The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), founded in 1939, is the successor of the Committee for Extension of Studies and Scientific Research (JAE), created in 1907 and whose first president was Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The CSIC continued to lead scientific activity in Spain but gave more importance to applied science than its predecessor.
On 24 November 1939, the Spanish National Research Council was created by means of a Founding Charter, published in the Official State Gazette (28 November, 1939), whereby it took over the responsibilities and the facilities of the JAE.
In 1942 the Founding Charter underwent the first modification, which established the system of collaboration with universities, providing for the creation of joint centres. The year 1945 witnessed the creation of the first vacancies for research and support staff employed by the CSIC.
During the 60s and 70s, the CSIC continued to spread across the whole Spanish territory, with the creation of research centres and institutes, and set up its first foreign office: the CSIC Delegation in Rome.
At the end of 1977, once the democratic system in Spain had been restored, new legislation was passed, representing a break with the past, which would become the text on which all the subsequent legislation was to be articulated.
On 11 January 1907 the Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research (JAE) was legally created by Amalio Gimeno, Minister for Public Instruction and Fine Arts.
The aim of this new body, which inherited the principles of an independent teaching institution, was to end Spain’s isolation and forge links with European science and culture. It also aimed to train the staff responsible for implementing the reforms needed in the sphere of science, culture and education. Thus, the endeavour to reform and regenerate the country became a national undertaking; independent of political vicissitudes and involving intellectuals of various ideologies.
The scientific and cultural programme run by the JAE represented the most innovative project in Spain between 1907 and 1939, involving the creation of laboratories and research centres, and awarding grants to study abroad, etc. Furthermore, it brought leading Spanish thinkers and scientists into contact with peers in other countries and on other continents, thus creating the opportunity to bring people together through science and culture.
The first JAE president was Santiago Ramón y Cajal, with the assistance of José Castillejo in the Secretariat. The organisation had various goals, including: a study extension service, in Spain and abroad; the envoy of delegates to scientific conferences; provision of a foreign information service and international relations in education; promotion of scientific research; and protection of educational establishments in secondary and higher education.
To achieve these aims the JAE implemented an active grant-awards policy, which was essential to cultural and scientific development in Spain at that time. This funding policy benefited countless students, lecturers and researchers, who were awarded scholarships to work in Spain, Europe and America. From the outset the JAE implemented an active policy of promoting the creation of a number of research centres and laboratories throughout Spain. These included the Centro de Estudios Históricos de Madrid (1910), for historical studies, directed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal, the Residencia de Estudiantes, and Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Físico-Naturales, for the study of physical and natural sciences, founded in 1910, under the presidency of Cajal with the aid of Blas Cabrera. The latter encompassed existing institutions such as the museums for natural sciences and anthropology, botanical gardens and research station, namely Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Museo Antropológico, Jardín Botánico and Estación Biológica de Santander. These possessed various Committees and laboratories, such as those at research stations (Estación Alpina de Biología del Guadarrama, Misión Biológica de Galicia), as well as biological and physical research laboratories, the palaeontological and prehistoric research commission, the school of mathematics (Seminario Matemático) and laboratories for chemistry, physiology and bacteriology at the Residencia.
Physicians, biologists, chemists, historians, philologists, etc. men and women of science and the arts were trained at the institutions created by the JAE and they were entrusted with the task of implementing the programme to breathe new life into Spanish science and culture. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Ignacio Bolívar, José Castillejo, Luis Simarro, Juan Negrín, Pío del Río-Hortega, Antonio de Zulueta, Severo Ochoa, Julio Rey Pastor, Francisco Durán i Reinals, Blas Cabrera, Leonardo Torres Quevedo, José Casares Gil, José Fernández-Nonídez, Cruz Gallastegui, Federico de Onís, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, María de Maeztu, Tomás Navarro Tomás, Américo Castro, Antonio García Solalinde, Samuel Gili Gaya, Rafael Altamira,... just to name some of the people who took part in this enterprise.
