BBVA Group Executive Chairman Francisco González handed out the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, honoring the outstanding work of a number of scientists and their contribution to the advancement of knowledge in recent decades. Awardees are responsible for achievements such as the development of the most accurate genomic editing technique; studies that led to the prevention of millions of malaria deaths; discovering how human action can dramatically affect earth’s ecosystems and statistical tools that allow turning data into knowledge in the era of big data.
“The Frontiers of Knowledge awards reflect reflect the bounty of science in all its diversity,” said Francisco González during the award ceremony. The event was attended by by Spain’s Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, Carmen Vela; the President of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Emilio Lora-Tamayo, and numerous representatives of the Spanish and international scientific and artistic communities.
BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman reminded that this family of awards was born almost a decade ago, to recognize and give visibility to those who generate knowledge, a goal that is, today, more necessary than ever: “It is essential that public policy-makers, private agents and society and its culture are guided in their relations with reality by trial and error reasoning, the interaction of theory and empirical evidence, the critical examination of ideas, and the subjection of outcomes to rational debate.”
“This is not about turning citizens into scientists,” he added, “but about something far more basic: the understanding that there is a line that demarcates subjective opinion from knowledge that has been tested and validated by the scientific community.” Because, in González’s view, “one of the most pernicious forms of inequality is that in which large sectors of society are excluded from knowledge. And when this ignorance or skepticism about validated knowledge extends to policy-makers with considerable influence in the modeling of the social agenda, the situation becomes especially disquieting. So much so, that we must redouble our efforts to have science viewed as culture.”
One of the most pernicious forms of inequality is that in which large sectors of society are excluded from knowledge”
The awardees in this edition are mathematicians David Cox and Bradley Efron, for developing statistical tools that are fundamental to the advance of modern science; biologists Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna and Francisco Martínez Mojica, for developing CRISPR, the most efficient and precise gene-editing technique; ecologists Gene E. Likens and Marten Scheffer, for alerting the world to the global impact of acid rain and discovering that human action can subject ecosystems to drastic and at times irreversible change; computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, for advancing the field of artificial intelligence by creating programs able to learn for themselves; economist Daron Acemoglu, for identifying the quality of institutions as a key determinant of countries’ welfare and growth; composer Sofia Gubaidulina, for the spiritual quality and transformative dimension of her music; climatologists Syukuro Manabe and James Hansen, for creating the first computer models of climate, which predicted global warming induced by CO2 emissions; and biomedical researchers Pedro Alonso and Peter Myler, for achieving vital advances against diseases like malaria that afflict hundreds of millions in developing countries.
‘Mirror’ Awards of the Scientific and Creative Community
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards were established in 2008 to recognize contributions with the power to enlarge and transform our understanding of the world, and to train a spotlight on their creators. The awards are endowed with a total €3,2 million, distributed evenly among all categories.
Every year, prominent scientists and creators nominate and choose the best among their peers.
The Awards’ architecture, encompassing eight categories, covers a broad spectrum of areas in which the scientific community is currently organized. In the Frontiers of Knowledge awards classic categories, such as Basic Science and Biomedicine stand shoulder to shoulder with others drawn from younger disciplines. By specifically establishing two environmental categories, the Frontiers Awards acknowledge their transcendental importance in confronting the ultimate challenge that is the conservation of life on Earth.