On April 17, 2015 José Mariano Gago passed away at the age of only 66. He was until January 1, 2015 a member of the Governing Board of EuroScience. EuroScience feels deeply saddened. He has done much for EuroScience; he was a towering figure in debates and developments in European policies for science, technology and innovation. He was a warm man, too, open, hospitable, calm and wise, in the centre of discussions he participated in.
Mariano Gago was a particle physicist, in Portugal and at CERN. In the late 1980s he became president of the Portuguese Funding Agency for research, now called FCT. In 1995 he was appointed minister for science in Portugal, a post in which he remained until 2002. In 2004 he became president of the Initiative for Science in Europe, ISE, campaigning for the establishment of the ERC. He had to give this up one year later because he was appointed once more minister in 2005, with and extended portfolio for science and higher education. He served in this capacity until 2011. He was member of EuroScience’s GB from 2012 till the end of 2014.
Mariano Gago has been of crucial importance to Portugal. He worked hard to modernize and transform Portuguese universities and research institutes, and to integrate them strongly into the international science and education community supporting formal links with major universities abroad. He made Portugal member of international European research organisations such as CERN and ESO.
He was also a key player at the European level. His experience, seniority, personality and intellectual and political acuteness ensured his almost indispensable role in the formal discussions in the EU Research Council, later Competitiveness Council and many conferences organized by the European Commission, member states or organisations such as the European University Association. An example is the committee which he chaired after his first period as minister on the need for human resources in Europe to meet the requirements of the Lisbon goals. He was key in formulating them and getting them accepted by the European Heads of State and Government.
In late 2003 the European Life Science Forum and EuroScience decided to establish the Initiative for Science in Europe, ISE, with ESF and e.g. the European Physical and Mathematical Society. The goal was to organize the science community’s lobbying for the ERC. It was successful, and when in late 2004 ISE decided to don a more formal coat, it was only natural for Mariano Gago to become its first president.
Many of us in EuroScience have in one, or another, capacity been working with him from the 90s onwards into this century. The Voice of the Researchers should be heard, was the common base, and he would insist that the scientific community needed to organize itself to make an impact on finance ministers and prime ministers to be effective. During the last two years he has helped enormously in the various activities concerning the impacts of austerity measures on the science base and career prospects of scientists in especially Southern (but also other) European countries. Many remember his chairing a high-profile session at ESOF 2014 in Copenhagen.
We will remember him with admiration and fondness.