Once again this year the awards ceremony for the eighth edition of the BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Awards was a homage to the most important ideas, discoveries and challenges that define our times. The prizewinners received well-deserved recognition for their role in discoveries that have changed the lives of us all.
“This ceremony celebrates knowledge, which not only generates technology but also helps us gain a better understanding of the world and ourselves, eradicate intolerance and extend the well-being of society as a whole”. With these words, Francisco González, chairman and CEO of the BBVA Foundation, highlighted the spirit of this awards ceremony, which was attended by Carmen Vela, secretary of state for Research, Devolution and Innovation; Emilio Lora-Tamayo, chairman of the Council of Scientific Research (CSIC); the rectors of the universities of Helsinki and Tel Aviv; and internationally renowned scientists and creators, among other personalities.
All the prizewinners have demonstrated with their findings that it is possible to transform the world in a positive way through knowledge. Everyone from the physicists Stephen Hawking and Viatcheslav Mukhanov with their discovery of how the galaxies were formed, through to the neuroscientists Edward Boyden, Karl Deisseroth and Gero Miesenböck who developed optogenetics, and including the ecologist Ilkka Hanski, recently deceased, for his work to combat species extinction; the mathematician Stephen Cook who determined what computers can resolve efficiently and what they can’t; the economist Robert Wilson and his contributions to the analysis of strategic interaction when economic agents have limited information; the climatologist Veerabhadran Ramanathan who discovered that there are other gases and contaminants in addition to CO2 that alter the climate; the economist Martin Ravallion for setting an international threshold for extreme poverty; and the composer Georges Aperghis, who invented musical theater and enriched its language. These researchers have succeeded in overcoming barriers with their exploratory spirit, advancing the boundaries of knowledge and demonstrating the open and cooperative nature of knowledge.
One example of this spirit is the climatologist Veerabhadran Ramanathan and the economist Martin Ravallion who spoke at the press conference of the relationship between their two areas of knowledge. “Three decades ago when I began my research into poverty, I wouldn’t have considered environmental factors as being a priority; now they are a priority, and that’s alarming”, said Ravallion. Both experts coincided about the need to implement policies on a global scale to drive a change in technology.