Ljubljana – The universities of Ljubljana, Maribor and Nova Gorica have criticised the government over the replacement of the management board of the Slovenian Research Agency. They hope the appointment of a new acting director at the weekend will not negatively affect the agency’s independent work. The responsible minister has denied the charge.
In a press release on Monday the three universities said they were monitoring with concern the changes in the leadership of the agency, which is in charge of disbursing funding for science.
The government endorsed Mitja Lainščak as the agency’d acting director on Saturday, the same day that he was appointed by the agency’s board, overhauled by the government two days earlier. The government rejected twice the candidate for the post put forward by the board before the government replaced four of its members.
The universities said the manner in which the board was replaced was unsuitable and that politics should not interfere in the work of an independent agency in such a way. They oppose any political interference in education and research.
They called for independence of higher education and research institutions and transparent appointment procedures based on expertise and excellence.
“We are facing significant challenges and important projects in the field of research, and it is thus crucial that the Research Agency perform its tasks smoothly, professionally and expertly,” they said.
Simona Kustec, the minister of education, science and sport, refuted the allegation that the agency director’s appointment was a case of independent institutions being subjugated to politics, listing Lainščak’s references and scientific achievements.
If Slovenia wants to be a research power it needs at the helm of the Research Agency a respectful person with references who is part of international networks, she said in response to a question by an opposition MP at the National Assembly today.
She noted that the agency’s director Robert Repnik resigned for health reasons, after which she said the agency’s board was asked to find a candidate who came from outside the agency’s structures, but in its vote the board failed to fulfil the expectations of the founder and those would carry the responsibility if the agency was ill managed.