Press Release

European Science Foundation announces appointment of new Chief Executive, Mr N.Walter

Mr Nicolas Walter has been appointed Chief Executive of the Strasbourg-based European Science Foundation (ESF), effective 1 July 2019. With 17 years’ experience in research management, Mr Walter will lead the organization in its next phase of development. Over the past three years, he has been restructuring ESF’s grant evaluation activities, from the development of a state-of-the-art online platform to the setting up of ESF’s Community of Experts as well as the refinement of processes and procedures, in line with international best practices. He has negotiated several multiannual partnerships with national and regional research funding organisations, public and private, leading ESF to be a lead player in the field.

Nicolas Walter joined the European Science Foundation in 2002, first as Junior Science Officer and then as Science Officer and, since 2016, as Corporate Science Officer. Through his 17 years in the organisation, he has been serving ESF and its expert boards and committees and has been involved in many science policy initiatives in the domains of European marine, space, polar and materials science. He has also initiated and managed over 12 projects and studies financed by the European Commission and the European Space Agency. In 2009 he started developing the ESF grant evaluation services.

Over the past years, Nicolas Walter has been instrumental in the development of the executive offices of the EUROPLANET Society, the recently created European platform for planetary scientists, and of the European Astrobiology Institute, the first institutional grouping of research organisations interested in astrobiology. Both entities are or will be hosted by the ESF.

As the ESF Corporate Science Officer, Nicolas Walter was supervising and developing ESF scientific operations, including overlooking the implementation of external contracts and developing the ESF grant evaluation partnerships. He was also Executive Scientific Secretary of the ESF’s European Space Sciences Committee, ESSC, that represents the space science community in Europe. In doing so, Nicolas Walter coordinated the ESSC activities and the production of high-level independent scientific advice to key stakeholders, including ministerial delegations, space agencies and the European Commission.

Before joining the ESF, Nicolas served as Project Engineer at the French space agency (CNES) in Kourou, French Guyana. He holds a Master of Space Studies from the International Space University and a bachelor’s degree in business management and innovation from the University of Strasbourg.

He will take his post on 1 July 2019.

Mr Nicolas Walter will succeed Dr Jean-Claude Worms who has been Chief Executive since April 2016. With over 30 years’ experience in research policy and management, Dr Worms led ESF during a critical transition phase. Through his leadership, ESF completed the re-alignment of its unique service offering of expert research support services derived from the organisation’s core technical and independent skill base, including grant and programmatic evaluation, hosting of expert boards and learned societies, programme management, and career tracking.

This transition occurs at a time where the objectives set in 2015 to re-establish ESF as a sustainable science services and policy agent have been met and ESF is increasingly recognised by all research stakeholders. ESF, with its services division Science Connect, is Europe’s leading entity in terms of grant evaluation, with major customers and partners, such as the Flemish Research Funding Organisation FWO, or the AXA Research Fund. In line with these developments, the ESF staff has grown by 133% since 2016.

Dr Worms joined the ESF in 1994, since when he has held various positions, in particular Head of the ESF’s Science Support Office, and Chief Operating Officer. He has also played a key role in formulating science policy and implementation through high-level structures of the European Commission, the International Space Exploration Coordination Group’s Science Advisory Group, and the European Space Agency (ESA) in which, since 1999, he was observer to ESA’s Ministerial Conferences.

Dr Worms has recently been appointed as Executive Director of COSPAR, the international Committee on Space Research, a post he will take up as of 2 January 2020. Both organisations ESF and COSPAR have been actively working together in the past decades, in particular through the ESF’s European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC), by an exchange of ex officio representatives and several joint international projects in planetary protection.

Dr Jean-Claude Worms said: “It has been a huge privilege and honour to serve and then lead the European Science Foundation, building from a heritage of 45 years in support of European science, and then using this heritage to return the organisation to prominence, as one key partner in delivering a globally competitive European Research Area. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve in the past 3 years and happy to leave the organisation in such capable hands.”


Mr Martin Hynes, ESF President said: “I warmly welcome the appointment of Nicolas to the role of Chief Executive. It is imperative that Europe regain leadership in science and its applications, at a time where evidence-based science but also transparency in research are becoming even more critical. ESF, supported by our Members and Community of Experts, has a key role to play in these new challenges. I have worked with Nicolas for many years and have every confidence that he will be a very effective leader in fulfilling our mission. I would also like to thank Jean-Claude for all his leadership and hard work. He leaves a coherent and focussed team but now moves towards his true vocation—aspects of Space Science. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with him.”

Mr Nicolas Walter said: “ESF has a singular history and role on the European scientific landscape, it is an innovative and flexible platform dedicated to facilitating and strengthening research operations, process management and exchange of knowledge across European research programmes. Thanks to its exceptional staff, ESF has been very successful and creative in acting for the benefit of the European scientific community at large. Leading this organisation and its development is an exciting and stimulating challenge for me and I am fully dedicated to build up on the exceptional achievements accomplished by Jean-Claude over the past years.”


Issued By: ESF Communications, +33 (0)3 88 76 71 18, media[at]esf[dot]org

Note to Editors:

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is a science services organisation that contributes to the European Research Area (ERA). It is building on core strengths developed in grant and programmatic evaluation and project management services. It hosts three Expert Boards and Committees (CRAF: Radio-astronomy frequencies, NUPECC: Nuclear physics, ESSC: Space sciences), one learned society in planetary sciences (Europlanet Society) and will soon host a virtual institute in astrobiology (European Astrobiology Institute). These entities provide in-depth and focused scientific expertise in selected disciplines. ESF is committed to delivering the highest quality for its member organisations, the science community, and various public and private science stakeholders and to provide valued services to Europe and worldwide.

ESF currently has 10 Member Organisations from 7 European countries.
More at: http://www.esf.org/esf/about-esf/

The ESF Community of Experts, drawn from the 130,000+ ESF pool of experts in various disciplines plays a vital role in sustaining scientific collaboration, and supporting excellence in grant and programmatic evaluation. It currently comprises over 8,000 key experts in all scientific disciplines.