Wednesday, 3 October 2018
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Science Foundation Ireland Grants
The key line in the Minister's response is: "In the case of INFANT, the independent international oversight panel recommended that it should not receive immediate refunding." I know the Minister of State does not wish to deliberately misinform the House. I know notes were prepared for the Minister and I have been in that position. Let us be clear that there are two processes here. One is the international peer review which is the external process. That was chaired by Professor Gordon Smith, one of the most pre-eminent professors of obstetrics and gynaecology in the world, and he enthusiastically recommended refunding without further review.
The Minister of State refers to an international oversight panel. That is SFI's international oversight panel, a second and separate process which is secretive and anonymous and with which none of the researchers or principal investigators involved in INFANT had any dealings. There is something opaque and lacking in transparency in this process. It is for the Minister of State to examine that process on behalf of the taxpayer because I fear that it was deliberately gamed to take out a research centre which is one of the smallest of the seven to hand. The centre was led by women researchers and dealt with women and children. The SFI tried to take out the lowest hanging fruits and thought it was on the path of least resistance. There is an issue of transparency here. Dr. Ruth Barrington and Professor Douglas Kell stood down because they questioned that SFI process.
I implore the Minister to look at this. I am being genuine in the interventions I am making. It is extremely disappointing that UCC did not appeal the decision or back its own female researchers. Why is that? There are serious questions in this regard.