Neurobiologist José Ramón Alonso has won the XXVIII «Estudi General» European Award for the Dissemination of Science with his work Son nuestros amos y nosotros sus esclavos, in which he analyses how very varied beings (bacteria, protozoa, viruses, fungi...) are capable of manipulating the lives of others, including humans. The also full professor of Biology at the University of Salamanca and its former rector has received the award, convened by the University of Valencia and endowed with 12,000 euros, within the framework of the -Ciutat d’Alzira- Literary Awards.
In addition, the jury has distinguished as a finalist and to be published, the work Entre venenos. Ciencia forense, investigación criminal y castigos ejemplares, desde la Edad Media hasta el presente, by José Ramón Bertomeu (València, 1966) and Carmel Ferragud (Algemesí, 1969), full professor and professor at the Department of History of Science and Documentation of the University of Valencia, respectively. Both are researchers at the López Piñero Interuniversity Institute, focused on researching and disseminating historical and social studies on medicine, technology and science.
Son nuestros amos y nosotros sus esclavos, the winning work of the European Award for the Dissemination of Science in this year’s edition, opens a fascinating hypothesis, which starts from the idea that our mental illnesses, pathological behaviours or the most tragic problems are not the result of a malfunction of the nervous system, nor the bitter fruit of chance, but the specific objective of a manipulator.
In this sense, the author raises parasitism (a relationship between two beings in which one lives on top of or inside the other, generally at the expense of the second one) and that causes adaptations and changes in two beings that live in a metabolic dependency. "It’s a science fiction classic, an alien entity gets into our body and changes us", explains Alonso.
Well, the work analyses these changes from the point of view of how these beings can also alter behaviour. "The work proposes a new approach within neurology, psychology and psychiatry, perhaps a new way to understand many diseases that we barely understand and a promising way for new treatments", explains the researcher at the Laboratory of Neuronal Plasticity and Neurorepair, one of the most productive groups of the Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y León.
The vice-rector for Innovation and Transfer of the University of Valencia, Rosa Donat, has expressed her satisfaction with this year’s edition and the high level of the works presented: "Both the award winner and the finalists and other participants people are disseminators with a well-known career path, and, without a doubt, they will increase the prestige of our collections", she highlighted.
The finalist work, Entre venenos. Ciencia forense, investigación criminar y castigos ejemplares, desde la Edad Media hasta el presente, raises the premise that Humanity has always walked among toxic substances and it is foreseeable that it will continue to do so in the future. On this approach, the poisons reflect inequalities and injustices that can contribute to reduce or, more usually, to exacerbate. Following poisons through history allows for better thinking about current and future challenges posed by toxic materials.
The jury for this edition was chaired by Rosa M. Donat, vice-rector for Innovation and Transfer; and Carolina Moreno, full professor of Journalism and director of the ’Sense Fronteres’ book collection, in which the winning work and the finalist will be published. Also taking part are Álvaro Martínez, winner of the 26 edition of this award, the last one awarded; Lucía Hipólito, researcher at the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Technology and Parasitology (UV); and Joaquín Martín Cubas, researcher at the Department of Constitutional Law, Political Science and Administration (UV).
José Ramón Alonso has been a postdoctoral researcher and visiting professor at various universities. He has written more than 40 popular science books, both for adults and children, and is the author of the blog Neurociencia (jralonso.es), with more than two and a half million visits a year and in which 1,500 articles are deposited. In addition, to date, Alonso participates in three patents, has written more than 160 articles in indexed journals and has directed 17 doctoral theses.
Carmel Ferragud has a PhD in Geography and History from the University of Valencia and is also a researcher at the Institute for Research in Medieval Cultures at the University of Barcelona. His lines of research focus on the history of medicine and science during the Middle Ages.
José Ramón Bertomeu (València, 1966) has as his main line of research the history of toxic products during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is currently researching the slow violence of pesticides during the Franco regime. He is the coordinator of the project ’Sabers en acció: una nova història de la ciència, la tecnologia i la medicina’.
Winners of the different modalities of the ’Ciutat d’Alzira’ Literary Awards have collected today, Friday, November 11 in the afternoon, the trophy designed by Manuel Boix, in a gala with 600 people, among others, personalities from the cultural and political world. A total of 16 works have been presented to the European Award for the Dissemination of Science in this edition.
- Neurobiologist José Ramón Alonso, winner of the XXVIII ’Estudi General’ European Award for the Dissemination of Science.
- From left to right: José Ramón Bertomeu and Carmel Ferragud.