The Opposing Thumb

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ESF Threatens Researcher

This is stupid even by European agency standards. Dr Amaya Moro-Martin, she of the open letter we referred to in a previous post, is apparently being threatened with a lawsuit by one of the Worms at the European Science Foundation:

“Dear Amaya Moro-Martin,
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. 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.”
Dr. Jean-Claude Worms
Head of Science Support Office European Science Foundation

Dr Moro-Martin used the information available to her on the public record. There have been numerous reports in the both the scientific press and the Portuguese newspapers of problems with the evaluation. Regardless of their merit, Dr Moro-Martin, in an opinion piece, is entitled to take them at face value. Jean-Claude Worms (as he does not extend to Dr Moro-Martins the courtesy of referring to her by her title, there is no reason we should address Jean-Claude by his) should, if he is so motivated, take up his suit with the primary sources in the public record. Dr Moro-Martins, once again, was not publishing an investigative report.

A second problem may be that perhaps Jean-Claude Worms does not comprehend the English Language (I have no personal knowledge of Jean-Claude’s linguistic skills, this is mere speculation to try to justify behavior beyond the pale): “flawed” means with flaws, or problems. Any evaluation has these- and anyone who claims to make a flawless evaluation should not be taken seriously. Anyone is free to disagree with evaluation criteria. Of course, the organization applying those criteria is free to defend them. The courts are not the place for this debate.

Dr Moro-Martin made no accusations of corruption or wrongdoing. She is merely exerting her right to disagree with the evaluation process and values. Jean-Claude, who clearly feels they are flawless, should thus be able to defend them in public without his attorney(s).

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Moro-Martin wrote an opinion piece relating to European science. In her opinion she felt that an evaluation process was flawed. This is hardly the first time in science that evaluation systems have been considered to be flawed and that this has been stated publicly. It is, however, the first time that the body that has been so described has sent a letter of this type, though it is always dangerous in science to use the words “the first time”! It is the reaction of ESF. They are free to remain above the fray, they may engage in dialogue, via the correspondence page of Nature or through a web outlet. They could even set up a subcommittee to look into the matter. However, in my opinion, they have no grounds to issue a threatening letter and it is this that has angered the community.

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