Maria de Maeztu Unit of Excellence: Day Zero


Maria de Maeztu Unit of Excellence: Day Zero

As of January 1st, the Department of Information and Communication Technologies at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona has joined the selected group of research centers and departments accredited as Severo Ochoa Centres / Maria de Maeztu Units of Excellence.

This program, launched by the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, aims at “recognizing existing centres and units that perform cutting-edge research and are among the world's best in their respective areas. (…) “Severo Ochoa” Centres of Excellence or “María de Maeztu” Units of Excellence must be centres or units of reference and clear examples of the quality and relevance of the pioneering scientific research carried out in Spain.”

In the 2015 Call, a total of 11 centres obtained the Severo Ochoa Accreditation (for independent research centers) and 4 units the Maria de Maeztu Accreditation (for units which are not legally independent, such as DTIC, part of UPF). The 2015 list, with centers such as ICFO, IRB, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, CNIO, CNIC or the Instituto Astrofísica de Canarias, represents an outstanding showcase of world-leading research carried out in Spain.

The accreditation is a significant boost to the recognition of DTIC-UPF, together with an important obligation to consolidate the longer-term impacts that are in line with the higher objectives of this Excellence Program.

Only 3 University Departments in Spain have been recognized so far as Maria de Maeztu excellence units: the Dept. of Experimental and Health Sciences , also at UPF, and the Dept. of Economics at UC3M. DTIC-UPF is also the only one in the ICT domain, showing its consolidation as a highly interdisciplinary environment working around four main areas with close relations and interaction among them, reflecting the interdisciplinarity reality of cutting-edge research in ICTs: Cognitive and Intelligent Systems; Audiovisual Technologies; Networks and Communications; Computational Biology. DTIC-UPF also trains future talent in Communication and Information Technologies through undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate studies, with all postgraduate education held in English and the ability to attract graduates from all around the world.

A unique feature of the Maria de Maeztu program is that, unlike most public competitive calls, it does not fund very specific research projects, but aims at strengthening the overall unit by the development of a Strategic Research Program, in the case of DTIC-UPF revolving around data-driven research and knowledge extraction. Not only is it an opportunity to conduct high-quality projects, but also to increase the capacity of the department to carry out high-impact research by reinforcing the key critical transversal infrastructures and procedures that permit talented researchers to perform cutting-edge research. In the case of university departments, this implies a strong coordination with the different units at the university for all matters related to the Strategic Research Program, driving “super-structural” changes which go beyond the department. For our data-driven research agenda, this specifically includes a state-of-the-art data hosting and sharing infrastructure, building on the existing equipment and technical staff at the UPF Informatics Unit and on their experience from running the existing computing infrastructures, as well as the implementation of the data policies and repository requirements specified in the scientific community, with a focus on reusability, scalability, sustainability and openness, in cooperation with the UPF Library.

We will be updating the progress and the specific initiatives in future posts, as well as our twitter account, keep alert!

PS: By the way, if you want to learn about Maria de Maeztu, a pioneer and shaker of higher-education for women in Spain in early 20th century, the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid currently runs an exhibition until March 27th 2016 on the "Residencia de Señoritas", founded and directed by Maria de Maeztu, whose main objective was to encourage women's participation in advanced education