Dear Mr Hynes,
I am writing to you in your role as chief executive of the European Science Foundation (ESF). To the best of my memory, we haven't met, so allow me to introduce myself as a professor of mathematical statistics at Chalmers University of Technology and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (a member organization of the ESF). I furthermore serve on the Scientific Council for Natural and Engineering Sciences at the Swedish Research Council (another member organization of the ESF). I am mentioning these things just to give you an idea of who I am; the opinions I express below are solely my own and not meant to represent those of any of the organizations just mentioned.
A few days ago, on October 8, the journal Nature published an opinion piece by astronomer Amaya Moro-Martin. The piece carries the headline A call to those who care about Europe's science, it is generally critical of budget cuts by various research funding agencies in Europe, and it contains the following passage (boldface added by me).
- There are too many examples to list, but here are some of the most prominent: since 2009, Italy has seen recruitment of scientists fall by 90% and the amount spent on basic research drop to nothing. In Spain, the amount of money spent on civilian research and development has dropped by 40%, and fewer than 10% of researchers who retire are being replaced. Since 2011, the budget of Greek research centres and universities has halved, with a freeze on hiring. Already reeling from budget cuts of 50% for universities and research centres, Portugal may now have to close half of its research units because of a flawed evaluation process supported by the European Science Foundation.
- The European Science Foundation hereby requests that you retract the following allegation contained within your opinion piece published on 8 October in Nature (Volume 514, Issue 7521). [Portugal may now have to close half of its research units] because of a flawed evaluation process supported by the European Science Foundation. The European Science Foundation refutes any allegation that the process was flawed and considers that the statement cited above is slanderous, as the independent work performed in the framework of the evaluation of FCT research units followed the best international practices. http://www.esf.org/serving-science/fct-rd-units-evaluation-by-esf.html. While the European Science Foundation is cited in your paper, it is highly regrettable that no one from our organisation was interviewed and no request for clarification made. In addition, and as you may be aware, the Portuguese national union for higher education has launched a formal legal action on the evaluation process, and this has not yet come to a conclusion. If your allegation is not publically retracted in Nature, the European Science Foundation will be compelled to take appropriate legal action.
If instead you should turn down my request, and go on to have the ESF take the legal action against Moro-Martin threatened by Dr Worms, then please note the following. I, too, consider the evaluation process referred to by Amaya Moro-Martin flawed.1 So please go on to sue me as well.
1) Well, to be perfectly honest, I have no clue (other than that I have never seen, and can hardly imagine, a scientific evaluation procedure on that level so obviously flawless that it does not leave legitimate room for someone to call it "flawed"). Bu my point is not that the procedure was flawed, but that I have the right (just like Amaya Moro-Martin) to say it was.