Brussels, 12 Apr 2004
The new French government has announced it will create 550 new research jobs in public institutions and 1,050 teaching post at universities in response to large-scale protests by scientists over the past three months.
French researchers have been protesting since January about the lack of funding for research and the recent downgrading of many public research posts to annual fixed term contracts.
That move was bitterly attacked as being damaging for laboratories, which need committed, long-term employees, and researchers accused the government of starving French science of funds and causing a national brain drain.
François Fillon the new French Education Minister stated that: 'the government has decided for an exceptional and immediate effort in favour of scientific jobs to the benefit of public research.' The minister added that 550 public sector research jobs with a permanent status would be restored 'as soon as possible, during this year.' Those jobs will comprise 200 positions for researchers and 350 positions for technicians and research engineers.
Another 1,000 teaching jobs and 50 other posts are to be created at universities by January 2005, he added, saying that 'It was essential for a favourable solution to the crisis.'
The 'let's save research' campaign that led the protests welcomed the move: 'This is a great day for French research,' said Alain Trautmann, a biologist and spokesperson for the protest movement. 'It is exactly three month since the movement began on 7 January. Three months on and we have obtained everything we asked for as regards urgent measures.'
The protest movement which started in January culminated in the mass resignation of 1455 directors and 2103 specialist team leaders on 9 March. The movement had the support of 80 percent of the French population.
'This movement proves it is possible to fight with success to defend a public right, an essential investment for the future of our country' said a 'let's save research' statement. The geneticist Pierre Netter, added: 'This movement is extraordinary in that it didn't start off as either syndicated or polemic. It is the proof that there are limits to what patient and reasonable people can tolerate.'
The new administration's actions over the next several months will be closely monitored by researchers, beginning with the autumn budget for 2005, which will present the government's priorities.
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