Austerity certainly had an impact on Ireland, and the sciences weren’t spared from the influence. As part of austerity measures, Ireland chose to abolish - or absorb into another position - the role of the chief science adviser, a position that had been around since 2005, in late 2012.
According to Nature.com, the CSA “helped to persuade the government to spare science, and urged it not to neglect longer-term investments in research capacity,” in the wake of the 2008 Irish financial crisis.
Since the abolishment of the role, many scientists and researchers in Ireland worry that their work may suffer as a result. One foundation, the Irish Stem Cell Foundation, is particularly against the move to abolish the role of the CSA.
The Irish Stem Cell Foundation is an independent, non-profit medical research charity. Established in October 2009, it is composed of researchers, clinicians, patients advocates, patients, science communicators, bioethicists, lawyers, teachers, and students.
Stem cells are of particular interest to doctors and researchers for their unique ability to regenerate themselves or produce specialized cell types. Thus, they hold a lot of potential in order to create medical treatments that replace lost or damaged cells.
Stephen Sullivan, the Chief Scientific Officer at the ISCF said, “The worst consequence of this decision would be that, if, in addition to undermining the Irish Science community’s morale, the Public’s trust in Irish Science is also damaged.”
“The conflict of interest and lack of independence are issues for the Government to quickly address. Despite the austerity, we must double down and fight for the Nation’s Scientific integrity. I believe we have come too far to slip back.”
He added that “The country's independent adviser was a conduit for Irish scientists to influence Government policy,” and with the role being abolished, scientists and researchers face a tougher road to garner funding.
The ICSF is dedicated to bringing legislation to Ireland to help navigate stem cell research and utilization. Sullivan of the ISCF said that the Irish Government has promised to legislate for stem cell legislation, but has yet to do so.
He added that Irish research, which seeks to alleviate human suffering, is damaged as a result of the lack of stem cell legislation. Researchers are isolated from international stem cell research community, and don't have access to tools and standards routinely used in the field.
Learn more about the ISCF here: