From the ICM Challenges Local Theory Us the Present

to the World Research Global Action Society the Future


Annual Report 2021

Director's letter

From the ICM to the World

Ocean science for a healthy planet

We have consolidated our strategy

In 2021 we harvested the fruits of the self-prospecting and strategic shift we made during the period 2019-2020.

Redefining our strategy in line with the current scientific, environmental and social challenges has allowed the ICM to obtain great scientific results and has contributed considerably to our growth:


We promoted the global programme Ocean Cities

One of the 37 programmes accredited by the United Nations in the framework of the Decade of Ocean Science.


We established ourselves as a centre of attraction for promising young researchers through competitive public calls

More than 20 postdoctoral researchers chose the ICM to start their scientific career.


We reinforced our commitment to gender equality in the field of marine research

We designed our own Gender Equality Plan, which aims to advance towards effective equality between women and men.


We celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Fisheries Research Institute (IIP)

The IIP gave birth to the ICM and to the Marine Research Institute (IIM) of Vigo, the Torre de la Sal Aquaculture Institute (IATS), the Andalusian Institute of Marine Science (ICMAN) and the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB).



Following the trend of previous years, we continued to attract talent and generate high-impact publications.

We further increased the quality of our studies and continue to be the marine research centre with the highest Nature Index in Spain and in the Mediterranean.

The Nature Index is a classification of the articles published in 82 scientific journals that were selected by an independent scientific committee for their prestige.
The chart shows data collected between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2021.

From Individuals to Teams

We are a committed community working rigorously to achieve a more sustainable ocean


In 2021 we continued to attract young talent, future research leaders and promising new researchers.

Our multidisciplinary research allowed us to recruit 14 doctoral students and 20 postdoctoral researchers in such demanding public calls for staff as the Juan de la Cierva, Beatriu de Pinós, Ramon y Cajal, Junior Leader and Marie Skłodowska Curie calls.






Total Women Men

Staff scientists




Postdoctoral researchers












Administration & Support Staff





To advance towards achieving effective equality between women and men, we drafted the first Gender Equality Plan adapted to the reality of our institution. This document was drafted with the encouragement of the European projects LeTSGEPs and ResBios, under the umbrella of the CSIC’s Equality Plan.

Gender Equality Plan
This plan seeks to generate a structural change that mainstreams the principle of gender equality throughout the institution and incorporates the gender dimension in research.

In addition, in 2021 various actions aimed to promote the participation, recognition and research initiatives of women of the ICM. These include a pilot tutoring programme for young researchers, the establishment of criteria that guarantee gender sensitivity in the allocation of funds from internal calls, and the monthly publication of articles on gender equality topics in the ICM newsletter.

Finally, within the framework of “Awareness Month”, lasting from the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11) to International Women’s Day (March 8), women researchers of ICM participated in awareness-raising talks in schools.

The Equality Task Force, which aims to promote institutional actions on gender equality, was also given wider responsibilities and powers in 2021.

An ICM researcher was appointed as a member of the CSIC’s Women and Science Committee, and the scientific journal Scientia Marina obtained the Mention of Good Editorial Practices in Gender Equality of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT).


At the ICM we place special emphasis on training scientists to develop critical and independent thinking.

A total of 15 doctoral students defended their theses within the doctoral programmes of six universities in Spain and abroad in 2021. Numerous bachelor’s and master’s degree final projects were also supervised.

These figures indicate that the ICM is a good place to start a brilliant career in marine science in a multidisciplinary environment, whether in the field of biology, physics, chemistry, geoscience or fisheries.

Friday Talks

As every year, we continued to organize the Friday Talks. Since 2021 they have been held in a hybrid format, face-to-face and online, which has allowed us to reach more people.

These talks are an opportunity for exchanging ideas in which the working groups of the ICM and other centres share the latest advances in marine science.

PhD thesis





Female speakers
Male speakers

From Challenges to Research

We firmly believe in the ability of research to meet global social and environmental challenges



1st Decile

1st Quartile

Papers in journals with an impact factor over 15
Open Access
Publications in open access
First author ratio

Selected publications

At the ICM we carry out cutting-edge research. It is our commitment to promote the transfer of knowledge and technology related to the interactions between the ocean and climate, the conservation and sustainable use of marine life and ecosystems, and mitigation of the impacts of natural hazards and anthropogenic activity.

The strongest velocity gradients determine the statistical properties of ocean currents
Through the reformulation of a turbulence model, this study demonstrates that the most intense velocity gradients modify the scaling properties of the statistics of ocean currents. The findings question some of the classical models of turbulence and open the door to better ocean and climate models.
Isern-Fontanet et al. (2021) Journal of Physical Oceanography
The melting of the Antarctic seas favours the formation of clouds
This is the main conclusion of a study that reveals that Antarctic sea ice retreat causes the emission of organic nitrogen, which drives the formation of aerosols in the atmosphere. This in turn favours the formation of clouds that filter solar radiation, with major consequences for the region’s climate.
Brean et al. (2021) Nature Geoscience
Fishing could alter the collective behaviour of fish, with major socio-ecological consequences
According to this study, fishing activity could decrease the tendency of fish to form schools, thus possibly affecting both prey-predator dynamics and fish catchability. In the long term, this could have a great socio-ecological impact.
Sbragaglia et al. (2021) Trends in Ecology and Evolution
Discovery of the genome of more than 500 microorganisms of the Arctic Ocean, 80% of them previously unknown
The results of this study show the limited scale of our knowledge of microbial communities (which are responsible for biogeochemical cycles and the planet’s climate) in such remote areas as the Arctic Ocean. The study of the dynamics and metabolism of the key microorganisms in these communities will help to monitor, shape and understand the magnitude of the impacts of climate change in this very sensitive ocean.
Royo-Llonch et al. (2021) Nature Microbiology
Ecological restoration is key to guaranteeing the future of cold-water corals
The results of the few attempts to restore these unique deep habitats suggest that it is feasible. However, new methodologies are needed to expand the temporal and spatial scales of these actions in order to deal with the threats to these ecosystems.
Montseny et al. (2021) Frontiers in Marine Science
Discovery of control mechanisms for large tsunamis in subduction zones
This discovery was the result of a new hypothesis on the elasticity of the rocks involved in the propagation of an earthquake as a determining factor of its properties. This is the first time that the hypothesis has been applied to a real case, that of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1992 in Nicaragua. The findings could improve tsunami monitoring and warning systems worldwide.
Sallarès et al. (2021) Science Advances

From Local to Global

We forge collaboration networks both locally and internationally to safeguard the health of the ocean

The Blanes Bay Microbial Observatory celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021.

Thanks to this facility, during the last two decades more than 350 sea expeditions have been carried out, providing an enormous amount of information on the abundance, diversity and function of the bay’s marine microorganisms.

Blanes Bay Microbial Observatory (BBMO)
This is a model of an oligotrophic coastal ecosystem little affected by human and terrestrial influences.

This collection of data and samples is very valuable, as it is one of the most complete and longest time series in the world.

Oceanographic campaigns

The ICM carries out campaigns in all the seas and oceans of the world to collect scientific data and increase knowledge of their conservation status. The ultimate goal is to improve their health status and the management of the resources they provide.

In 2021, as many as 48 researchers from the Institute embarked on oceanographic campaigns in various parts of the world, accumulating a total of 180 days at sea.

En l’àmbit internacional, s’ha impulsat la creació d’Ocean Cities’, una iniciativa que busca promoure el desenvolupament de ciutats oceàniques sostenibles.

The international Ocean Cities network coordinated by the ICM and the Marine Technology Unit (UTM) seeks to promote the development of sustainable ocean cities. This network is made up of 26 organizations from all over the world and has been recognized by the United Nations as a programme of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Ocean Cities
A programme that works to change the way citizens interact with the ocean, with the goal of promoting sustainable ocean cities by 2030.

The goal of Ocean Cities is to change the way coastal cities interact and evolve with the ocean. Therefore, the initiative will use and promote ocean science to support the Sustainable Development Goals, especially numbers 13 and 14 referring to climate change and life in the oceans.

From Ideas to Facts

We conduct excellent research, with a particular emphasis on social engagement

Social transfer

We see knowledge transfer as a means to foster the transition towards a more sustainable socio-economic system that improves the well-being of society and the planet.

We therefore drafted an action plan to promote knowledge transfer in our field. The aim is to combine the search for excellence with social engagement, in order to continue growing as an institution and reduce the gap between knowledge and action. In drafting the plan, we applied analysis tools from the business world, involving numerous internal and external actors. The result was the creation of ICMTransfer.

A strategic framework for developing an action plan aimed at combining the search for excellence with social engagement through the transfer of knowledge to society.

This framework seeks to strengthen and coordinate knowledge transfer and collaboration with local actors and social sectors and includes co-governance actions with citizens and institutions, projects with companies, and the creation of useful new patents and models.

All this is aligned with the objectives of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and is framed in the  2030 Maritime Strategy of Catalonia and in the Blue Economy Plan of the Barcelona City Council. The challenge is to become guarantors of sustainability for the development of the blue economy and transformative innovation in the Mediterranean.