On 19 May 1938, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s government declared a cessation of the activities of the JAE, although the Board kept an office open in Valencia (later relocated to Barcelona), which was supported by the legitimate government of the Republic. In October of that year, Tomás Navarro Tomás appointed Luis Calandre, Director of the Hospital de Carabineros which was housed in the Residencia de Estudiantes, as Subdelegate of the JAE in Madrid. His task was to maintain its activities and carry out an inventory of its laboratories, including the Microscopic Anatomy laboratory which had been under his management. At the end of the war Luis Calandre was condemned to internal exile, facing trial twice and was finally sent to prison.
Over the course of the war many of the JAE’s scientists were obliged to flee the country. Some of these scientists, closely linked to the “Casa de España” in Mexico, would go on to found the journal “Ciencia. Revista hispano-americana de Ciencias puras y aplicadas” (Science. Hispano-American Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences), which served as a focal point for Spanish scientists in exile. The first issue of the journal was published on 1 March 1940 under the editorship of Ignacio Bolívar Urrutia. The three chief editors were Cándido Bolívar Pieltain, Isaac Costero and Francisco Giral.
In 1939, Franco’s newly instated regime created the Spanish National Research Council (“Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas”) from the JAE laboratories, premises and centres. The president of the new body was the Minister for Education, José Ibáñez Martín, with the close collaboration of José María Albareda, who was appointed Secretary General of the CSIC. The Law passed on 24 November 1939, creating the CSIC, laid down that “all the centres belonging to the dissolved Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research (JAE), the Foundation for Scientific Research and Reform Trials (“Fundación de Investigaciones Científicas y Ensayos de Reformas”) and those created by the Institute of Spain (“Instituto de España”) would become part of the Spanish National Research Council.”One hundred years since the foundation of the first JAE centres
In early 1938, the State Technical Board, created to lead the administration during the outset of the civil war, gave way to a Government that undertook the task of creating a new State. Their main responsibility in the field of research was contained in the Decree of May 19, 1938 ("Decree conferring on the Institute of Spain the mission of guiding and directing high culture and higher research in Spain").
The text of the aforementioned Decree, which extolled the figure of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, aimed to articulate "Spanish culture and science in accordance with the aspirations of the Expert". Logically, an ideological discourse was raised, based on the need to strengthen national conscience, and to eliminate "the terrible slavery of cliques and political parties."
Measures were announced aimed at returning research responsibilities and the related means to the university, which together with professional training, constituted the mission of the university. The rules should be completed by new provisions designed to develop the principles announced in that Decree.
The Decree also called for the suppression of the Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research (JAE), and most of its functions were transferred to the body known as the Institute of Spain (Instituto de España). The decision on both the responsibilities and institutions that were to be handed over to the universities and those to be removed was delayed.
Several research institutes, of historical and literary content, were set out in honour of Menéndez Pelayo:
- Centro de Estudios Históricos (Centre of Historical Studies)
- Centro de Filología Románica (Centre of Romanic Philology)
- Centro de Filología Semítica y Estudios Arábigos (Centre of Semitic Philology and Arabic Studies), with one of its headquarters located in Granada
- Centro de Arqueología e Historia Americana (Centre of American Archaeology and History), located in Sevilla.
- Comisión para la Historia de la Ciencia Española (Committee for the History of Spanish Science)
- Comisión para formar una Biblioteca de Autores Españoles Seminario de Filología Clásica (Committee to set up a Library with works by Spanish Authors and a College for Classic Philology)
The document indicted that "institutions concerning the study of natural sciences and mathematics" would be created in “the near future”.
As soon as the civil war ended, a new Decree was published (26 April 1939). The institutes of "scientific, philosophical and technical nature" were founded under the governance of a secular-type board under the name of “Santiago Ramón y Cajal”.
