Neither Santiago Ramón y Cajal nor Gregorio Marañón nor Juan de la Cierva. The National Research Awards, the most prestigious in Spanish science, will no longer bear the name of illustrious researchers in the country. From now on, these awards will only be named for the area for which they are awarded, such as Biology and Medicine or Technology Transfer. The reason, as explained by the Ministry of Science, is a restructuring of the areas that are convened, which go from ten to six. Juan de la Cierva will suffer even more penalties. If a few days ago he was left without an airport in Murcia due to the Historical Memory law, it is also likely that the postdoctoral scholarships that bear his name will no longer be called that. And it is not known what will happen to the Ramón y Cajal program. The explanation, similar and just as concise: changes in the aid provided for in the new law that Pedro Duque is finalizing. The result is that the tribute to some of the most important figures in Spanish science disappears.
The last delivery of the Research Awards was held on May 18 at a ceremony presided over by the Kings of Spain. At that time, the awards still bore names that are part of our history, for example, Alejandro Malaspina, protagonist of the famous expedition, in the area of Sciences and Technologies of natural resources; or Leonardo Torres Quevedo, the inventor of the modern catamaran, in the Engineering Department. However, those of the 2021 call, which will be delivered in 2022, will dispense with their memory.
The new awards, whose standards appear in the BOE since March, will be divided only into areas of knowledge, which are reduced to six to avoid “overlapping,” say the Ministry. The areas will be the following: Biology and Medicine; Chemical, Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Natural Resources, Materials and Earth Sciences; Engineering and Technology Transfer; Humanities and Social Sciences; and Information, Communications and Artificial Intelligence Technology. Each modality will have two categories: one recognizes the trajectory of the most veteran researchers and the other, a novelty, that of those under 40 who have achieved relevant achievements. In total, twelve prizes will be awarded.
The awards will only be named from now on by the name of the branch for which they are awarded.
Sources from the Ministry of Science point out that it is not the first time that the structure of the awards, created in 1982, has been changed, although they do not finish clarifying the reason why the names of prominent scientists and inventors are withdrawn. They allude to a mere matter of restructuring by areas. They recognize that, on occasion, they have considered including the name of a woman, since they are all male, but, finally, they will not take anyone’s name.
De la Cierva, outside of scholarships
One of the most affected is Juan de la Cierva, engineer of roads, channels and ports and inventor of the autogyro. He is not only expelled from the awards, but probably also from the postdoctoral fellowships that bear his name. These grants, divided into Training and Consolidation, will change with the future Science Law, which the Ministry of Pedro Duque provides. And with that, the name they receive, which seems to be more generic. The same fate could run the Ramón y Cajal program, although this point remains in the air, as its future is unknown, pending the introduction of new figures, such as the ‘tenure-track’, a different contractual type.
What is clear is that Juan de la Cierva has received everything except awards this year. The Ministry of Transport vetoed a few days ago that the International Airport of the Region of Murcia bears his name, as it is incompatible with the Historical Memory law.
As LA VERDAD reported yesterday, the ministerial decision is based on a controversial report, contributed by Ángel Viñas, which places the inventor among the participants of the 1936 coup d’état. Specifically, he is accused of being part of London, where he was based. , from “a small group of royalist conspirators, British and Spanish, against the Second Republic, who had great influence among right-wing circles.” In addition, the text maintains that he was “one of Mola’s agents to obtain weapons.” Other historians dismiss the report as “very imprecise” and a “impeachment.” Parties such as the PP and Ciudadanos have shown their rejection of what they have called an “ideological imposition” by the Pedro Sánchez government and have asked that the airport be called ‘Juan de la Cierva’, as requested by the regional executive.
Whatever the reason for the Ministry headed by Pedro Duque, the change has not gone down well with the scientific community. José Manuel Torralba, vice president of La Cosce, the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies, summed up his opinion in three words: “It seems unworthy to me. In any country that recognizes science, there is no shortage of recognition for its researchers and famous people. Here what little we have we erase. And it is done in a society that is unable to name three recognized Spanish scientists. The flag of our scientific imaginary is being carried. It is ignominious.
The professor of Microbiology and former president of the Higher Council for Scientific Research, César Nombela, believes that “removing relevant names from the history of Science and Technology in Spain is equivalent to amputating something of the most valuable that a society has.” In his opinion, new models of exemplarity should be promoted, “we have them”, instead of giving in “to the totalitarian temptation to erase collective memories.”
Joaquín Goyache, rector of the Complutense University of Madrid, describes the decision as “nonsense”. «It is a pride to have ‘Ramón y Cajal’ programs, which is one of the few Nobel prizes in Spain. It is a source of pride for our country and its name should be maintained and that line of support should be strengthened ».
«It seems absurd to me. It has no reason to be and what cannot be is to politicize science, “says Juan A. de Carlos, who has been fighting for decades so that the ‘Legado Cajal’, for which he is responsible, has the space it deserves and the museum that they promised. From Carlos, who is also a researcher at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology and Development of the Ramón y Cajal Institute, says: «This is nonsense. We should be proud of our scientists and not be ashamed of them for their alleged political ideas. Minister Duque should not consent to this.