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 the scientific activity in Spain although, unlike its predecessor, it gave more importance to applied science.
At the beginning of 1938, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s government announced the abolition of the Committee for Extension of Studies and Scientific Research and the transfer of the majority of its competences to the Institute of Spain. A few months later, in 1939, the project was redefined due to the creation of the Spanish National Research Council, which assumed the venues and the competences of the JAE.
In 1942, the first change was introduced in the Founding Act, which established the collaboration system with universities and allowed the creation of joint centres with them. In 1945, it was approved the creation of the first vacancies for research and support staff employed by the CSIC.
During the 60s and 70s, the CSIC continued extending itself across all the Spanish geography with the creation of research centres and institutes, and created its first foreign office: the CSIC Delegation in Rome.
At the end of 1977, once recovered the democratic system in Spain, a new regulation was created, involving a rupture with its previous stage and becoming the text on which have been articulated all the following regulations.
On 11 January 1907 the Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research (JAE) was created by a ministerial decree signed 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 effort to reform and regenerate the country became a national undertaking independent of political vicissitudes and in which intellectuals of various ideologies were involved.
The scientific and cultural programme implemented by the JAE not only represented the most innovative project in Spain between 1907 and 1939, involving as it did the creation of laboratories and research centres, and awarding grants to study abroad, etc. but it also brought leading Spanish thinkers and scientists into contact with those in other countries and on other continents, thus opening up a new way of bringing peoples together through science and culture.
The JAE’s first president was Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who was supported by José Castillejo at the Secretariat, and the organisation had various goals, including in particular: a study extension service, in Spain and abroad; sending delegations to scientific conferences; a foreign information service; and international relations in education; promoting scientific research; and defending educational establishments in secondary and higher education.
To achieve these aims the JAE was an active grant-awarding body, and its funding benefited countless students, lecturers and researchers, who were awarded scholarships to work in Spain, Europe and America, making these grants an essential feature of cultural and scientific development in Spain at the time. 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 Centre for Historical Studies in Madrid (1910) directed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal, the “Residencia de Estudiantes”, and the National Institute of Physical and Natural Sciences, founded in 1910, under the presidency of Cajal with the aid of Blas Cabrera, which grouped together existing institutions such as the National Natural Sciences Museum, the Anthropologial Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Santander Biological Station, and which had various commissions and laboratories, such as the biological research laboratory, physical research laboratory, the Guadarrama Mountain Biology Station, the Galician Biological Mission, the Palentological and Prehistoric Research Commission, the School of Mathematics and the Residencia’s laboratories of chemistry, physiology and bacteriology, etc.
These produced doctors, biologists, chemists, historians, philologists, etc. men and women of science and the arts who were trained at the institutions created by the JAE and who 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,... are just 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 open an office 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 installed in the Residencia de Estudiantes, Subdelegate of the JAE in Madrid in order to maintain its activities and inventory its laboratories, one of which, that of Microscopic Anatomy had been under his management. The end of the war condemned Luis Calandre to internal exile, facing trial twice and finally being sent to prison.
Over the course of the war many of the JAE’s scientists found themselves obliged to leave 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 Science) which served as a focus 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 installed regime created the Spanish National Research Council (“Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas”) out of the JAE’s 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 Spanish Institute (“Instituto de España”) would become part of the Spanish National Research Council.”One hundred years since the foundation of the first centers of the JAE
In early 1938, the State Technical Board, created to lead the administration during the first moments of the civil war, gave way to a Government that undertook the task of creating a new State. Their main action 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").
In the text of the aforementioned Decree, which extolled the figure of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, the intention of articulate the "Spanish culture and science in accordance with the aspirations of the Master" was presented. 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 the means and competences in research 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 laid down the supression of the the Board for Advanced Studies and Scientific Research (JAE), and most of its functions were transferred to the Institute of Spain. The decision on both the competences 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 honor of Menéndez Pelayo, and it was pointed out that "institutions concerning the study of natural sciences and mathematics" would be created in the near future.
- Centro de Estudios Históricos (Centre of Historical Studies)
- Centro de Filología Románica (Centre of Romanic Phylology)
- Centro de Filología Semítica y Estudios Arábigos (Centre of Semitic Phylology and Arabic Studies), with one of its headquarters located in Granada
- Centro de Arqueología e Historia Americana (Centre of American Archeology and History), located at Sevilla
- Comisión para la Historia de la Ciencia Española (Commission for the History of Spanish Science)
- Comisión para formar una Biblioteca de Autores Españoles (Commission to settle a Library of Spanish Authors)
As soon as the civil war ended, a new Decree was published (26.04.1939). The institutes of "scientific, philosophical and even technical character", were founded under the governance of a sort of secular board named “Santiago Ramón y Cajal”.
