Brussels, 10 Feb 2005
French researchers took to the streets again on 4 February to protest about the new Research Reform Law (LOPRI), unveiled by the government on 14 January.
Organised by the 'Let's Save Research' campaign and a coalition of research and education trade unions, the demonstrations saw thousands of researchers march through Paris to the Ministry of Research and Education. Demonstrations also took place in university towns across the country.
On 4 January, French President Jacques Chirac had pledged to allocate an extra one billion euro to research and promised that the increase in research investment would continue to the tune of an extra six billion euro over the next five years. The move is one of the country's initiatives aimed at meeting the EU goal of increasing investment in research and development (R&D) to three per cent of GDP by 2010. However, according to the protesters, this money will benefit only applied research. They are therefore protesting against what they see as the over-involvement of the private sector.
'The law is very different from our demands. It is a law for innovation, not fundamental research' said Betty Felenbok, biologist at the University of Paris-Sud.
Scientists are also unhappy with the fact that the government failed to take into account the scientific community's 24 proposals on the matter. The proposals are the result of consultations within the scientific community to reform France's scientific environment. Issues dealt with in the proposals include the evaluation process within universities and research institutes, levels of funding, increasing the number of posts, working conditions and the recruitment of young researchers.
Let's Save Research (SLR) did recognise that the law contained positive aspects. 'The ministers have finally undertaken to recognise the doctorate in collective agreements and have recognised the problem of social coverage for post-graduates and PhD students,' said Alain Trautmann, spokesperson for SLR. 'We have also gained reduction in administration but what we have achieved is far from the initial objective,' he added.
'Our fight will not be over until the government comes up with a draft that is closer to our demands,' Mr Trautmann made clear.
Throughout February, the two ministers involved, François d'Aubert and François Fillon, will be meeting with representatives from the Committee on Initiatives and Propositions (CIP), trade unions and public and private research institutions in an attempt to resolve the controversy surrounding the draft laws.
In an interview on 9 February with French newspaper, Le Figaro, the Minister for Research, François d'Aubert, reaffirmed his commitment to funding basic research, telling the newspaper that the ministry will do its best to dispel concerns that the government intends to prioritise innovation over fundamental research.