The BBVA Foundation presents its eight annual awards, which have become a prestigious international benchmark for research and culture.

Those awarded by the BBVA Foundation

This Thursday, the BBVA Foundation will deliver its annual awards in Madrid Frontiers of Knowledge, with an economic endowment of 400.000 euros in each of its eight categories: Basic Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics), Biomedicine, Ecology and Conservation Biology, Information and Communication Technologies, Economics, Finance and Business Management, Contemporary Music, Climate Change and Cooperation development.

Instituted in 2008 in collaboration with the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), and delivered for the first time in 2009, the awards have established themselves as a prestigious reference international in the recognition of research and cultural creation; to such an extent that they are often presented as a Spanish version of the Nobel. And if the Swedish accolades reign for their long history, the more modern origin of the Frontiers of Knowledge awards is a advantage when it comes to distinguishing the advances in categories that are currently very topical, such as new technologies or the fight against climate change.

These are the awarded at the IX edition of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards:

Basic Sciences: David Cox and Bradley Efron

In recent years a debate in the scientific community on the validity of many studies, even speaking of a credibility crisis From the results experimental. The problem is that, in many cases, even brilliant experiments end up bogged down by a statistical treatment of the data that can be flawed or biased. In an age when statistics is more important than ever As a scientific tool, the jury of the Basic Sciences category has decided to award the British David Cox, from the University of Oxford, and the American Bradley Efron, from the Stanford University. Both have provided models, such as the Cox Regression or the Bootstrapping, which today are essential in the correct statistical treatment of scientific data, from astrophysics to biomedicine or epidemiology.

Biomedicine: Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna and Francisco Martínez Mojica

The world of biomedical research unanimously applauds the development of the technology called CRISPR / Cas9 like the great genetic revolution of the XXI century. It is a kit of molecular tools which enables modify genomes with previously unthinkable precision and efficacy, and which is already being tested as a possible therapeutic weapon against various diseases. The French Emmanuelle Charpentier, from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology (Germany), and the American Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California at Berkeley, have received several awards for having led the development of this new technology. But in January 2016, the influential scientist Eric Lander investigated the history of CRISPR to discover a fact that until then had gone unnoticed by the vast majority: the system was originally discovered in the microbes of the Santa Pola salt flats by the Spanish Francisco Martínez Mojica, from the University of Alicante. Martínez Mojica receives this year the award in the Biomedicine category together with Charpentier and Doudna.

Conservation Ecology and Biology: Gene Likens and Marten Scheffer

In 1972, a team of American scientists led by Gene Likens observed that rain in a region of the state of New Hampshire was unusually acidic, a phenomenon that a 19th-century Scottish chemist had already linked to industrial pollution of the atmosphere. Studies by Likens, founder of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, have been essential in understanding the impact of burning fossil fuels on acid rain, one of the great ecological impacts of human activity. Likens receives the award in the category of Ecology and Conservation Biology together with the Dutch ecologist Marten Scheffer, from Wageningen University. Scheffer’s specialty is biological mathematics, with which he has managed to simulate complex systems, their changes and adaptations, thus anticipating the responses of ecosystems to alterations caused by humans.

Information and Communication Technologies: Geoffrey Hinton

One of the fundamental lines of advance of the investigation in Artificial Intelligence is the creation of artificial neural networks, advanced computational systems capable of emulating the mental processes of the human brain. The Anglo-Canadian Geoffrey Hinton, from the University of Toronto, stands out in this field for his creation of neural networks that simulate memory or perception; but, above all, by the design of machines that are capable of learning by themselves without the need for a human tutor. Hinton’s science comes from a long family tradition: for those who recognize the surname of the writer and mathematician who in the 19th century wrote about the fourth dimension in his Scientific StoriesYes, Charles Howard Hinton was Geoffrey’s great-grandfather. But his great-great-grandfather was none other than George Boole, the creator of the mathematical logic on which modern computing is based.

Economics, Finance and Business Management: Daron Acemoglu

The long list of publications by Armenian-Turkish-American Daron Acemoglu reveals the immense dedication that has made him one of the most prolific economists today. But to the quantity, this professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also adds quality, which places him as one of the ten most cited economists in the world. His works cover a wide variety of topics, both in the theoretical field and in the historical perspective and empirical cases. The experts highlight his contributions in the area of ​​the relationship between political systems and economic development, and especially in the role of democratic institutions in creating wealth for nations and their citizens.

Contemporary Music: Sofia Gubaidulina

The most artistic of the Frontiers of Knowledge awards this year went to the Russian composer of Tatar origin Sofia Gubaidulina. From her childhood in a remote corner of the Soviet Union, Gubaidulina began to cultivate her interest in music at the same time as her spirituality, something she decided to hide out of fear that her religious leanings would not be viewed favorably by adults. The composer has stated that, in her vision, music is a way of expressing religion in the sense of religion, or of reconnection with divinity. Despite the fact that the environment of her upbringing, while conducive to musical training, was not conducive to free expression, her curiosity led her to experiment with different tunings than the standard from her studies at the Moscow Conservatory. This led to her being reprimanded by her teachers, except for one: the brilliant Shostakovich, who encouraged her to continue with her “mistakes.” His passion for Bach, his multicultural influences, his exploration of instrument combinations and even his application of mathematical concepts, such as the Fibonacci sequence or the golden ratio, are some of the ingredients of an original and innovative talent for music creation.

Climate change: Syukuro Manabe and James Hansen

Today any citizen has at his fingertips information on the risks posed by climate change. There is widespread concern about this impact of human activity on the global climate, which is already part of the political agenda in most countries. But the way to reach this level of knowledge and awareness has not been easy, but has been undermined by the natural suspicion of the new and the doubts sown by the defenders of particular interests. It is time to pay tribute to those who made this journey possible, and among them are the scientists who began to warn of it when the term “climate change” did not even exist. In the 1970s Syukuro Manabe (now at Princeton University) and James Hansen (now at Columbia University) independently began to use the rudimentary computer tools of the time to create the first complex computational models of the climate, with the who were able to predict how the increase in CO2 atmospheric would raise the Earth’s temperature. Today’s models owe their existence to the work of these two pioneers.

Development Cooperation: Pedro Alonso and Peter Myler

Malaria continues to affect 200 million people each year and kill almost half a million. But beyond the still terrible of these figures, its evolution is more than hopeful: in the last 15 years the incidence of the disease has been reduced by 37%, and its mortality has dropped by 60%. Part of these achievements are due to the work of Pedro Alonso. This Spanish doctor has dedicated his entire career to the fight against malaria, first in countries like Gambia or Mozambique, and today at the head of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Program (GMP). His achievements include trials with the first partially effective vaccine, but also the implantation of mosquito nets with insecticide that have prevented millions of deaths. Today the old forgotten disease is no longer so, but others that affect more than 1,000 million people around the world continue to be. The fight against these scourges also goes through investigations like those of the American Peter Myler. From the Center for Research in Infectious Diseases in Seattle, Myler has sequenced the genomes of the parasites that cause leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, milestones that open the door to new therapies and vaccines.