French researchers demand a dedicated ministry

November 12, 2004

Paris. A full government ministry for higher education, research and technology, an elected high-level scientific council, and a stronger research role for universities are the main recommendations for France's new framework law on research.

Legislation, due to be presented to the National Assembly in the spring, was promised by President Jacques Chirac after a revolt by research workers at the beginning of the year against frozen funds and job cuts.

In a campaign launched by the action group Sauvons La Recherche! , thousands of researchers signed an internet petition and many laboratory heads organised a collective boycott of their administrative duties.

After the boycott, the Government unfroze and increased funding, and it also restored some tenured posts.

In March, Etienne-Emile Baulieu and Edouard Brézin, chairman and vice-chairman of the Academy of Sciences, headed a committee that organised the Etats Généraux de la Recherche (EGR), a national debate to investigate the crisis in French research and put forward proposals for the promised reform.

The EGR culminated in a two-day conference in Grenoble in October, attended by some 900 researchers, academics, heads of research organisations, politicians and other policymakers.

Presenting the EGR's 24 recommendations, Mr Brézin said a ministry covering research, higher education and technology was "indispensable". Research is tacked on to the Ministry of Education and the minister in charge, Francois d'Aubert, has no responsibility for higher education.

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