“The Institute of Mathematical Sciences needs more autonomy, as do many of the Severo Ochoa Centres”


Interview with MANUEL DE LEÓN
Director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences  (ICMAT) 


We plan activities in the future to encourage young women to study mathematics”


The Institute of Mathematical Sciences (ICMAT) is a centre run jointly by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the three universities in Madrid: the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) and the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). It is one of the centres which has received the Severo Ochoa award for excellence, and was a co-organizer of the forum “100XCIENCIA. Communicating Frontier Science”.

Its Director, Manuel de León, explains that “winning the Severo Ochoa Award has meant, in the first place, recognition of the extraordinary work which had been done in previous years, which attracted to the ICMAT researchers of the highest level”. This national distinction has, also “given us the resources that we needed to start a highly aggressive strategy to obtain competitive funding, as well as launching transfer and communications”.

The Institute of Mathematical Sciences sees the future as somewhat uncertain. Its director recognizes that “the main challenge is the sustainability of the project, and the main threat arises from its structure, as a hybrid centre belonging to the CSIC and three universities, all of them with very diverse interests, and almost always thinking in the short term”. For this reason Manuel de León warns that “The ICMAT needs greater autonomy, as do many of the Severo Ochoa centres”. 

Another of the serious problems which has become a threat is the “Increasing bureaucratization of the CSIC, which is really suffering very painfully from this problem. We cannot compete with the best international mathematics centres if we are in a situation of obvious inferiority”.

In spite of these problems, the ICMAT has managed to become the reference centre in Spain in communication and outreach in the field of mathematics, an achievement which its director was able to show during the “100XCIENCIA” forum, among others. As far as outreach is concerned, Manuel de León explained that “We have many activities under way, public lectures such as Mathematics at the Residencia (at the CSIC’s Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid), participation in programmes such as Science in Action, Science Week, and the Researchers’ Night, the blog Matemáticas y sus fronteras;  the termly bulletin, pages in Facebook and Twitter in the social networks, among others”.

He also announced the project Mathematics and the Arts, and they are planning for the future “initiatives to encourage young women to take up mathematics”, and plan to continue their current activities”.


Coordination of interviews: Verónica Martín


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100xCIENCIA Communicating Frontier Science. La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain), October 2015
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