The similar man in cost for many years: the 'monarchy' of elite science facilities | Science | EUROtoday

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Some of probably the most avant-garde scientific facilities in Spain are ruled by a paradoxically very outdated system: the identical man in cost for many years. Doctor Bonaventura Clotet has directed the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute since its creation 29 years in the past in Badalona. The physicist Pedro Miguel Echenique has presided over the Donostia International Physics Center since day one, 1 / 4 of a century in the past. Chemist Eugenio Coronado has ruled the Institute of Molecular Science of Valencia since its opening 24 years in the past. And they don’t seem to be exceptions. Some of probably the most revolutionary facilities have reinvented a form of monarchy.

Chemist Laura Lechuga, 61, remembers that many of those facilities have been created on the fringe of the twenty first century, with prestigious scientists on the helm. “The problem is that they never considered the length of the term of office of the same director. This has given rise to the fact that, in practice, there is never a change of director and the majority of them remain in the position between 15 and 20 years, even 30 years,” displays Lechuga, group chief on the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. , in Barcelona. “The worst effect of these eternal mandates is that there are no women directors. I would say that only 1% or 2% of these centers are or have been run by a woman. In the XXI century. “It's incredible,” laments the chemist, winner of the National Research Award in 2020.

The knowledge is revealing. Three years in the past, the biologist Marga Nadal was the one feminine director of the 41 Research Centers of Catalonia (CERCA), the our bodies of excellence of the Generalitat. She was the two%. Nadal, in control of the Girona Biomedical Research Institute, explains that these facilities are ruled by boards of trustees, made up of politicians and senior officers from hospitals and universities. They are those who select the director. “They can fire me tomorrow or they can fire me in 20 years, it's like that,” Nadal summarizes, in favor of building 4 or 5 12 months phrases, renewable for as many. “Being there for more than 10 years is bad. And staying for more than three years can also be bad. If you don't have a project, go home. You should go, not wait for them to kick you out,” she says.

The man who has directed the CERCA facilities since 2011, biologist Lluís Rovira, raised eyebrows with some statements on February 1. “My experience is that directors often [hombres] “They are authoritarian and have very strong egos, although you also find some friendly ones with whom you can talk normally,” he stated in an interview with the newspaper The Point Today. The Minister of Research and Universities of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Joaquim Nadal, dismissed Rovira on February 15 “to give a boost to the institution”, as CERCA sources confirm to this newspaper. A spokesperson for the Ministry explains that the decision was already planned and has nothing to do with criticism of the alleged authoritarianism of some directors. Rovira, a supporter of rotations, has declined to speak with EL PAÍS.

The physicist Lluís Torner explains that he alone founded the now leading Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), in the Barcelona town of Castelldefels, in 2002. He has been in charge for 22 years, but he believes that “it should not last forever” and asked months ago its replacement. “I started alone. The ICFO had only one person. I was the director and I directed myself. And now we are 450″, he celebrates. Torner rejects indefinite positions, but supports long terms in centers under construction, even 30 years if there are periodic evaluations, as has happened in his case every four years. “As an example and without wanting to compare it, it is as if Columbus's expedition went to Cuba and they changed the commander in the Azores. What the Greeks did, if his general did not work in the battles against the Persians, was to liquidate him upon his return to Athens, but not along the way,” he argues. The physicist Oriol Romero-Isart, 42, would be the new director as of September 1, as confirmed by Torner.

The physicist Lluís Torner, in the front row with a blue tie, with his team from the Institute of Photonic Sciences, in Castelldefels, in 2014.
The physicist Lluís Torner, within the entrance row with a blue tie, along with his group from the Institute of Photonic Sciences, in Castelldefels, in 2014.ICFO

Some of the most recent modifications in these facilities of excellence present the perpetuation in positions. Civil engineer Eugenio Oñate left the route of the International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering in Barcelona in 2022, after 35 years on the helm. Doctor Lluís Blanch is awaiting his alternative on the Parc Taulí Research and Innovation Institute, in Sabadell, after 21 years as director. The overwhelming majority of everlasting leaders are males, however there are exceptions. Geographer Anna Cabré directed the Barcelona Center for Demographic Studies for 30 years, since its creation in 1984. “We now have seven directors in 42 centers [el 17%]. We have worked hard to get more women to apply for applications,” clarify the identical CERCA sources.

Three years in the past, the biologist Emilio Palomares took the reins of the Catalan Institute for Chemical Research, in Tarragona, to “make a 180 degree turn”, after 20 years beneath the command of Miquel Pericàs, its founder. Palomares warns of the danger of everlasting management. “When you have been in a management position for a long time, you end up thinking that everything has been thanks to you and you become a bitch. It happens in scientific centers just as it does in politics or business. He is human,” displays Palomares, who has promised in writing to serve a most of two five-year phrases.

We should keep away from extreme personalism that would hurt the establishment.