These institutes were:
- Centro de Estudios filosóficos y Matemáticos (Centre for Philosophical and Mathematical Studies)
Seminario "Juan Luis Vives" para estudios pedagógicos (Juan Vives College for Educational Studies)
- Seminario Huarte de San Juan de psicología aplicada (Huarte de San Juan College for Applied Psychology)
- Centro de Exploraciones y Estudios Geográficos Juan Sebastián Elcano (Juan Sebastian Elcano centre for geographical surveys), located in San Sebastián
- Centro de Estudios Biológicos y Naturales (Centre for Natural and Biological Studies), including the Ramon y Cajal laboratory for biology and a laboratory for chemistry
- The "Natural Sciences Society and Museum", to manage the zoological and botanical gardens; the Spanish society for geological mapping; museums of mineralogy, petrography and applied crystallography; oceanographic stations; and stations for biological-livestock studies.
- Centro de Altos Estudios de Física, Química y Mecánica (Centre for higher studies in physics, chemistry and mechanics)
- Unit to undertake the edition of the encyclopaedia "Enciclopedia hispánica"
A few months later the project was redefined by the creation of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council) by a Law passed on 24 November 1939. The premises and responsibilities of the JAE, the Fundación de Investigaciones Científicas y Ensayos de Reformas (Foundation for Scientific Research and Reform Trials), which had been created a few months earlier by the Instituto de España (Institute of Spain), and all those belonging to the National Education Ministry that were not ascribed to a university, were transferred to the new institution.
The declaration of purpose cited “the will to renew the glorious scientific tradition”, basing it on the “restoration of the classic Christian unity of the sciences, that was destroyed in the 18th century”. These principles, inspired by the new political regime in Spain, drew upon the ideas of the thinkers of late 18th century European counter-revolutionary ideology, representing the period with which the regime sought to reconnect.
The preceding period was written off as being one of “poverty and paralysis”, and the new regime pursued the recovery of the spiritual Hispanic energy as a means of creating a universal culture. The idea of demonising the JAE and creating an institution with the opposite ideological principles is apparent in all the legal texts and in the writings of the leading managers at the outset of the CSIC.
These ideological forces were a burden on scientific activity for a considerable time, particularly in fields most sensitive to them. However, these restrictions were widespread in Spain at the time and not limited exclusively to the CSIC, which stood head and shoulders above the other institutions conducting research in the country, including the universities. The new institution was set up in collaboration with the Royal Academies and those university lecturers who had survived the purges, some of whom had worked previously with the JAE.
Initially it was assigned a role of “coordination and promotion”, highlighting that it should not “interfere with centres and institutions that were developing independently.”
Like the project it replaced, it had to take on the role to laisse with its counterparts abroad, and the need arose to encourage visits to other countries.
The introduction to the Founding Charter mentions the tree of science and that it is necessary to "promote its harmonious growth and development, avoiding the excessive growth of some branches, and the atrophy of others.” This allegory of the tree of science is the origin of the pomegranate tree that has remained on the logo of the CSIC to this day.
The importance of the new institution was clear from its position in the hierarchy of national bodies. It was under the trusteeship of the head of state, and the president was the Spanish Minister of Education.
The fact that the president of the CSIC was a Minister allowed the institution to be run by a Secretary General, José María Albareda, who had a close hand in shaping its development.
Initially, the CSIC did not have a permanent staff of its own, but drew upon scientists from the other institutions listed in article 2 of its Founding Charter. As well as providing personnel, these institutions were represented at plenary sessions.
The Regulation of 10 February 1940 modified and extended some of the provisions laid down by the Founding Charter of the CSIC and established a series of governing bodies, namely a Plenary Council, an Executive Board and a Standing Committee. It also set up a number of special-purpose bodies, namely the board of trustees, a scientific exchange and bibliographic committee (Junta Bibliográfica y de Intercambio Científico), and a Latin-America committee (Comisión Hispanoamericana).
The text also listed the various boards of trustees. Like other institutes, each board was named after a Spanish scientist: Raimundo Lulio (Philosophy, theology, jurisprudence and economics), Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo (Humanities), Alfonso el Sabio (Physics, chemistry and mathematics), Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Biology and natural science), Alonso de Herrera (Agriculture and forestry science), Juan de la Cierva Codorniú (technical and industrial research). These six boards of trustees brought together nineteen institutes and were responsible for liaising with other centres reporting to the various Ministries.
