R&D council head resigns to protest lack of independence

Prof. Oded Abramsky cites government's failure to keep promises to make body separate from Science and Technology Ministry.

National Council for Research and Development chairman Prof. Oded Abramsky resigned on Tuesday, saying it was because government promises to make the council independent have not been kept.
Abramsky, a senior neurologist at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem,   explained his resignation in a letter to Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, who is legally his boss.
Herschkowitz opposes the council’s transfer from his ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office, which is what council members – all senior scientists – have been demanding for several years. He has stated that his ministry was the proper framework for the council, and that he regarded it as his own adviser on R&D, rather than that of the government as a whole.
The chairman is appointed by the president of Israel, who also received a copy of the letter, as well as by the prime minister, members of the Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology, members of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, and colleagues on the council.
Abramsky wrote that the law that established the council stated that, as the official adviser to the government on civilian R&D, it must be objective and have a broad perspective as well as an independent, statutory status, without being controlled by any one ministry.
But an amendment to the law made it part of the Science and Technology Ministry, which Abramsky said eliminated its independence and ability to make decisions properly. The previous science and technology minister wanted to turn the council into a non-profit organization, but this was thwarted by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for “political reasons,” Abramsky charged.
A Justice Ministry expert has stated that being part of the ministry was in violation of the law because of the council’s lack of independence.
Abramsky also charged that despite Herschkowitz’s promise that the council members  appointed by the previous minister in August 2008 would remain in their posts, their membership was halted by Herschkowitz and replacements were named.