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Bulgarian science minister fired over mismanagement scandal

5 February update: Stefan Vodenicharov, the current president of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, has been nominated as Bulgaria’s new science and education minister, to replace the sacked Ignatov. The original post below (29 January) should have noted that Rangel Gjurov, as well as Hristo Petrov, resigned his leadership position at the top of the Bulgarian Science Fund last week.

On 28 January, Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boiko Borisov, sacked his science and education minister, Sergei Ignatov, following a storm of outrage over alleged corruption and cronyism in science funding.

As reported by Nature, hundreds of Bulgarian scientists complained in November that in a recent 15-million-leva (US$10-million) competition, officials with the Bulgarian Science Fund had favoured research projects of little or no value, thus channelling scarce funds away from worthy science.

In a petition to the prime minister, the scientists accused the fund, which is overseen by the science ministry, of nepotism and asked for an investigation.

Bulgarian scientists previously accused Ignatov, who became science minister in November 2009, of deliberately hindering attempts to reform Bulgaria’s underperforming science system. Ignatov rejected these claims and denies any wrongdoing in managing research grants.

But an inquiry carried out over the past few weeks has apparently confirmed ministerial mismanagement to a degree that forced the prime minister to act.

“If a minister cannot control his work and allows violations, it means that he is not [suitable] for this job,” Borisov told reporters after firing Ignatov.

The fund’s chief executive, Hristo Petrov, resigned from his post just hours before the minister’s dismissal.


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