Polar base director and five researchers sacked

Summary

In the ongoing problems related to management of Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth polar base in Antarctica, five researchers and the director have been dismissed

‘Lack of transparency’, say scientists

State secretary for science policy Zuhal Demir has dismissed director Rachid Touzani and five researchers at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth polar base in the Antarctic. The measure is the latest development in a long-running conflict between the federal government and the International Polar Foundation (IPF).

In 2015, then state secretary for science policy Elke Sleurs removed IPF co-founder Alain Hubert from the policy council that manages the base, because of what she saw as a conflict of interest.

The situation escalated, with Hubert accused of taking equipment from the base and a legal battle that made management of the base impossible. Demir, who took over from Sleurs earlier this year, re-instated Hubert on the policy council, but no longer as president.

Le Soir has reported that the Belgian National Committee on Antarctic Research (BNCAR) had written an open letter to Demir, prime minister Charles Michel and several other ministers to denounce the situation at the base.

The researchers complained about a “lack of transparency” and said that certain projects are “not chosen on the basis of scientific and institutional criteria”. They have asked that an independent scientific committee be appointed to manage the base.

Photo courtesy Polar Foundation