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Ireland stalls over replacing outgoing CSA

Ireland’s government is yet to put forward any plans to recruit a new chief scientific adviser following the end of Patrick Cunningham’s term in office.

A spokeswoman for Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation told Research Europe that the relevant ministers “will bring proposals to the government in the coming weeks with regard to the most appropriate arrangements”. However, she did not confirm that this would include proposals to make a new appointment.

Cunningham, who retired on 31 August after more than five years in the role, said the government’s delay was “not unexpected”. In an interview with Research Europe, he said: “These are very disturbed times, financially and so on, so the whole of the public service is in fact more or less in a phase of re-jigging and re-sorting.”

James Wilsdon, professor of science and democracy at SPRU—Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex, ascribed the government’s delay to its need to reduce public spending. “I personally think it’s a shame for Ireland to lose a CSA but from the bureaucratic rationale of the Irish treasury any job saved is [money] off the deficit,” he says.

Wilsdon says that it would be a “great shame” for Anne Glover, CSA to European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, if Ireland did not fill the role. Glover, the first EU CSA, is fighting for every member state to create such a post, and has often praised Ireland as a trailblazer.

Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn also praised Cunningham’s work. “He promoted the role of science in Ireland and promoted Ireland as a leader in science,” she said in a statement. But she would not comment on the government’s delay in announcing whether it would replace him.

The first appointee to the role of Ireland’s CSA, Barry McSweeney, resigned within weeks after his PhD was found to have been granted by an unaccredited institution. But the role was seen as a success under Cunningham, and his term was extended so that he could see Ireland through hosting the Euroscience Open Forum conference, held in Dublin in July.