EU research post goes east

March 19, 2004

The director-general of the European Union's Joint Research Centre will lose his job this year, a victim of the need to offer high-level European Commission posts to representatives of the (mostly) eastern European countries due to join the EU this May.

Barry McSweeney, who is Irish, is to leave his post by the end of this year and will help to choose his replacement, who must come from one of the ten accession states.

Fabio Fabbi, Brussels' research spokesmen, told The Times Higher : "He has done a great job and been very capable, but unfortunately the commission decided to free up a number of top positions for the new members. He was basically asked to leave, but not immediately."

Mr McSweeney was appointed in 2001 with a mandate to review the JRC's effectiveness. He closed the centre's Space Applications Unit, based in Ispra, Italy, and split its responsibilities among other JRC departments.

Replacement candidates will be considered during the summer. Mr Fabbi said the new JRC boss should be appointed by October and be "fully operational" by the end of the year.

Whoever replaces Mr McSweeney can be counted on to develop his work in promoting JRC training on EU legislation for researchers from the accession states.

In 2003, 1,100 people received instruction, with the JRC developing the training model of "multiple-visit fellowships". These allowed eastern and southern European researchers to avoid the disruption of a three-year period abroad by spending several three-month periods with JRC instructors.

Mr McSweeney said in a commission research bulletin: "I am sure the new member states will ask us to do a lot of work with them, as we have done a lot in the past. We will first focus on getting them involved in research networks."

He added that the JRC could also aid new member countries by helping them to gain access to sophisticated equipment and to generate "substantial financial investment" for their research programmes.

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