Statement of ECRA on the resignation of Mauro Ferrari from the ERC
On 7 April 2020, Mauro Ferrari has stepped down as President of the European Research Council after three months in office. According to the resignation letter available online , Mr Ferrari was disappointed by the difference between his expectations of the ERC and the reality, and the resulting inability to pursue his idealistic goals, particularly with regard to the COVID-19 crisis. He blamed the ERC to be focused too much on "the subtleties of the distinctions between Bottom-Up versus Top-Down research", which have been hindering his ambitious plans.
Fundamental research and the profound characteristics of science itself and the management of science actors of the ERC, however, cannot and should not be questioned in this way. The ERC is an excellent research body, supported by many – including ECRA, the European Climate Research Alliance. As the ERC, ECRA highlights the importance of scientific freedom, independence, and believes that the current governing principles of the ERC are suitable.
The Scientific Council, steering the ERC, has issued a critical response  to the letter and resignation of Mr Ferrari along this reasoning: The ERC is not in a position to drastically change its raison d'etre from Buttom-Up to Top-Down over night. Also, the ERC has already numerous high-quality activities ongoing, including the possibility for the grant-holders to shift their research topic, e.g. towards COVID-19.
The Scientific Council is not alone in its criticism of Ferrari, Sciencemag  writes, quoting President of Sorbonne University Jean Chambaz, who described Ferrari as “very arrogant” and noting that he finds the coronavirus crisis to “desert, and to make people talk about him.” In other news, Dnyuz  reports that President of Eindhoven University of Technology and former Director-General of DG RTD Robert-Jan Smits stressed that “Ferrari was just the wrong man for this job. Being a top scientist is not a guarantee for being a good leader of a scientific organization.” Furthermore, EMBO  stresses in a statement that the ERC is playing a decisive role in accelerating research on SARS-CoV-2. British physicist and former Member of the Scientific Council Dame Athene Donald DBE FRS publishes a blog post  discussing the Ferrari resignation – and explaining what the ERC stands for.
Science Business  writes that “research heavyweights” dismiss charges of “uncoordinated” EU response to COVID-19. The EU has mobilised fairly quickly, with a good mix of funding for research on the coronavirus pandemic, says Matthias Kleiner, president of the Leibniz Association. Similarly, Research Professional  notes that “academia rallies round ERC over President’s forced resignation.”
Member of the Scientific Council Gerd Gigerenzer spoke with the German radio channel SWR2 about Ferrari’s resignation, explaining the background of why the Scientific Council asked Ferrari to resign.
To support the budgetary plans of the ERC, a petition was launched and we encourage participation.
"In an open letter, we call upon the EU Presidents and the Heads of States and Governments in Europe to secure funding for the European Research Council in the new, long-term EU budget."
More information: https://friendsoftheerc.w.uib.no/
- All key statements (Science Business) https://sciencebusiness.net/news/read-all-key-statements-ferraris-resignation-erc-post
- Resignation of Mauro Ferrari – Statement by the Scientific Council https://erc.europa.eu/news/resignation-mauro-ferrari-%E2%80%93-statement-scientific-council