Toivo Maimets to take over from Irja Lutsar as scientific council chief

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Toivo Maimets (left) and Irja Lutsar.
Toivo Maimets (left) and Irja Lutsar. Source: ERR

University of Tartu (UT) cell biology professor Toivo Maimets is set to become the new chief of the scientific council advising the government from 2022, taking over from University of Tartu virologist Irja Lutsar.

Maimets will become the council's new chief, which also comes with the right to make changes in the council's line-up. The scientific council will continue to provide analysis and comments on the epidemiological situation, the government's press office announced.

The final line-up of the council will be announced at the start of 2022.

"We are going into the third coronavirus year and being on the pandemic's frontline has understandably tired people out. Therefore, we have decided to give the people of the scientific council their well-deserved vacation and will allow them to focus on their regular research. Making science-based decisions is important for the government, which means the scientific council will continue to operate with a new line-up next year," Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said.

Maimets: Council should focus on advising government

Professor of cell biology Toivo Maimets said the research council should advise the government more and reduce its communication with the press. 

Speaking to ERR, he said it had been easy to accept the offer to lead the council.

Maimets said he has wanted to combine policy-making and science for decades and he said the prime minister agrees.

"We all agree that these worlds need to be connected," he said. "They are not easy to connect, but we need to make policy-making much more science- and knowledge-based."

Scientific council created by Jüri Ratas

The scientific council was called together by the government's emergency situation committee on March 20 2020, eight days after an emergency situation was announced in Estonia in response to the coronavirus. The council collects and analyzes data and gives recommendations on restrictions and other viral spread measures.

The scientific council is led by University of Tartu microbiologist Irja Lutsar. The other members of the council are statistician Krista Fischer, affective psychology senior researcher Andero Uusberg, North Estonia medical center chief-of-medicine and surgery professor Peep Talving, infectious disease doctor Pilleriin Soodla, and University of Tartu virologist Andres Merits.

Merits has already announced he would leave the government's scientific council from the start of next year to focus on his research.

Editor's note: This article was updated after an official announcement was made. This article was updated for a second time to add comments from Toivo Maimets.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Helen Wright

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