EU science chief quits over ‘disappointing European response to Covid-19’
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EU science chief quits over ‘disappointing European response to Covid-19’

Credit: World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The President of the European Research Council (ERC), Mauro Ferrari, unexpectedly resigned after his proposal to set up a large-scale scientific programme to fight the new coronavirus (Covid-19) was rejected by the European Union.

“I have been extremely disappointed by the European response to Covid-19,” Ferrari said in a statement to the Financial Times, pointing to the complete absence of coordination of health care policies, and the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, among others.

“I am afraid that I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,” he said, adding that he had “lost faith in the system itself.”

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His proposal to establish a special programme to combat the coronavirus was unanimously rejected by the ERC’s governing body, according to Ferrari, “without even considering what shape or form it may take, and to such an extent that my presidency became fully opposed by them, in every respect.”

The rejection, according to Ferrari, was based on the notion that the ERC funds “Bottom-Up” research, meaning “it does not specify focus areas or funding objectives, nor does it consider beneficial impact on society as a funding criterion.”

Ferrari is an Italian-American expert in nano-medicine and took office as the ERC’s President on 1 January 2020, after he was appointed seven months earlier in May 2019. He submitted his resignation, after four months of presidency, to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday afternoon.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times