Brussels, 19 April 2002
Candidates for the forthcoming French Presidency elections are divided over the integration of French research into the European research area (ERA), according to a questionnaire by scientific group Euroscience.
Of those who responded, Jacques Chirac (Rassemblement pour la République), Lionel Jospin (Parti Socialiste) and François Bayrou (Union Démocratique Française) support the creation of a European research area (ERA). Far right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National) reserves his support for the Galileo satellite navigation project. Daniel Gluckstein, from the Parti des Travailleurs, has meanwhile denounced the ERA as a threat to the public research system in France.
None of the candidates who replied are willing to set out specific targets for R&D (research and development) investment in France for the five-year presidential term of office. A general consensus on an investment target of three per cent of GDP emerged, however, from Mr Chirac, Mr Jospin, Mr Gluckstein and Communist Party candidate Robert Hue, with Mr Bayrou backing a short-term target of 2.5 per cent including a 'significant European contribution.' At present, 2.17 per cent of France's GDP goes towards R&D investment.
Mr Le Pen advocates limiting the role of the State in scientific matters to military science and technology, and calls for public research facilities to be reorganised into a system of independent laboratories financed by a mixture of public and private support. All candidates are in favour of a more flexible management system for laboratories.
Many of the candidates propose reforms to enhance the country's innovation performance. Alain Madelin (Parti Républicain) supports reform of the current research tax credit system, a move also supported by Jacques Chirac. In addition, Mr Chirac favours legal measures to help research funding foundations. Lionel Jospin has proposed the creation of a large-scale innovation agency and an innovation tax credit, while François Bayrou advocates a greater role for the regions in helping to transfer technology to enterprises.
Most of the participants agree on the response needed to help solve the current crisis in public opinion towards scientists and their work, saying researchers should be encouraged to reach out to the public. Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin propose strengthening the role of France's Office national des choix scientifiques et technologiques. Mr Jospin has also drawn attention to the role of the European Parliament in democratic debate on research, while Mr Chirac has called for the institution to exercise 'real control' over European research.
For further information (and to see the full responses), please consult the following web address: http://www.euroscience.org