Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.
Last week’s noisy resignation of Mauro Ferrari as president of the €2.2 billion European Research Council (ERC)—the European Union’s foremost funder of basic research—revealed a rift over its approach to research on the coronavirus pandemic. Ferrari’s departure, just 3 months into the job, also showed the limits of an ERC president’s power to influence the course of a funding agency that prides itself on its independence.
On 7 April, the same day Ferrari stepped down as ERC president and chair of its Scientific Council, he released a statement to the Financial Times, saying he had “lost faith in the system” and was upset by ERC’s unwillingness to set up a “special program” to address the COVID-19 pandemic. But the next day, the 19 other members of the science council hit back. In a sharp statement, the council said Ferrari “displayed a complete lack of appreciation for the raison d’être of the ERC.” It also suggested that Ferrari had neglected his duties to attend to personal projects in the United States. It said the council unanimously called for his resignation on 27 March.