Topline: Mauro Ferrari, head of the European Union’s top scientific research body, has quit after three months in the job because he is “extremely disappointed” in the EU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Ferrari took up the four-year post as president of the European Research Council on January 1, 2020, but resigned on Tuesday, effective immediately, citing a “political thunderstorm” in the European Commission in response to his plans to address the pandemic.
- In a stinging letter criticizing the bureaucracy of the European Council, Ferrari, a scientist, wrote: “I have lost faith in the system itself.”
- “I moved that the European Research Council should establish a special program directed at combating COVID-19,” he wrote, but that the plan was outright rejected by the European Commission, the ERC’s governing body, and that his presidency became “fully opposed by them, in every respect.”
- Ferrari added that the commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, “reached out,” asking for his input on confronting the pandemic, but that his direct work with her created disquiet and led to the downfall of his plans as it passed throughout the organization.
- A spokesman for the European Commission said: “The commission regrets the resignation of Professor Ferrari at this early stage in his mandate as ERC President.”
Crucial comment: Ferrari said, in a two-page statement, printed in the Financial Times: “I have been extremely disappointed by the European response to COVID-19, for what pertains to the complete absence of coordination of health care policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, the pervasive one-sided border closures, and the marginal scale of synergistic scientific initiatives.”
Key background: The European Research Council was set up by the European Commission in 2007 to fund high-quality scientific research out forward by experts.
Tangent: Talks between euro zone finance ministers failed on Tuesday, after they could not agree on a rescue package to help soothe the EU’s economies from the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The seven-hour videoconference ended after Italy and Spain accused Germany and the Netherlands of not doing enough to help out the bloc’s less wealthy nations. Meanwhile, there are concerns that Italian euroskepticism is hardening after European leaders did not immediately respond to Italy’s call for help to deal with the outbreak. Italy is one of the countries hardest hit by coronavirus, globally.
Further reading: Coronabonds And The Eurozone–The Crisis At The Heart Of Europe’s Pandemic Recovery: Explained (David Dawkins)
- Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) – Science Magazine
- England coronavirus testing has not risen fast enough – science chief – The Guardian
- Coronavirus Tests Science’s Need for Speed Limits – The New York Times
- Trump Falsely Distorts New York Times COVID-19 Science Story – FactCheck.org
- This is the brightest supernova ever seen – Science Magazine
- Coronavirus Today: Science will save us – Los Angeles Times
- Italians stuck at home are measuring light pollution for ‘science on the balcony’ – TechCrunch
- ‘Oumuamua might be a shard of a broken planet – Science News
- College of Arts and Science converts thriving academic programs to departments – Vanderbilt University News