There were also two bodies with cross-cutting responsibilities: the bibliographic and scientific exchange committee (Junta Bibliográfica y de Intercambio Científico) and the Latin-America committee (Comisión Hispanoamericana), which was in charge of scientific exchanges with Latin America.
The regulation reiterated and complemented some of the formulae originally expressed in the Founding Charter.
Firstly, it mentioned the "traditional unity of Spanish science", and the continuing need to strengthen the “spiritual empire of Spain.” Although somewhat marginally, it also mentioned the fact that technical research should be subordinate to “the economic needs of the nation”, and it specifically mentioned the “Juan de la Cierva Codorniú” board of trustees, whose efforts should be aimed at “developing national economic independence and the country’s technical progress”.
A fundamental aspect of the new Institution was its connections with the universities and technical colleges, a principle that was stated in the regulation and even made provision for their incorporation.
It also introduced rules for grants to study abroad, collaboration with other countries and the appointment of official delegations at international scientific conferences.
Responsibility for publishing, setting up a library network and publications exchange was given to the Bibliographic and Scientific Exchange Board (Junta Bibliográfica y de Intercambio Científico).
As early as 22 July 1942 there was an initial amendment the Founding Charter of the CSIC, which introduced some changes, all designed to improve its operational structure.
Firstly, the presidency was divided between an ex officio president (the National Education Minister) and an executive president. The number of institutions represented in the plenary sessions was also increased to allow for the new institutions created by the new regime.
Changes were made to the various governing bodies, in particular the one grouping the boards in three sections (Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, and Biology and Natural Resources), each headed by a vice president. Both the structure of the sections and the thematic vice presidencies were maintained over the following four decades. The position of technical research director was also created.
Finally its legal status was defined and the means of funding approved, in order to keep the institution up and running.
Article 17 is of particular interest, as it defines the system of collaboration with universities through several mechanisms: consideration of university institutes as CSIC institutes; creation at universities of sections of CSIC institutes; adscription of a CSIC institute to a university; or creation of joint institutes.
However, despite these reforms the CSIC still lacked its own scientific staff. It was not until 1945 that the creation of positions was approved for research staff and two categories of support staff (assistants and analysts), but this was confined to technical and agricultural research. This initial model was thus modified, having a strong consultative bias, professionalizing research work. The requirements to qualify for a position (Order of February 16, 1946) were to hold a PhD degree and have spent a period of three years in a research institute, provided two of these were as a Fellow or assistant. The requirement of a minimum time period was extended to foreign centres in the event that the scholarship had been granted by the CSIC.
Around the same time (Decree, 10 November) its powers were extended with the creation of “Menéndez Pelayo” International University, dependent on the CSIC. It was intended to provide a stable structure for “scientific meetings, monographic instruction and courses for foreigners” which had been organized by the CSIC, and whose duration was limited to the summer period.
The growth of the institutes, which had nearly tripled by 1946, called for a new reorganization and the institution was given the power to create new centres.
In 1947 two new boards were established: José María Quadrado devoted to local studies and research; and Diego Saavedra Fajardo, specializing in international studies and going on to develop geographical research and related sciences a few years later.
During eight years there was a notable increase in centres, reaching as many as 80, mainly in Madrid, although in some cases units were to be found in different parts of the country, working together with university Chairs outside the capital. This was in accordance with the same pattern of collaboration: academic staff performing some of their activities at the CSIC premises.
The late 50s witnessed noticeable changes in the country. Discourse became less ideological, and instead stressed the need for research to be steered by its profitability and creation of wealth, and to seek a more rational organization of the same.
In 1953 the “Menéndez Pelayo” International University in Santander started to depend on the Ministry, even though the CSIC was one of the entities participating in its activity.
In 1958 one of the responsibilities assigned to the CSIC in the Founding Charter (“to promote, guide and coordinate scientific research”) was transferred with the creation of the Advisory Committee on Scientific and Technical Research. In order to make a clear differentiation, it was exhaustively stated that the new Authority may not establish its own centres.
