Spanish researchers petition for taxpayer donations

Spanish scientists have collected more than 32,000 signatures in less than a week in support of a petition that urges Spain’s tax authority to adopt a novel way of raising funds for research: adding a checkbox to income tax forms that would allow taxpayers to direct 0.7% of their contribution to science.

The petition, launched on 3 January, responds to the announcement at the end of December that Spain’s research budget would lose €600 million. In an editorial last month, Nature called for Spain, Italy, and Greece to reinforce their science budgets.

Yet Spain’s new government announced last month that it would fold its short-lived science ministry into the economy ministry and soon after confirmed the third straight year of budget cuts.

Neuroscience graduate student Francisco J. Hernández of the University of Cambridge, UK, whose blog post inspired the petition, says he knows of no other country which allows individual taxpayers to boost science funding through its tax form. But the United States allows taxpayers to allocate $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund by checking a box on their income tax return, and Spanish taxpayers can already choose whether 0.7% of their income tax will go to the Catholic Church or various social organisations. “I imagine the checkbox in favor of the Church and other causes is a Spanish peculiarity,” Hernández told Nature. The Catholic Church in Spain collected around €249 million from the tax form checkbox last year, according to Spanish newspaper Público.

Hernández’ post struck a chord with his readers. One of them, Miguel Ángel de la Gente, a secondary school teacher in Espejo, Spain, took the blog post and turned it into a petition on , a Spanish petition-hosting website, which will send a letter including all signatures gathered by 1 February to Spain’s tax minister. Another reader created a Facebook group to promote the petition, while yet another noted that a different page devoted to the same cause already existed.

“The objective I set myself with the proposal was to call attention to Spain’s battered science,” Hernández says, “and I think we’ve added our grain of sand there.”

This item first appeared on Nature’s news blog: [html]