Prof. Jerzy Duszyński elected President of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Prof. Jerzy Duszyński will be the new President of the Polish Academy of Sciences – decided on Thursday in the voting members of the General Assembly in Warsaw. Duszyński will serve for four years, until 2018. He will replace Prof. Michał Kleiber.

Prof. Duszyński received 111 votes in a secret ballot, and his opponent, Prof. Mirosława Marody from the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Warsaw – 68 votes. A total of 188 votes were cast, one invalid.

“I think I have a very hard time ahead of me, but I’m an absolute optimist. I believe the Academy is very much needed in the system of science in Poland. But for it to remain needed, it must changed a bit. We need to significantly increase our presence in the European programs, work on the promotion of scientific excellence, expressing opinions that are of interest to the people. We will focus on doing these things” – newly elected head of the Polish Academy of Sciences told reporters shortly after the announcement of the results.

When asked about how the Academy would change during the four years of his term of office, he said: “It will be a respected, needed, recognized scientific institution, which will be appreciated not only by the entire scientific community, (…) but also by the society”.

Minister of Science Prof. Lena Kolarska-Bobińska congratulated Duszyński. “The Polish Academy of Sciences has remained unchanged for decades. Now it is a good time for important structural and organizational reforms. Especially because the potential of PAS institutes is enormous. They employ almost 5.5 thousand eminent scientists, and many institutes have A or A+ category. In the Polish Academy of Sciences there is a debate over the separation of companies and institutes, and combining research and education. It is a good climate for significant changes, and the discussion on the new formula is an important task of the new President” – added the Minister.

New President of the Polish Academy of Sciences was elected in the second vote last Thursday. In the first ballot, no candidate received an absolute majority of valid votes. Another vote was ordered on the same day. This time, Prof. Duszyński won. The decision on the election of the President was taken by the members of the General Assembly of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The General Assembly is composed of up to 350 members of the Polish Academy of Sciences. These members are elected by the General Assembly from among reputable eminent scholars.

During the meeting – already after the second vote – the members of the General Assembly asked the authorities of the Academy to comment on the conflict at the Institute of Economics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, reported by the press. In the open letter published a few days before the election, Director of the Institute of Economics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Dr. Cezary Wójcik drew attention to the problems he encountered at the Institute of Economics, when he became director.

These problems included the solutions violating the regulations, introduced by the previous authorities of the institute – including conducting doctoral studies, hiring employees not in accordance with the law, irregularities in contracts. Wójcik wrote that when he tried to fight these irregularities, he was reviled. He blamed PAS vice-president, candidate for president of the Polish Academy of Sciences Prof. Mirosława Marody for inadequate reaction. In the message sent to PAP, Prof. Marody wrote: “Due to the false contents in the so-called +Open Letter+ (…) which also infringe my personal rights, I’m going to refer the issue to the Commission on Ethics in Science”. During the General Assembly session on Thursday, Marody did not mentioned this topic.

Prof. Jerzy Wilkin, who led the team formed at the Polish Academy of Sciences to assess the situation in the Institute of Economics PAS, said during the Thursday meeting that irregularities indeed occurred at the institute before Wójcik was appointed director; the new director’s attempts to remedy this situation led to conflicts in the Institute of Economics PAS (for example there was a number of disciplinary dismissals), therefore the Scientific Council of the Institute decided to remove Wójcik from office. Wilkin explained that his team – asked to issue an opinion on the matter by Mirosława Marody, who as vice president of PAN supervised the activities of the institute – supported the decision to dismiss Wójcik. Wilkin noted that Wójcik is a talented scientist, “but he has no managerial skills, he causes conflicts”. The decision on whether to dismiss the director, will have to be approved by the new President of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

“The newly elected president should make a hard decision. I would not rule out dissolution of the institute – such form is possible – and its reestablishment” – expressed his opinion stepping down President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Prof. Michał Kleiber. Prof. Duszyński in an interview with reporters said: “The issue requires deep thinking and solutions”. He added that he did not know yet what decision he would take.

According to the Law on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 2010, Prof. Duszyński will formally become the new President of the Academy at the time of his appointment to this position by the President of the Council of Ministers. The appointment is based on the selection of the General Assembly of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Jerzy Duszyński (born in 1949) is a biochemist, he works at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology PAS in Warsaw, where he was dean of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Sciences. In 2008-2009 he was Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Donald Tusk’s government.

The new president of the Polish Academy of Sciences is an expert in the field of energy metabolism and molecular basis of mitochondrial diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

In his electoral program sent out before the PAS election, Prof. Duszyński emphasised the importance of obtaining more EU funds by the Academy – including the program Horizon 2020. Among the ills of Polish science he named insufficient mobility of academic staff.

PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland

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