Major research projects, such as those that involve traveling to outer space or the depths of the ocean, often dominate the media, but there are other less prominent ones that do not fall under the spotlight. Behind all of them are stories of achievement, a quest for answers and the challenge of improving the environment in which we live, working on such everyday aspects as road safety, insurance and health. In this article we take a look at some of these stories, a selection of thewinning projects chosen by Fundación MAPFRE in the 2016 edition of the IgnacioH. de Larramendi Research Grants.
TEXT: JUAN RAMÓN GOMEZ PHOTO: THINKSTOCK
Emergencies in world heritage cities
Spain can boast a large number of world heritage cities which are visited by millions of tourists every year. There are no fewer than 15 towns and cities on this list. A huge influx of people visit their historic sites at all hours of the day, usually meandering along winding, narrow streets and pedestrian areas that are filled with commercial vehicles at loading and unloading times. When it comes to handling this tourism, which is so important to their economies, the world heritage cities lack a standardized set of criteria for organizing their security..
On detecting this need, the team led by the engineer Andrés Pedreira Ferreño decided to create a guide to unify these criteria and bring together all the information available on these cities: “Our project will undertake a detailed analysis of the accessibility and security problems faced by the emergency and rescue services when they have to act at these historic sites, sometimes caused by the very elements that seek to enhance mobility. We will plan access routes to establish the shortest way to reach the place in the event of an incident, defining which vehicles can access certain places and the route they should take.”
When it comes to handling this tourism, which is so important to their economies, the world heritage cities lack a standardized set of criteria for organizing their security
The guide produced in this project will take into account the fact that pedestrians are involved in a high percentage of accidents occurring at these heritage sites, analyze other risks such as fire and provide contents for an app “in order to facilitate managing this information and reaching a greater audience.”
Pedreira has surrounded himself with a multidisciplinary research team with extensive experience in the management of historic town centers. Mariluz García brings her experience with a management project in Cáceres very similar to the objectives set in this case, which serves as the basis for producing this guide. Carlos García Touriñán has extensive practical experience in the field, while Pedreira himself contributes knowledge of engineering and its applications. In addition, they have two technical architects and an architect who specializes in managing people movement..
Making the insurance sector attractive
Would you work in an insurance company? Apparently, even the question itself is not very attractive for young people seeking employment and for university and postgraduate students. According to Jorge Martínez Ramallo, executive director of the Center for Insurance Research at the IE University, this is despite the fact that the sector offers objectively favorable conditions as an employer, in terms of stability, company benefits and professional development. With this premise, he decided to head a research project to analyze “the extent to which the causes of this limited attractiveness as an employer revolve around a lack of knowledge of these objective circumstances and which are due to widespread perceptions in society at large.”
And he says this from personal experience: “When you ask college students studying math, engineering or any other scientific specialty whether they would like to work in insurance, their expression alone lets you know that this possibility has not even crossed their minds. In reality, these people could have very interesting careers.”
With over 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry, many of them holding human resources positions at the national and international level, Martínez Ramallo describes the creation of the IE Research Center as “a tremendous opportunity to contribute to furthering knowledge within and outside the insurance sector,” and he explains: “employer branding influences the ability of insurance companies to attract talent and, ultimately, the productivity and professional development of that talent.” For this project, he has brought together insurance professionals like Ana Díez Brezmes and IE professors like Margarita Mayo and Pilar Rojo, who will help him “bring research closer to the business world so that the fruit of the research can be of maximum service to the insurance sector.”
Martínez Ramallo believes that his project was chosen by Fundación MAPFRE because “it is a highly topical issue in a sector which holds enhancing its image in society as one of its key priorities. Analyzing and helping to increase the attractiveness of the sector as an employer is an important element for achieving this improved image.” There will not be long to wait for its conclusions, as they will be ready by the end of this year.
Cultural references can affect road safety
The information we receive in our daily lives can have a bearing on the way we drive and can thus affect road safety. This is the basic premise of the research undertaken by Eusebio Megías, technical director of the FAD (Foundation for Drug-Addiction Assistance), on cultural references and driving risks. “Social communication – which consists of the climate landscape, advertising, audiovisual contents, etc. – clearly influences the formation of attitudes and lifestyles,” he explains. “Therefore, they influence the values involved in the way we drive and behave in traffic. Hence, it proves necessary to analyze the main contents of this social communication, so as to be able to work in a positive, educational manner on improving road traffic conditions.”
It is his experience in the FAD which has shown him that people’s behavior is determined not just by information or knowledge of behavioral risks: “There are underlying elements – whether related to attitudes, ethics, ideologies or value judgments – which have a bearing on behavior. It’s important to know about them and take them into account.” Megías is well aware of the influence of these underlying elements on risky behavior, especially as regards drug consumption, and he states that: “Itwasn’t hard to extend that experience to the risks of driving.” For this project he has surrounded himself with a team of sociologists and psychologists with extensive experience in the analysis of youth cultures, values, construction of
risks and of the conditions for protection factors. “The ideal team, given their knowledge and experience, for this project,” he says.
«Social communication – which consists of the climate landscape, advertising, audiovisual contents, etc. – clearly influences the formation of attitudes and lifestyles»