These institutes were:
- Centro de Estudios filosóficos y Matemáticos (Centre of Phylosophical and Mathematical Studies)
- Seminario "Juan Luis Vives" para estudios pedagógicos (Seminary “Juan Vives” for Educational Studies)
- Seminario "Huarte de San Juan" de psicología aplicada (Seminary “Huarte de San Juan” for applied psychology)
- Centro de Exploraciones y Estudios Geográficos "Juan Sebastián Elcano"(Centre “Juan Sebastian Elcano” for for geographical surveys), located at San Sebastián
- Centro de Estudios Biológicos y Naturales (Centre of Natural and Biologic Studies), including a biology laboratory named “Ramon y Cajal” and a chemistry laboratory
- The "Society and Museum of Natural Sciences", with the management of Zoological and Botanical Gardens; the Geological Mapping of Spain; oceanographic stations; biological-livestock studies and special museums of Mineralogy, Petrography and Applied Crystallography
- Centro de altos estudios de Física, Química y Mecánica (Center for high studies in Physics, Chemistry and Mechanics)
- Unit for the fulfilment of the "Hispanic Encyclopedia"
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 24/11/1939. The premises and competencies of the JAE, the Fundación de Investigaciones Científicas y Ensayos de reformas (Foundation for Scientific Researchs and Reform trials), which had been created a few months earlier by the Instituto de España (Spanish Institute), and all those belonging to the National Education Ministry that were not linked to a university, were transferred to the new institution.
The declaration of purpose highlighted “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 the European counter-revolutionary ideology of the late 18th century, which was the period to which the regime sought to hark back.
The immediately preceding period was written off as being one of “poverty and paralysis” and a recovery of the spiritual energy of Spanishness was proposed as a means of creating a universal culture. The idea of demonising the JAE and creating an institution with the opposite ideological principles stands out from all the legal texts and in the writings of the leading management figures in the earliest beginnings 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 “coordinating and catalysing” function, 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 of relations with counterpart institutions abroad, and the need arose to encourage visits to other countries.
The introduction to the founding law 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 national education minister.
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 Law. 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 of the CSIC’s Founding Law 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 the various institutes, each board was given the name of 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 relations 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 text.
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 body was its connections with the universities and technical colleges, a principle that was enshrined in the regulation and even enabled their incorporation.
It also introduced rules for grants for 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 CSIC’s founding law 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, including in particular the grouping of the boards into 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 operating.
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 of 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 on the premises of CSIC.
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 running it.
In 1958 one of the responsibilities assigned to the CSIC in the founding law (“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 that Spanish science has achieved [...] is not slowed down at any time by lack of adaptation to the demands of its natural growth and of scientific development” (Decree 3055/1966 of 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 the CSIC's own centres 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, representing a break with the previous epoch. This text became the foundation for all subsequent regulations published.
The goals set out in the preamble are: to make more flexible the administrative rigidity affecting the CSIC; coordinate the participation of staff at various decision levels; 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 CSIC's functions in more detail, and with some significant modifications. Its responsibilities changed from developing research to participating in the development of science policy, which should be adjusted, and internal and external scientific relations 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 concerns its relationships with universities, in order to capitalize on existing resources, and to collaborate with regional and local authorities.
From the legal point of view the CSIC was defined as an "Autonomous state institution". The major innovations were to be found in the governing bodies in which staff participation was included. Two committees with advisory functions (Scientific Committee and Economic Committee) were established integrating elected members belonging to different groups.
Both committees in turn designated representatives to serve on the Board of Governors, upon which rested most of the policy decisions of the CSIC, 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, direction 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 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 / Ciudad de México, 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 National Museum of Natural Sciences.
Presidents of the Spanish National Research Council
Conde de Marín (Valbona, Teruel), 1896 / Madrid, 1969
Honours Degree in Philosophy and Literature (specialising in History) with an extraordinary prize from 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 in the Economics and Political Science Faculty.
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 to be a teacher (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
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, París and Göttingen.
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 Madrid Complutense University 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 Madrid Polytechnic University (1969), he obtained a PhD in Ecology (1976) His field of specialisation is the science and engineering of water in relation to agriculture and the environment.
After an Honours Degree in Chemistry from the Madrid Complutense University, 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 Madrid Complutense University, 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 Madrid University, appointed president of the CSIC by the Council of Ministers on 14 May 2004.
Bachelors of 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, the same institute he headed from 1990 to 2004.
PhD degree in Physics by the UCM. He has been researcher at different centres in France and visiting professor at UC Berkeley. Professor at the UAB. At CSIC he has been Director of the Centro Nacional de Microelectrónica, vicepresident and also President of CSIC between 2003 and 2004