A researcher during a manipulation in a laboratory (Photo illustration) - Yevgeny Sofiychuk / TASS / Sipa USA / SIPA

The President of the European Research Council, an EU agency, left the room criticizing the Union's response to the new coronavirus pandemic, after all his colleagues had called for his resignation. The Italian Mauro Ferrari announced his resignation in a letter to the British daily Financial Times , in which he explains "having lost faith in the system".

The European Commission confirmed on Wednesday this resignation, given the day before, and which "takes effect immediately as requested," said a spokesman for the European executive. The latter declared "regretting" the departure of the professor "at the start of my mandate, and in these times of unprecedented crisis where the role of European research is essential". He pointed out that Mauro Ferrari himself had just undergone a vote of no confidence from the rest of the scientific council of the CER.

"I was clearly disappointed"

Originally from Italy, Professor Mauro Ferrari has spent his career primarily in the United States in multiple areas of research. He is considered a pioneer in nanomedicine. The professor will only have spent three months in office - his term began on January 1. In his letter, he states that the strategy he had developed to support research in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic was rejected by the scientific council of the CER.

"I was clearly disappointed, and deeply disturbed, by this unanimous rejection," he wrote in this letter. According to him, the rejection of his strategy was justified by the fact that the mission of the ERC is to support projects without giving directives on the objectives or the areas of research.

Unanimously approved resignation

The European Research Council published a few hours after Mauro Ferrari's announcement a press release very critical of its former president, stating that the 19 members of the agency's scientific council had unanimously asked for his resignation in a vote, end of March.

They developed four points which guided their disavowal: the "lack of appreciation of the raison d'être of the CER" on the part of Professor Ferrari, his "lack of commitment", his "personal initiatives" without consultation with the scientific advice or its involvement in "multiple external companies, some academic, some commercial".

The Commission stressed that other scientific programs were more relevant to respond to the pandemic. "The mission of the ERC is to support long-term research developments, while other parts of Horizon 2020 (…) are better equipped to tackle immediate challenges," said spokesperson Johannes Bahrke. .


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