Total value of the projects awarded in 2021
Total amount in € of all contracts signed in 2021. For competitive projects, total amount in of the projects with an award notification between 01/01/2021 and 31/12/2021.
Income sources in 2021
Soft funding includes competitive projects, contracts with industry and private funding sources. Core funding is the non-competitive funding received by the CSIC.

From Us to Society

We promote ocean culture to involve society in caring for the ocean

Marine science is culture

At the ICM we understand science as a fundamental part of our daily lives. Therefore, with the support of the Marine Science Literacy Committee, we carry out many activities to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of the ocean for life on Earth.

Indeed, the ocean’s well-being is very closely linked to our own, and our mission is to spread this message. In 2021 we played a leading role in events such as the 2021 City and Science Biennial and the science festival “Festa de la Ciència” to bring marine research closer to society.

The 2021 City and Science Biennial and the "Festa de la Ciència"
This event has a programme of more than 250 activities related to the limits of the planet, society and science, warning of the consequences that exceeding these limits can have on people, humanity and the environment. The ICM was one of the festival venues and hosted various activities.
70th anniversary of the Fisheries Research Institute (IIP)
This anniversary was celebrated on 1 October in a commemorative event that was a meeting point for the CSIC’s marine research centres.

The actions to promote marine science culture reached more than 15,000 people, 60% of whom were students at primary and secondary level. The students participated in projects such as "La Mar de Medusas" and "Petits Oceanògrafs".


The ICM’s Outreach and Communication Unit experienced unprecedented growth in 2021. We were more present than ever in the media and in the social networks, where we had more than 12,000 followers, 40% more than in 2020.

We also published our new ICM corporate video, which has received more than 30,000 views. This video explains how the quest for excellence in marine science helps us reveal the fascinating story behind the ocean and solve the great challenges we face as humanity.

#UnaGranHistoria (A Great History to Tell)
A communication campaign that accompanies the presentation of the ICM’s new corporate video and seeks to establish a dialogue with the public. A specific aim is to discover people’s perception of the sea and their greatest concerns regarding it.

Media highlights

Joaquim Garrabou en "Ultimatum del mar"
‘Emergència climàtica: L'ultimàtum del mar’ (TV3)
A report on the impact of climate change on the Catalan coast and its social consequences, with the researcher Joaquim Garrabou.
“Ens esperen uns anys turbulents per la davallada en l'extracció de petroli" (RAC1)
An interview with Antonio Turiel about the current energy crisis and the consequences that the exhaustion of oil and other raw materials may have on our lifestyle.
‘Un cable de fibra óptica convertido en 400 sismógrafos toma el pulso al volcán de la Palma’ (El Independiente)
A report on the role of marine science and technological innovation in monitoring the activity of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, with researcher Antonio Villaseñor.

From the Present to the Future

Let’s imagine a more sustainable future for the ocean; let’s investigate and act to achieve it


The ICM is a multidisciplinary marine research centre of excellence that has shown exceptional growth and exposure in recent years. Currently, it is the main marine research centre in Spain and the Mediterranean based on objective criteria. It has an extraordinary ability to undertake interdisciplinary research challenges from the local to the global scale, both in scientific excellence and in knowledge transfer.

Achieving and maintaining scientific excellence is the ICM’s raison d’être and the cornerstone that will allow us to consolidate our institutional prestige. In the immediate future we will focus on continuing to improve the indicators that will allow us to renew the Severo Ochoa accreditation. Drafting a project to achieve this is as an ambitious but realistic objective.

Our open and multidisciplinary profile also makes us an exceptional and attractive actor for the various sectors of society. Increasing the social return of research is of growing importance in many areas, and at the ICM we are aware of and participate in this reality. We have various open initiatives to increase our social engagement, and these are expected to be consolidated and grow in the future.

To facilitate this, we are developing ICMTransfer, a strategy based on the ICM’s shared mission and vision. Its aim is to identify transfer actions that are adapted to our idiosyncrasies, promote them and organize them in a common portfolio.

This includes transferring technology to companies, offering co-governance and advice to administrations, training social actors in values of environmental sustainability and promoting public participation in decision-making.

At the ICM we are also aware that our main asset is human capital. Our priorities for the immediate future are to improve the work environment, to have direct dealings with our staff and to offer them training and professional development, regardless of their profile. To increase efficiency and coordination in this field, we are implementing the ICMCares programme, which aims to accompany our human team in all phases of their career and follows the indications of the European Union’s Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R). This accompaniment includes reception, follow-up, training, mentoring, professional guidance and the fostering of a team spirit and interpersonal relationships.

We are confident that the implementation of ICMTransfer and ICMCares will promote the development of our institute, strengthen our commitment to society and make working at the ICM a unique and enriching experience for all staff.