In 1962 Manuel Lora-Tamayo was appointed Minister of Education, at which point the word “Science” appeared together with “Education” for the first time to name a Ministry in the history of Spain. This change was a result of various European initiatives to develop institutions engaged in managing science policy.
The need arose to issue a new Regulation to update and reorganize the Institution “in order that the momentum achieved by Spanish science [...] is not slowed down at any time by the lack of adaptation to the demands of its natural growth and of scientific development” (Decree 3055/1966 dated 1 December, amending CSIC Regulation).
All these changes, embodied in the said Regulation, marked the new model of the Institution, significantly limiting its functions, which were concerned with running its own research centres, granting subsidies to some universities and technical schools, and maintaining research facilities in collaboration with other corporations.
At the same time, a distinction was made between the Boards (4) that included centres belonging to the CSIC, and those (4) in charge of coordinating the activities of other centres. To increase interaction with universities, and reflecting increased research therein, they were also represented in the Executive Board of the CSIC.
By then the CSIC had spread to a large part of the country and did not lack JAE but, due to its precarious infrastructure, the vast majority of its centres and institutes were confined to Madrid and, to a lesser extent, Barcelona. Under Albareda, the CSIC worked decidedly to create institutes and centres throughout the country (as well as opening a centre in Rome) and even set up new Boards.
The Royal Decree of 25 January 1977 culminated the process of administrative centralization of the CSIC by suppressing all existing boards, terminating a process developed in former years, while also eliminating the Executive Board.
In late 1977, on having recovered the democratic system in Spain, a new regulation was drawn up, breaking away from the previous epoch. This text became the foundation for all subsequent regulations published.
The goals set out in the preamble are to: make the administrative rigidity affecting the CSIC more flexible; coordinate the participation of staff at various decision levels; undertake a bottom-up reform to restructure the basic research units; make the unified administrative management compatible with the diversity of specialities and institutes.
It was a longer text than the preceding ones and explained the functions of the CSIC in greater detail, and with some significant modifications. Its responsibilities changed from developing research to participating in the development of science policy, which should be modified, and internal and external scientific relationships should be encouraged.
In addition to these responsibilities, others were mentioned, assigned since its inception, such as conducting research, training research and technical staff. One of the aspects stressed concerned its relationships with universities, in order to capitalize on existing resources, and to collaborate with regional and local authorities.
From the legal perspective the CSIC was defined as an "autonomous State institution". The major innovations were to be found in the governing bodies which involved staff participation. Two committees with advisory functions (Scientific Committee and Economic Committee) were established, integrating elected members belonging to different official groups.
Both committees in turn designated representatives to serve on the Governing Board, upon which most of the CSIC policy decisions rested, being established as the executive board.
The same participatory format was extended to smaller units (institutes and centres).
The democratizing profile of those policies, typical of those years, is reflected by the statement that "an essential element of a scientific community is to give priority to the criteria and responsibility of researchers in the organization, management and operation of the CSIC"; the institutes, research teams, etc. should be guided by "working methods in keeping with the field of science in which they operate"; that all management should be governed by the principle of transparency; and attempt to institutionalize "critical thinking as an essential instrument to promote scientific endeavour".
The new Spanish political and scientific reality, reflected in the increasing research capacity of universities and autonomous decentralization, gave a new direction to the activity of the CSIC, which began collaborating with other institutions on these principles. On these bases, collaborations led to the creation of numerous joint institutes throughout Spain.
The major social transformations taking place in the following years, and especially the changes in the legal framework of Spanish research pursuant to Ley de Fomento y Coordinación General de la Investigación Científica y Técnica (Law for the Promotion and General Coordination of Scientific and Technical Research) called for regulatory and structural adaptations of the CSIC, necessitated by the new situation. Thus it was endeavoured to reconcile the principles of representation with the "changes resulting from scientific and technological developments".
Very recently the status of the CSIC has undergone a major transformation. The Royal Decree of 21 December 2007 transformed the CSIC into a State Agency, legal status designed to enable it to operate "with greater flexibility and autonomy". To respond to this need a text has been drawn up that makes it easier to adapt to the continuous changes in society and especially in the field of knowledge generation and conversion, to drive social welfare and development; the management of which rests in the hands of the governing bodies of the Institution itself.
