“The Severo Ochoa award has given an impulse to excellence in science”


Editor in Chief of the Science and Technology section of El País


Patricia Fernández de Lis is the Editor in Chief of the Science and Technology section of El País, due to an agreement reached by this outstanding newspaper with Materia, the science information website created by the team which runs Science section of Público when the printed version of that newspaper had closed down. She will be one of the speakers in “100Xciencia” a forum where journalists and scientists will be able to debate about the role of the popularization of science.



You represent the story of an adventure in journalism and in business in the middle of the crisis, because when the daily newspaper Público closed down, its staff created Materia, which is now associated with El País. Science as news, is this a niche in the market?

“Yes, at least I think so. Materia is not the only example; another is the success of the SINC Agency. And major Latin American newspapers such as El Comercio or El Mercurio have also recently backed science news in a big way. I think that news about science has been for a long time tucked away in supplements, and was basically written by and for scientists. Fortunately that situation is now in the past”.


What basic rules do you follow in Materia-El País?

"Materia, which is the science section of the newspaper El País, follows the same principles as the newspaper itself: we publish news every day which is serious, rigorous, with proven sources, and aiming at the truth, which in our case is about the latest research in physics, biology, astrophysics, neuroscience, health, or the environment. We believe that science news can be rigorous and at the same time attractive, understandable, and exciting. We want to convey to the reader the passion with which scientists carry out their research. In addition we have specialized sections such as Ciencia en español (Science in Spanish), whose aim is to explain the discoveries and achievements of Spanish and Latin American researchers; Crónicas de Astromanía (Chronicles of Astronomy), coordinated by the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries (IAC) where we publish stories and anecdotes about space, and the Juego de la Ciencia (The Game of Science) where we give our readers games and logic puzzles. Galleries of photos, videos, opinion, and interactive pieces make up the rest of our daily news offer”.


How are you getting on with the experience of combining two editorial teams into a new specialized news product?

“It has turned out to be a fantastic experience, given that El País had, and continues to have, news journalists, popularizers, and writers of articles with great reputations, and Materia was the most important website dealing with science in Spanish, which had most readers and follows in the social media”.


Do you think that as Spain is the ninth country in the world in the production of new science, the national science policy is satisfactory? What would you change?

“As a journalist it is not my job to judge national science policy. Nevertheless it is pretty obvious that a country which increases or reduces its investment in science according to the overall economic situation cannot have a stable and coherent national system for I+D+i. The only way to change this is for a national strategy for science to be an essential part of the programs of the political parties”.


We are in the year when the first edition of the Severo Ochoa Award for Excellence is due to finish. What is your opinion about this award for the 20 Centres of Excellence which will be meeting in La Palma in October?

“I think that it helps to bring to the attention of the public these centers of reference in Spain, which can be a source of inspiration for the others. It also improves the competition between Spanish research centers, and helps them to gain prestige among their international counterparts. It has been an impulse for excellence”.


What are the actions which you think should be taken from now on?

“Again, as a journalist it is not for me to speculate about what should be done, but I am sure there will be many opportunities for debate on this on La Palma”.


“The success of Materia is a guarantee that the popularization of science is a very interesting field in which to work”


The “100XCIENCIA” forum is a unique encounter between the Severo Ochoa centers and science communicators. How would you evaluate this? What expectations do you harbour about it?

“I think that it is a great opportunity for scientists, journalists, and popularizers to learn about the work we are doing, to share both positive and negative experiences, and to collaborate to improve the information about science which we offer to the general public”.


In “100XCIENCIA” we are placing emphasis on the training of young journalists towards a career in science outreach and news. Do you think that there is an interesting market for this at present and in the near future?

“I do think so. The success of Materia is a guarantee that this is an area to work in which is very interesting and in which there is a great deal still to do”.


You are a proponent of the creation of vocations in science. Why, and how?

“I think that the “why” is obvious: it is the only way to change Spain into a competitive country, economically, socially, and culturally. As for the “how”, I think that there should be firm institutional support for science news and outreach, above all in the public media”.


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
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