activities through increased focus on specific health results and tangible outcomes for the public.

To that end, the AES is committed to providing results in four major areas of knowledge: primary care and chronic diseases; inflammation and immunobiology; advanced therapies; and stroke. Each of these four areas, which reflect some of this country’s top health priorities, will include research groups from at least 10 autonomous communities and will focus on achieving relevant, measurable health results through scientific cooperation in what is sure to be one of the largest territorial cohesion exercises aimed at transferring the value of SNS scientific activities to the public.

Better salaries

With respect to salary improvements for the research community, the amount of aid corresponding to the State Training Subprogram and to post-doctoral contracts is set to increase. Furthermore, salaries will not be fixed throughout the duration of the program, but will be adjusted in accordance with skill acquisition.

To that end, the gross salary for pre-doctoral contracts will be 20,600 euros for the first two years, but will increase to 21,800 euros in the third year and 26,900 euros in the fourth. In the case of Sara Borrell and Río Hortega postdoctoral contracts, the gross salary will increase from 26,600 euros in previous calls to 30,000 euros in the initial years and 35,000 euros in the final year of each of the programs. In addition, AES 2021 provides for the possibility of obtaining financing for business costs associated with recruiting people linked to research groups led by young people or by people recruited through Juan Rodés and Miguel Servet contracts.

The commitment to talent and protection of the scientific community, together with the requirement for researchers to produce concrete results, also call for measures to recognize commitment and personal effort. This need, which also became apparent during the pandemic, has accelerated the changes in salary recognition undertaken by the ISCIII in the last two years. Since then, the ISCIII has promoted the creation of stable jobs within the organizations that benefit from Miguel Servet contracts, and has protected people’s right to find work-life balance, among other actions.

Independent clinical research

Finally, after several years of successive calls, AES 2021 has consolidated the independent clinical research program as a single call to guarantee that this program becomes a regular feature of ISCIII’s annual calls. The aim of this commitment to research without an initial commercial interest, regardless of the short-term interests of pharmaceutical industry’s industrial divisions, is to provide financial support for drug projects developed within the scope of the SNS to ensure that they reach early clinical phases or to reposition drugs that are currently not commercially relevant and search for new therapeutic uses.

Source: ISCIII. 

More information: calls section. 

Novedades en la Acción Estratégica en Salud AES 2021