“We are quite frankly worried about the possibility that we will lose the young talent which has cost so much to train”


Director of the Instituto de Física Corpuscular (IFIC, CSIC-University of Valencia)


“The Severo Ochoa Award is a guarantee of quality which will open new doors for us”


The Instituto de Fisica Corpuscular (IFIC) is a joint centre between the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) and the University of Valencia, dedicated to nuclear physics, particle physics, and astroparticle physics and its applications in Medical Physics and in other fields of Science and Technology. Its director, Juan José Hernández Rey, was a participant in the “100XCIENCIA” forum as the leading representative of one of the 20 centres which have been distinguished with the Severo Ochoa Award of Excellence.

For Juan José Hernández the Severo Ochoa Award has meant a “recognition of the high quality of the technical and scientific practice” of this institute and an incentive to stay in the forefront of knowledge and technology. “The funding provided” he states “has allowed us to undertake innovative initiatives which do not fit into the more restrictive conventional framework, and to attract new talent to the institute. The Severo Ochoa qualification is, moreover, a stamp of quality which we are sure will open new doors for us”.  

This centre is at a very interesting epoch because “we have a theory which can explain (almost) everything we know, but we also know that it cannot be the final theory”. The Large Hadron Collider could make some unexpected discoveries during the next few years. “And it is also probable that Nuclear Physics, Astroparticle Physics, and Cosmology will keep on giving us new problems to solve and new phenomena to investigate. These are exciting times”.

“We are, quite frankly, worried about the possibility that we will lose the young talent which has cost us so much to train” stresses Juan José Hernandez Rey, who underlines the fact that these have been “extremely hard” times for science in Spain. “I understand well that they have been hard times for the whole of our society. The economic crisis has had a devastating effect on many aspects of our lives, but the problem with science is that what is lost in a few years may take decades to recover. The recent call announcement of new jobs for researchers gives us, fortunately a moderate degree of optimism”.

To these problems we can add those related to an overload of non-research related work. “Researchers in Spain are buried under a management workload, with bureaucratic obstacles which are an increasing impediment to progress. While the countries around us simplify their procedures to help research, ours seems to move in the opposite direction. The director of this research centre reminds us of what Wernher von Braun said when they asked him if they would be able to reach the Moon “We can overcome gravity, but the weight of paperwork is sometimes insuperable”.

The Instituto de Física Corpuscular (IFIC) has a strong history in the field of science outreach, directed particularly at students in the Community of Valencia. The IFIC has participated since its inception in the International Masterclass Hands on Particle Physics, an initiative which was started 12 years ago by the principal world laboratories of particle physics, such as CERN, and is now a world-wide event in which over 10,000 students from 42 countries participate. In 2014 36 students from 10 secondary schools in the Valencia community took part, chosen for their interest in particle physics. This year, 2015, we plan to double this participation by carrying out two exercises using data from ATLAS and LHCb, two of the experiments on the Large Hadron Collider in which the IFIC is a participant.

The IFIC also takes part very actively in the cycle of visits called “With Science I know” organized by the Delegation of the CSIC in the Valencia community and financed by the FECYT. “In 2014 we received 12 visits from secondary schools and colleges in the community, as well as 6 visits from other groups. In addition researchers from the IFIC travel throughout the community of Valencia giving talks at the request of secondary schools about particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider, about astroparticle and nuclear physics within a cycle organized by Consolider CPAN, which is coordinated from within the IFIC itself. In 2014 we gave 30 talks in this cycle, which were attended by almost a thousand students” explains the director.

The IFIC also participates each year in Expociencia, the open days of the Science Park of the University of Valencia where the Institute is situated. In this activity the researchers of the IFIC organize a varied program for over 4,500 visitors who attend each year. In 2014, as the World Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) was organized in Valencia, for the first time in Spain, the IFIC dedicated a great effort to related outreach activities, such as a series of lectures before the conference, and the showing, for the first time in our country, of the CERN’s main travelling exhibition “Accelerating Science” which was shown at the Prince Felipe Museum of Science in Valencia during the ICHEP.

The IFIC has also started outreach activities through the social networks, with profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube, which will be expanded as a result of the Severo Ochoa Award.


Coordination of interviews: Verónica Martín


Contact: info@100xciencia.com       Phone: +34 922605336; +34 660507549
100xCIENCIA Communicating Frontier Science. La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain), October 2015
Privacy policy