Carmen Vela, former Secretary of State for R&D&I

One of the best-known perpetual leaders is Paco Sánchez, founding father of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands in 1975 and its director for 38 years. The biochemist Carmen Vela, accountable for science within the Government of Mariano Rajoy, made the choice to search for a alternative. “We promoted a change, because it was no longer that Paco had been around all his life, it was that he was the telescope,” she recollects. Vela invitations us to not make unfair judgments. “In some cases we have to avoid excessive personalism that could harm the institution, but, in most of the cases that I know of, the director and institution binomial is working extraordinarily well,” she believes.

Engineer Mateo Valero has directed the Barcelona Supercomputing Center since its creation 20 years in the past. Cardiologist Valentín Fuster has been main the National Cardiovascular Research Center in Madrid for 15 years. Vela, former president of the Association of Women Researchers and Technologists, affirms that there are scientists “well prepared” to occupy the directorships of one of these institutes, however she believes that the inevitable generational change shouldn’t be pressured. “These centers are excellent, they are international benchmarks. I think of Pedro Miguel Echenique, Mateo Valero, Valentín Fuster, Lluís Torner… They are people so absolutely out of the ordinary, bordering on exceptionality, that I don't think we should intervene, but I would put this issue on the table for them to consider. . “I wouldn't be too interventionist,” says Vela.

Doctor Anthony Fauci received an ovation upon his retirement, after 38 years at the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in Bethesda (USA).
Doctor Anthony Fauci received an ovation upon his retirement, after 38 years at the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in Bethesda (USA).NIH (LK PHOTOS)

Asked if it is considering limiting the mandates of the directors, the Ministry of Science, headed by Diana Morant, limits itself to answering that, in addition to the duration, we must take into account the quality of the research and “the results based on the set objectives.” A spokesperson for the Catalan ministry explains that there are not any regulatory modifications in sight. “The Science Law of Catalonia, in force since last year, does not establish mandate limitations in the directorates of the CERCA centers participated by the Generalitat. The guidelines correspond to the boards of trustees or governing councils of each center,” she emphasizes. The photos are eloquent. Six analysis facilities of excellence shaped The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology in 2015 to advertise a typical venture. The 20 prestigious members of its board have been males. Almost a decade later, there are 19 males and three ladies.

In 1981, the physician Bonaventura Clotet coincided with the primary case of AIDS described in Spain and determined to dedicate his life to this illness, which since then has killed greater than 40 million individuals on the earth. “This started as a personal project. I managed to convince the Generalitat and, with the help of the “la Caixa” Foundation, we arrange the primary retrovirus laboratory that existed in Catalonia. We began with 4 individuals and now we’re 120,” recollects the professional, who has directed the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute since 1995, receiving periodic audits. “We are continually evaluated and this is non-negotiable. “No one has to be housed forever,” he factors out.

Can you be a director for therefore lengthy with out creating dangerous habits and dangerous practices?

Laura Lechuga, chemist

Clotet emphasizes that the state of affairs is comparable in organizations in different international locations. The well-known American physician Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 38 years, resigned in 2022, recalling that he had labored for seven presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden. In Clotet's opinion, the important factor in a director is to supply concepts, give “absolute independence” to his researchers and promote the most effective, sustaining gender parity. In IrsiCaixa, he affirms, there are 60% ladies.

“The internal management of a large team requires a leader. This is like soccer coaches of very good teams: the most complicated problem is managing egos,” he says. “We are the most important group in Spain in infectious disease and immunology research. I think the project has been very useful for the country. When I can't contribute anything, I won't continue,” argues Clotet, who after 29 years as director continues “with strength and energy.”

Examples are found throughout Spain. The microbiologist Eugenio Santos has just left the direction of the Salamanca Cancer Research Center, after 25 years in power. The chemist José María Mato has directed the Cooperative Research Center in Biosciences (CIC bioGUNE) since its creation 19 years ago in Greater Bilbao. Physicist Rodolfo Miranda has been in charge of the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Nanoscience for 17 years. Biochemist Maria Lois, director of the Agrigenomics Research Center for just two years, believes that “a plan of support measures during management and after leaving it” would make the place extra enticing, enhance purposes and facilitate exits. “And the more rotation, the greater diversity,” she says.

Chemist Laura Lechuga highlights that management mandates at the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) last four years and can be renewed. University rectors can stay for a maximum of six years, non-extendable. “No matter how good scientists and managers have been selected for the management position, can you be a director for so long without creating bad habits and bad practices?” asks Lechuga, also a CSIC researcher. “This usually leads, clearly, to very unhealthy dynamics within the centers, ultimately becoming true kingdoms or beach bars for the director on duty. Given the power that these directors accumulate, they can manage, according to their sole criteria, million-dollar budgets, the distribution of spaces, positions, layoffs, infrastructure,” says the chemist.

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