Brussels, 13 Jan 2004
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has denied claims that his country is cutting research expenditure. The rebuttal came on 12 January, as the number of scientists threatening to resign if their concerns are not acknowledged passed the 4,000 mark.
The petition by French scientists was launched on 7 January, and contains the names of senior researchers at some of France's top research institutes.
'If the public authorities do not acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, and in particular, the desperation of younger [researchers], which is becoming the main problem in our laboratories, the directors of units and teams who have signed [the petition] will hand in their collective resignation from their directorships,' states the online petition.
2003 was recently described as a difficult year by French Minister for Research and New Technologies Claudie Haigneré, after budgets were cut and certain projects frozen. Although the research community is clearly still concerned, the French government has started the new year by promising to prioritise research.
French President Jacques Chirac announced on 6 January that a 'national plan' would be presented shortly, which will be designed 'to give a new impulse to today's insufficient research and development efforts.' The President also pledged to meet the EU's Barcelona target by increasing research investment to three per cent of GDP by 2010, and added that a new strategy, to be adopted by the end of 2004, will enable France to strengthen its research capacity and support large national and international projects.
The importance which the French government awards research was echoed in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's address, in which he stated: 'I solemnly assert that it is wrong to say that public research resources are decreasing in our country.
'There is progress to be made in management, there is progress to be made in strategy. We are ready to make this progress in partnership with researchers. Research definitely has its place in France's intelligence strategy.'
While unwilling to interfere in French affairs, a Commission spokesperson reasserted the Commission's position of 'more money for better research'. He said that 'we cannot tell the French government what to do, but we can encourage it to do more.' He added that the Commission has taken note of the fact that France has introduced initiatives to support new and young small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
For further information on the petition, please visit: