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Blog científico

Publicado el 22 de May de 2012 por Eudald Carbonell

Atapuerca: Research and infrastructure

Research on human evolution requires a theoretical body and a record of data that lets us argue for or refute the proposed conceptual framework. To carry out this task, multidisciplinary group work, infrastructure, laboratories and large teams are necessary to support the whole process. In addition to the above, if we want to close the cycle and create a progressive loop, we must work in an academic manner on the one hand while, communicating science at the same time we socialize it, on the other. This way we can integrate the population in the process of evolutionary knowledge and thought. Making everything we've created exist and function requires temporary strategy and planning, as well as a continuous budget. If this is so, we can perform good science in the service of citizens. This is my vision of the research work on human evolution. Research at its highest level, publications in the Science Citation Index (SCI), strong academia, socialization through publications, exhibitions, reports and conferences. Atapuerca as a Project has been able to deploy this model. In what I call the main sequence, the Atapuerca Research Team (EIA), directed by Juan Luis Arsuaga, José María Bermúdez de Castro and myself, this protocol was followed strictly to get a cluster working on human evolution that is unique in the world. Without funding from Junta de Castilla y León and the complementarity of the EIA, it would not have been possible to develop this huge project, which also involved other government agencies such as the Ministry of Education and Science, later the Ministry of Science and Innovation and currently the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Thanks to their funding programs for research since 1978 they have continuously resourced this project.


Scientifically, the base for this project has been supported in turn by different institutions: the Complutense University of Madrid, the University Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, the University of Burgos, the University of Zaragoza, the Natural Science Museum, and newly created institutes cited below. What we call the main sequence is the set of buildings dedicated to this purpose, starting with the creation of the Atapuerca Foundation in 1999, with the prospect of engaging in supporting the EIA by awarding research grants and promoting the Project socially. This non-profit foundation draws on public and private money, a good example of social collaboration in the construction of science. In 2001, the University of Burgos R&D building opened in Burgos. In the same year, the Archaeological Park (PA) in Atapuerca was opened. In 2002 the Joint Centre of Complutense Madrid University and the Health Institute of Carlos III of Evolution and Human Behaviour opened in Madrid. In 2009 the headquarters for the Atapuerca Foundation in Ibeas of Juarros and the building for the National Research Centre on Human Evolution (CENIEH) were inaugurated in Burgos. The latter has a modern technological infrastructure and a competent team to develop high quality work in the field of human evolution. In 2010, the Museum of Human Evolution (MEH) was opened in the city centre of Burgos as well and next to the CENIEH, allowing the motor of science communication to shift into top gear. You can see human evolution at the Museum, as well as the most important discoveries of Atapuerca. Workshops are held while at the same times expositions are given as a way to communicate science. In 2011, the Visitor Reception Centre (CRV) of Atapuerca opened in this town. Although it's working temporarily, it's a meeting point for visitors before they go to the site and also serves to explain the ecology of the Sierra. The same will happen in the town of Ibeas of Juarros where the Visitor Reception Centre (CRV) will open to the public in summer 2012. It's intended as a meeting point for visitors before they go to the Sierra. In this building, visitors will find out about the uses of the Sierra, beginning with the railway, which had so much to do with the discovery of the known Trench sites which bear its name.


Finally, well before the summer of 2012, the Catalan Institute of Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) opened in Tarragona. In short, the project has resulted in nine new construction areas, ranging from the most relevant research to educational experimentation and science communication. Also, masters in Prehistory and Human Evolution are taught at Tarragona's Rovira i Virgili University and the University of Burgos. The Junta de Castilla y León has built an appropriate legal device to coordinate this whole process, called the Evolution Culture Atapuerca System (SACE) which is responsible for the culture and tourism side of the Project and is managed by Javier Vicente. With this cluster, research on human evolution in Spain reaches an extraordinarily competitive level, making it a unique model that is already being replicated abroad.