In its application, CREAF proposed a strategic research plan for generating knowledge to help tackle the 21st century’s main environmental problems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Following rigorous international evaluation, CREAF has been chosen for accreditation on the basis of its scientific results and strategic programmes.
Spain’s State Research Agency, a body of the country’s Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, has today published the provisional results of its 2018 process for awarding Severo Ochoa centre of excellence and María de Maeztu unit of excellence accreditation and government grants. Accordingly, it will be distributing a total of 30 million euros among six centres and three units, including CREAF as a new Severo Ochoa centre.
The International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE), the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC), the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (lSGlobal) are, like CREAF, first-time recipients of Severo Ochoa accreditation. The Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), meanwhile, has earned the accolade for a second time. Each of the six centres in question will be issued with a million euros per year over a four-year period.
CREAF is a public research centre with a history that goes back more than 30 years. Today it is engaged in almost a hundred national and international research projects aimed at finding solutions to the 21st century’s main environmental challenges, such as biodiversity loss, climate change and adaptation to its effects, nutrient imbalances and their impact on food security, sustainable water management, fires, and fostering greater public awareness of and involvement in nature conservation. With a Board of Trustees comprising the Government of Catalonia, the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the University of Barcelona (UB), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Institute for Catalan Studies (IEC), CREAF is part of the CERCA network of Catalan research centres. It has produced over 900 publications in the last five years and coordinates a prestigious ERC Synergy Grant.
No distinction is made between centres and units in terms of requirements, standards, and evaluation and selection criteria and procedures related to scientific excellence. Each successful candidate has been chosen on the basis of its scientific results and strategic programmes, following a rigorous evaluation process in which around a hundred renowned international scientists participated.
The accreditation and funding initiative enables Spain’s Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities to act as a driving force behind the high-impact research conducted in the country’s R&D centres. Accredited centres are notable for the international prominence of their scientific work, for their capacity to innovate, and for their close ties with the business sector. Additionally, they are world leaders in their field and capable of attracting international talent.
Human wellbeing and ecology: two sides of the same coin
In its application for Severo Ochoa accreditation, CREAF proposed a scientific project designed to further understanding of the environmental challenges arising from global change, with a view to identifying solutions conducive to sustainable human development compatible with nature. Behind those challenges lie many interconnected processes that are highly complex and crucial to our survival, encompassing matters such as how water, carbon and nutrients circulate in terrestrial ecosystems; what the mechanisms that cause forests to die are; how living organisms respond to climate change; where pollutants circulate or accumulate; how invasive species behave; what the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss are; and how Earth’s health can be monitored from space, to name but a few examples.
“These are the greatest challenges humankind has ever faced, so it is vital that we take the necessary measures urgently and on the basis of scientific knowledge,” says Joan Pino, director of CREAF.
All the aforementioned processes are being threatened by global change. The terrestrial ecosystems in which they take place are where humans and most organisms live, and sources of goods and services on which society’s wellbeing depends.