September 20, 2020

Ten giant steps of Spanish research in 40 years | Society

Ten giant steps of Spanish research in 40 years | Society

From cellular therapies to the calculations of the Mare Nostrum supercomputer, through the discoveries of Atapuerca, Spanish science has experienced a remarkable advance during the democratic stage thanks to the creation of a stable legal framework and the economic support to the research centers more important in the country. Astrophysicists, oncologists, physicists or genome researchers lead in Spain projects of international reference in their respective fields. Therefore, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the National Museum of Science and Technology of A Coruña dedicates an exhibition to the milestones of the national research in this period. The sample Science and tecnologin democracy, 40 years of researchn and innovationat the time of the Spanish Constitutionwave, Organized by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), it gathers the advances in research, technology and innovation throughout these four decades. And, at the same time, he recognizes another great struggle: that of the scientists working to achieve equality.

1. Science enters the Constitution

In 1975, the Spanish Nobel Prize for Medicine Severo Ochoa returned to Spain and founded the Center for Molecular Biology. An essential center until today for the study of the causes and mechanisms of human pathologies. Its director for years, a pioneering scientist in molecular biology in Spain, Margarita Salas, often remembers those beginnings as "very difficult moments". The Transition started, also for research. In 1978, the Constitution devotes a space to science and establishes the foundations by urging public authorities to promote it "for the benefit of the general interest." Recognizes and protects "scientific and technical production and creation", as well as literary and artistic, and includes "the promotion of science and technology at the same point where important rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of expression are guaranteed." of information ", as highlighted by one of the explanatory panels of the CDTI exhibition.

The initial path was not easy. The political crises frustrated the attempts to put science on the political agenda in the first moments, recalls the president of the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE), Nazario Martín. "The situation reached a critical point when Severo Ochoa, together with other Spanish scientists of international prestige, wrote a hard article in the press in 1980 denouncing the government's lack of attention to science," he says.

2. The legislative impulse

But after those hard beginnings, Spain enters the European Community in 1986 and passes page, also in research and technology, with the so-called Law of Science, the result of a very broad consensus. For the first time, science is placed on the Spanish political agenda , laying the foundations of research, its funding, organization and coordination among the different actors with competences.

The creation of the Carlos III Health Institute that same year started a huge network of public knowledge about health and research in the life sciences, which connects hospitals with universities, the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the company. It was based on an important structural deficit, explains Nazario Martín, who highlights the National Research Plan as one of the achievements of the law. "At the beginning of the eighties our country occupied the 30th position of the ranking world. Today we are among the top ten by number of scientific publications. It is difficult to find a country that has made such a spectacular journey in such a short time ", wrote the ex-Minister of Science, Cristina Garmendia, in EL PAÍS in 2015. Garmendia, biologist and businesswoman, premiered the Ministry of Science and Innovation in 2008 and during Its three-year mandate for research and development reached the highest levels of democracy, and in 2011 the second Law on Science was approved, which encourages sponsorship, patronage and private sector investment. organization of Spanish science with the European guidelines.

3. Tandleading techniques in biomedicine

While all these changes were taking place, Spain was beginning to successfully develop stem cell research projects, such as the first implant of cells to regenerate an infarcted heart of a 70-year-old patient in Navarra in 2002. The therapeutic possibilities of these biomedical investigations; the legal opening to allow them, which took place in 2004, placing Spain in the outpost together with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Sweden, and the fact of having excellent scientists in this field, such as Bernat Soria, made it possible for Spain take a giant step in this field. Research with stem cells, regenerative medicine and cell therapy are techniques that are providing important joys to Spanish teams. Recently, a cell therapy group from the Andalusian Center for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine (CABIMER) has developed a new drug, successfully tested in mice and in human cell cultures, which is capable of reversing the symptoms and causes of diabetes. Type 1.

4. Canary Islands, capital of the astrophilemusic

While biomedicine looks at microscopes, in La Palma they observe one of the most beautiful skies in the world with one of the most complete batteries of telescopes. With the opening in 1985 of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, linked to the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), the islands begin to be placed on the map of the world astrophysics for the quality of its sky for night observation and solar physics . Now it is known that the Canarian sky is one of the three best points of the globe to observe the stars, along with Hawaii and Chile. However, according to the IAC, "only Chile and the Canary Islands have an extensive and reliable database". This exceptionality for astronomical observation is protected even by law, the Law of Heaven of 1988, and is key to the candidacy of La Palma to host the TMT, the largest telescope in the northern hemisphere, which is disputed with Hawaii.

5. Antarctic research

The Spanish presence in the Antarctic is an aspiration long before the installation of a permanent base in this inhospitable and protected space in 1988. The claim of the Antarctic sighting for the Spanish navigator Gabriel de Castilla in 1603 has kept alive the interest of Spain to stay present in the Antarctic research, even though the certification of the discovery has not been achieved. Spain was placed at the level of the rest of the countries present in the frozen continent with its adhesion to the Antarctic Treaty in 1982. And that was the first step to install, six years later, in the Hurd peninsula of Livingston Island, the first Antarctic base permanent, the Juan Carlos I, dedicated to biological, climatological and geological research. It has recently undergone a reform and can now house up to fifty researchers. In 1989, the Gabriel de Castilla base, managed by the Army, was founded on Decepción Island. The oceanographic vessel Hespandrides offers logistical support to both.

