Maria Blasco. /CNIO
In January 2019, the Director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Maria A. Blasco, took office as Vice-chair of SOMMa. SOMMa is an alliance that encompasses the Severo Ochoa Centres of Excellence and the María de Maeztu Units of Excellence. The appointment of Blasco was actually done at the SOMMa General Assembly on 16 November 2018, held at CNIO. Blasco, who succeeded former Vice-President of SOMMa and Director of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, Teresa Garcia-Milà, will be in office for two years.
“I am greatly honoured to join the coordinating team at SOMMa as Vice-chair, a position in which Garcia-Milà has done an admirable job,” says Maria A. Blasco. “I will work together with the team on the effective implementation of the measures SOMMa has proposed to improve the administrative management of Spanish science, to boost its competitiveness and ensure its continuity in the long run”.
Luis Serrano, Director del Centre de Regulació Genòmica (CRG) and current SOMMa Chair, explains: “At SOMMa, we received with sadness the farewell of Teresa Garcia-Milà as Vice-chair, as she has held this position since its inception and has contributed greatly to the launch and success of the alliance. It is an honour and a privilege that a researcher of such high level as Maria A. Blasco has agreed to take over this role, and I am confident that together we will form an excellent team that will help push for science to improve and receive more support in our country”.
The General Assembly also approved the creation of the office of Deputy Vice-chair whose head will be announced soon.
The Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu excellence accreditations are the greatest institutional recognition to scientific research in Spain. The selection and evaluation of research centres and units is carried out by an independent international committee of renowned scientists. Holders of the excellence accreditations cover a wide range of scientific disciplines, from physics and mathematics to environmental and life sciences, and including humanities as well.
In 2017, these centres established SOMMa, an alliance that has become a magnet for scientific talent in Spain – a think tank whose primary goal is to boost visibility of Spanish research as a sustainable ecosystem of excellence. First and foremost, SOMMa aims at creating a stable environment for Spanish science, and promoting and strengthening its economic and social impact, contacting policymakers and contributing ideas for relevant laws and regulations.
At the General Assembly held in November, the final resolution of the Severo Ochoa-María de Maeztu programme for 2018 came into effect. By virtue of this resolution, the applications submitted by the centres interested in joining the alliance were accepted, so that currently there are 48 SOMMa Centres and Units of Excellence.
The day before the meeting, representatives of the SOMMa centres met at CNIO, in an event co-organised by the Centre and SOMMa itself, to hold the 3rd 100xCiencia.3: Bridging Science and Society Congress (the 1st since the alliance was established), which gathered politicians from different parties, science journalists and representatives of patient associations.
In presence of the Secretary General for Scientific Policy at the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, Rafael Rodrigo, a panel entitled ‘Scientists and science policy together for society’ gathered members of the science commission of the Spanish House Of Commons (representatives of political parties as PSOE, PP, Podemos, Ciudadanos and PdCat). They discussed the strengths and weaknesses of domestic science policies, and agreed on the need to implement measures as soon as possible to cut through red tape in order to improve the Spanish science and innovation system.
At the same event, Robert Huber, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, delivered a keynote speech. Renowned science journalists discussed the role of the media as channeling agents of science. Finally, there was a panel with the participation of representatives of CNIO, IrsiCaixa, the Patients Organisation Platform, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), and the Science Department of “La Caixa” Foundation, who addressed the importance of empowering stakeholders from civil society in scientific matters.