To carry out this project we have defined two important elements: the definition of a Presidency with "executive capacity", and particularly the management of its activity in agreement with a management contract based on the principles of quality, transparency and evaluation.
Presidents of the Committee for Extension of Studies and Scientific Reseach
Petilla de Aragón (Navarra) 1852 / Madrid 1934
Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1906.
Madrid, 1850 / México CITY, 1944
Doctor in Natural Science (1874), a year after completing his PhD he obtained a position as an assistant in the Zoology section of the natural history museum: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales.
Presidents of the Spanish National Research Council
Conde de Marín (Valbona, Teruel), 1896 / Madrid, 1969
Honours Degree in Philosophy and Literature (specialising in History) awarded a distinction by the University of Valencia 1918, two years later he obtained his degree in Law. Shortly afterwards he obtained the chair of Geography and History in Secondary Education (1922).
Jerez (Cádiz), 1904 / Madrid, 2002
Doctor in Chemistry (1930) and Pharmacy (1933). With a grant from the Board for the Extension of Studies (JAE) he worked at the Institute of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine in Strasbourg.
Honours Degree in Law and in Philosophy and Literature (specialising in History) from the University of Valencia (1945), on completing his studies he moved to the University of Madrid where he worked as an assistant lecturer on Economic Theory at the School of Economics and Political Science.
Madrid, 1915 / 1990
Honours Degree in Pharmacy and PhD in Chemistry. He was Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Granada (1946), and held various posts at the university, including that of Vice Dean of the Faculty of Sciences (1956).
Granucillos de Vidriales (Zamora), 1915 / Zaragoza, 1998
After studying Education (1935) in Palencia, and Mathematics (1946) in Salamanca and Madrid, he took a degree (1949) and then a PhD in Physics (1951) at the University of Madrid.
Borja (Zaragoza), 1924 / Madrid, 2013
He studied under Julio Palacios and after obtaining his PhD in Physics at the University of Madrid (1948), he studied in Italy, Switzerland, and the United States.
Honours graduate (1952) Doctor of Laws (1959) from the University of Valladolid, he completed postgraduate studies at Poitiers, Paris and Gottingen.
After completing his degree at the University of Madrid he joined the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Marseille, where he worked for two decades.
After his PhD in Pharmacy from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid he completed his training at the University of Liège (Belgium) and the Department of Microbiology at the University of New York (USA).Throughout his career he has been linked to the CSIC.
Larache (Marruecos), 1946
Has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Polytechnic University de Madrid (1969), he obtained a PhD in Ecology (1976) at Davis Campus of the University of California. His field of specialisation is the science and engineering of water in relation to agriculture and the environment.
After receiving an Honours Degree in Chemistry from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, specialising in Biochemistry (1972), he took his Doctorate in Science at the University of Leiden (the Netherlands), under the supervision of Professor Theo Konijn.
Carriches (Toledo), 1946
After obtaining a degree in Pharmacy and Chemistry from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, he took his PhD at the University of Salamanca (1972) under the supervision of Julio R. Villanueva.
After obtaining his PhD in Physics from the University of Barcelona, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva (1974-1976).
After completing his university studies he received training at the CSIC, the Ècole Nationale Supérieure d’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (Toulouse, France) and the Laboratoire d’Electronique et de l’Informatique (Grenoble, France).
Villasimpliz (León), 1950
Honours Degree in Biochemistry and PhD in Immunology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, appointed president of the CSIC by the Council of Ministers on 14 May 2004.
Bachelor degree in Mathematics and PhD in Physics from the University of Granada, he began his career as a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (CSIC) in 1975, of which he became director from 1990 to 2004.
Holder of a PhD in Physics awarded by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, he has been a researcher at various centres in France. He has also been guest professor at the UC Berkeley and Professor at the UAB. At the CSIC, he directed the Centro Nacional de Microelectrónica, was Vice-president as well as President of CSIC from 2003 to 2004.