6. The battle against cancer

The National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), a public institution created in 1998 for the research and treatment of cancer and directed by the biochemist and oncologist Mariano Barbacid, has been placed among the centers that lead the research of excellence. This summer, a team led by the CNIO revealed that the human genome could contain up to 20% fewer genes than previously believed. 15 years after genome sequencing, this research calls into question the number of real genes contained in human cells. And it gives an idea of ​​the solidity of his work, which is also key in the study of effective treatments for pancreatic cancer, the prevention of prostate cancer and clinical trials for breast cancer. The center has a molecular diagnostic unit, a biobank and a family cancer clinical unit for genetic counseling and surveillance of patients and families at higher risk of suffering from the disease. According to their data, in 2017 the CNIO researchers participated in 135 national and international projects of the highest level, financed in a competitive manner. Since 2011, it is chaired by the biologist María Blasco.

7. The scientists alsoandThere are no

In addition to Blasco, many other scientists began to see their work recognized in 2002, when the CSIC created, in a pioneering way, the Women and Science commission to support its researchers, reduce the glass ceiling and the so-called Matilda effect, a prejudice against the recognition of the achievements of women scientists, whose work has been attributed to their male colleagues on numerous occasions. Thus, the CSIC takes a big step to equalize the work of men and women in Spanish science. And it also gives an example to the world, where there are only 28% of women scientists, according to Unesco. The figure rises to 32% in Europe and the United States, while in Spain it stands at 39.12%. According to the INE, of the 126,633 researchers in the national territory less than half (49,541) are women. "As a researcher and the first woman presiding over the CSIC, I know the importance of equality in a research organization," he says in the report. Women Researchers of the CSIC 2018 its president since 2017, Rosa Menéndez.

8. Atapuerca, the door to the past

If the scientific woman struggles to win her place, the Atapuerca site has already conquered the world. World Heritage since 1997, the deposits of the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos) are considered the most important when it comes to understanding human evolution. Although they began their excavations in 1975, the most important discoveries of the team of Juan Luis Arsuaga, Eudald Carbonell and José María Bermúdez de Castro arrived in the nineties: Elvis, a complete pelvis; the skull 5 Miguelon, the best preserved fossil record of the Homo heidelbergensis, found in the Sima de los Huesos; the bifaz ax Excalibur.. And the finding that altered the calendar of Prehistory: the remains of Homo antecessor found in the level 6 of the deposit of the Great Dolina, that advanced to 800,000 years the human presence in the planet, until then dated in 400,000 years. In 2007, a mandible was also found in the Sima del Elefante dating to around 1,200,000 years, considered to be the oldest remains in Western Europe. The result of the investigations and excavations carried out there for forty years have placed Spain at the top of world paleontology.

9. The supercomputer MareNostrum

And from archaeological sites to computing and the management of life in the future. Since 2005, Spain has one of the most powerful artificial brains in the world at the National Supercomputing Center of Barcelona (CNS), MareNostrum, available for the international scientific community. It is the most powerful supercomputer in Spain, the third fastest in Europe and the sixteenth in the world, according to the specialized list TOP500 (November 2017). It has already received four updates and hosts a variety of key Spanish and international research in the management of current and future life. Some of them are the control of air quality, the prediction of climate change, the optimization of transport or smart cities, the storage and transmission of clinical data, simulations of the cardiovascular system or the respiratory system …

10. The recoveryn of the lynx ibandrich

In the world managed by large computers and artificial intelligence, research has also achieved milestones by protecting natural life and saving from its disappearance a unique species in the world: the Iberian lynx.

One of the Iberian lynxes protected within the recovery programs that are carried out in Spain.
One of the Iberian lynxes protected within the recovery programs that are carried out in Spain.

In 2002 there were only 94 individuals left in freedom distributed in two towns in Doñana and Sierra Morena. Three years later, at the captive breeding center of El Acebuche, in Doñana (Huelva), Saliega, A three year old lynx female captured in Sierra Morena, only three cubs. The Iberlince project, led by the scientist Miguel Ángel Simón and promoted by 22 administrations of Spain, Portugal and private partners, has managed to multiply the number of copies in the Iberian Peninsula by five, up to 547. If before there were only populations in Doñana and Sierra Morena, in 2017 new ones had been established in Badajoz, Toledo, Ciudad Real and in the Portuguese area of ​​the Guadiana valley.

Although there are still many pending challenges, Spain has taken important steps to place its scientific research on the international scene during these four decades. Therefore, between December 4 and January 20, the CDTI exhibition aims to transmit to society the economic, business, industrial, cultural and social progress under the forty years of life of the Spanish Constitution.

'40 years of research and innovation at the time of the Spanish Constitution '

Ten giant steps of Spanish research in 40 years
  • Place: National Museum of Science and Technology of A Coruña.
  • Dates: from December 4, 2018 to January 20, 2019.
  • The exhibition will have a panel dedicated to the theme Women and Science, prepared by the young disseminator Elena Turrión, who explains the relevant work of Spanish scientists throughout history in disciplines as diverse as biology, biochemistry, oceanography, physics, mathematics or astrophysics.
  • The curator of the exhibition is Ignacio A. Llorente, a journalist specializing in communication and dissemination of science and technology and currently director of communication Center for Industrial Technological Development.


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