Controversial head of French research agency resigns

Low grant success rates, a shrinking budget and concerns over evaluations preceded departure

July 26, 2017
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The head of France’s main research funding organisation has resigned after disputes over the agency’s governance and the assessment of grant applications.

Michael Matlosz, a chemical engineer, had been hit by a number of resignations from academics unhappy with the way the French National Research Agency was run.

The agency will be refocused on “scientific excellence” and innovation, according to a statement from the new higher education minister Frédérique Vidal, which confirmed Professor Matlosz’s departure.

In June last year, all 20 members of a mathematics and computer science evaluation panel resigned, Nature reported, due to complaints that their freedom to choose proposals had been hampered by bureaucracy.

Last month, the agency dismissed the director of the biology and health division after she complained about “dysfunctions”, such as the sidelining of top scientists in decisions, the journal reported.

Science quoted Bernard Hoflack, a proteomics researcher at the Technical University of Dresden, as saying that scientists at the agency were “rather discontented about the way evaluations were carried out, apparently without previous consultation”.

The agency has also suffered from dwindling funding levels and a grant application success rate of just 12-13 per cent.

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