EU’s chief scientist quits over European coronavirus response

Mauro Ferrari, the president of the European Research Council (ERC), is stepping down as head of Europe's leading scientific institution after just four months after he was unable to push through his plans for a programme to fight coronavirus.

"I have been extremely disappointed by the European response to COVID-19," Ferrari told the Financial Times, which first reported the news.

"I arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU [but] the COVID-19 crisis completely changed my views, though the ideals of international collaboration I continue to support with enthusiasm," Ferrari said.

Ferrari, a nano-scientist whose term as head of the ERC was meant to last four years, told the FT that his problems began in March "as it became evident that the pandemic would be a tragedy of possibly unprecedented proportions."

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A road sign advising drivers to stay home and not to travel during the Easter Weekend on the M80 near Banknock as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Adverts encouraging people to stay at home are displayed in an empty Picadilly Circus, as the UK continues its lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture date: Thursday April 9, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Empty streets and boarded up shops, restaurants and theatres on Old Compton Street in Soho, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture date: Thursday April 9, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
A teenager draws a rainbow and an NHS logo on the wall of her house in Liverpool in support of the NHS as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A police officer talks to members of the public about adhering to social distancing guidelines in Northampton, as Northants Police announce they are toughening up their social distancing enforcement, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Two knitted NHS doctors are fitted over bollards outside a house in Oldland Common, South Gloucestershire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
An image of Queen Elizabeth II and quotes from her Corona epidemic broadcast to the UK and Commonwealth is displayed in Piccadilly Circus, London. Picture date: Wednesday 8th April 2020. Photo credit should read: David Jensen/ EMPICS Entertainment
The Nishkam SWAT (Sikh Welfare & Awareness Team) mobile outreach service serving hot meals and drinks to the homeless and less fortunate from their van in Trafalgar Square, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Customers queue outside a store, standing two metre apart guided by social distancing floor markers in London, UK on April 8, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care with the coronavirus, infecting more than 55,000 people across the country and nearly 6,200 have died. (Photo by Claire Doherty/Sipa USA)
Medical staff demonstrate how they take samples at an MOT testing centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is being used as a drive through testing location for Covid-19, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Christmas lights are used to show appreciation for the NHS on a house in Cambridge Drive in Chandler's Ford near Eastleigh, Southampton, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Three police officers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a precautionary measure against Covid-19, visit a home in Brixton, south London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture date: Monday April 6, 2020.
A woman jogging on the Millennium Bridge in London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Shuttered stores and police patrols on Ann Street in Belfast, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
John Fowler of IHP at the new temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital North West being built at Manchester Central conference centre in Manchester, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Picture taken at 1046am of Military personnel help administer Covid19 tests for NHS workers at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A woman walks past a boarded up restaurant in Edinburgh's Old Town as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Dog walkers maintain social distancing at Blyth beach near Whitley Bay in Northern England as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The BT tower screens a message encouraging people to stay at home, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus
General view of a visibly quiet Westminster Bridge in London, UK on April 6, 2020. Last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital for undergoing tests after suffering 'persistent' symptoms of coronavirus for 10 days, this evening Prime Minister Johnson condition worsened and he was taken to intensive care. There have been almost 50,000 reported cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the United Kingdom and almost 5,000 deaths. The country is in its third week of lockdown measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. (Photo by Claire Doherty/Sipa USA)
The National Gallery is closed to the public due to the spread of coronavirus. Boris Johnson, announced strict lockdown measures urging people to stay at home and only leave the house for basic food shopping, exercise once a day and essential travel to and from work. Around 50,000 reported cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United Kingdom and 5,000 deaths. The country is in its third week of lockdown measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. (Photo by Rahman Hassani / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Robin Smith, 20 exercises at Endcliffe park in Sheffield. The British Government imposed nationwide lockdown to minimise the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (Photo by Yiannis Alexopoulos / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Beach patrol speak with a member of the public while patrolling the seafront in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
File photo dated 27/03/20 of a rainbow made from bottle caps in Muston, Leicestershire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Queen Elizabeth II gave a televised message to the nation during the coronavirus outbreak.
People buy ice creams on Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public sunbathe in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police move on sunbathers in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Cyclists by the river Avon in a near-deserted Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A 'Please stay 2 metres apart' sign on Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public exercise on Primrose Hill, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
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He wanted to establish an ERC programme to respond to the pandemic, deploying resources to help the "very best scientists in the world" work on "new drugs, new vaccines, new diagnostic tools, new behavioural dynamic approaches based on science, to replace the oft-improvised intuitions of political leaders."

READ MORE:Wellcome Trust calls on businesses to donate $8bn for COVID-19 research

However, his ambitious plans were not welcomed, he said, noting that: "The ERC Scientific Council, its governing body, unanimously rejected the idea," arguing that as an institution it is only allowed to fund bottom-up research proposals by scientists, rather than programmes "with objectives set by EU leaders."

"I argued that this was not the time for scientific governance to worry excessively about the subtleties of the distinctions between bottom-up versus top-down research," Ferrari said.

The Italian-American scientist said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen invited him to share his thoughts on how to tackle the pandemic, saying "the very fact that I worked directly with her created an internal political thunderstorm. The proposal was passed on to different layers of European Commission administration, where I believe it disintegrated upon impact."

The European Commission noted on Wednesday 8 April that there were 50 ERC projects currently underway. "The European Union has the most comprehensive package of measures combating the coronavirus and it is deploying different instruments in order to have the biggest impact for solving the crisis," the Commission said.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo
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