Head of Portuguese science foundation leaves under a cloud

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Biomedical researcher Miguel Seabra stepped down last week from the presidency of Portugal’s science funding agency, the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), after more than 3 years in office.Although Seabra invoked “personal reasons” for his decision, scientists note that he resigned amid mounting criticism of the agency’s policies. “The climate was very tense,” says Marco Alves, head of numerical modeling at WavEC-Offshore Renewables in Lisbon. “[His resignation] was something that could be expected.”Crystallographer Maria Arménia Carrondo will take over from Seabra, the Ministry of Education and Science announced in a statement yesterday. According to the newspaper Público, Carrondo previously served as an adviser to FCT’s board, which Seabra led until his resignation. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Emailcenter_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country FCT angered Portuguese researchers in January 2014 when it announced a sharp drop in the number of state-funded Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowships. Besides the decrease in funding, the National Association of Science and Technology Researchers also slammed the fellowship selection process as plagued with “clear and serious flaws.”Also last year, Seabra oversaw a controversial evaluation of the country’s R&D units, contracted out to the European Science Foundation (ESF). In June 2014, after a first evaluation phase, FCT announced that 22% of the 322 evaluated units would lose their funding because they had been rated poorly. Another 26% were rated “good,” but not good enough to make it to the second phase either, meaning their budget would be reduced to “core funding” depending on the size and “research intensity” of the lab.Many scientists complained that the evaluation process was neither robust nor transparent. For example, the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities said completing the first evaluation phase without site visits was insufficient; the Portuguese Physics Society also criticized the lack of specialization of the evaluation panels. ESF declined to comment when contacted by ScienceInsider.The outcry grew when FCT made public its agreement with ESF, which stated that half of the units shall not make it to stage two. The Council of Rectors wrote to the science minister in October that these terms “show a bias that [they] cannot accept.” “We reject the death foretold of 50% of Portugal’s scientific fabric,” the rectors said, echoing concerns of the Portuguese Chemistry Society. Two research centers filed a legal complaint against FCT, Público reported last month.“If there are [budget] cuts, the rules … and the process should be clear,” says Carlos Fiolhais, a researcher at the Center for Computational Physics of the University of Coimbra who wrote about the evaluation extensively on his blog De Rerum Natura. “Many things were not fair; we hope they will be corrected,” says Fiolhais, who hopes the change of leadership at FCT will help restore peace and trust.However, the choice for Seabra’s successor means that no drastic change is likely to happen, Fiolhais adds. “I am afraid that [Carrondo’s] proximity to Miguel Seabra may not allow the indispensable change,” he says, adding that both researchers worked at the same institution, the Nova University of Lisbon. “This is even more worrying since all FCT vice-presidents are being kept,” Fiolhais adds. “It is certainly possible that under [Carrondo’s] leadership, FCT will at least improve their procedures,” says Miguel Jorge, a chemical engineering lecturer who left Portugal in 2013 for the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, U.K.. But both Jorge and Alves say they don’t expect a fundamental change of line from the current coalition government, which oversees FCT’s policies. “I’m skeptical of everything this government has been doing,” Jorge says. “We’ve moved backward several years in terms of research funding and research policy.”last_img read more