On the occasion of Science Day 2014, researchers, technical staff and students from universities and research institutes are sounding the alarm. Since the summer, there has been an incredible mobilization called Science on the move.
Groups have set off (on foot or by bike) from Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes or Strasbourg to spread the word about the disarray that is plaguing the research and higher education sectors.
Cn October 17, the convoys will converge on the Capital. They wish to communicate with the general public on the importance of research and denounce the lack of investment in the sector. While research is opening up avenues for the future, the French budget allocated to it is decreasing year by year. It is becoming difficult for researchers to find funding to carry out their research. Statutory posts are becoming scarce, leaving young graduates in precarious situations.
Faced with a crying lack of means and short-term management, Higher Education and Research personnel have decided to express their concern for the future of research in France. Beginning on both sides of France, they are converging on Paris to finish in front of the National Assembly on 17 October.
Their demands? To think higher education and research in the longer term, to allow for more jobs, funding and better recognition of doctors. Indeed, it is very difficult for a doctor to obtain a permanent position and the recognition of the doctorate in the private sector is still insufficient. A real loss when we think of the investment that the state has made in their university training.
Paid to seek funds
And the paradox does not end there. At present, a researcher cannot rely on the basic endowments of the laboratory to carry out his or her research. For additional funding, important applications have to be prepared and submitted to various organisations for offers of funding. However, these files are becoming increasingly difficult to build and the success rate is only around 20%. The time invested in seeking funding is increasing, leaving less and less room for scientific research. Finally, the lack of funding in the research world has created this unlikely paradox: researchers are paid to look for money. This is a far cry from the idea of the researcher who develops theories and invents unheard of experiments. And teaching is not spared either.
A large proportion of researchers also have teaching responsibilities. While it is already difficult to carry out research, teaching conditions are also deteriorating. Universities are focused on their budgets. Sometimes the heating of buildings is questioned in order to save money. Of course, budget restrictions do not only affect the comfort of students, but also their education. Software and hardware are obsolete, as is the hardware for practical work. How can students be trained in the latest techniques under these conditions? Due to a lack of staff, teachers accumulate overtime and administrative responsibilities.
This fed up feeling was expressed in particular by Vincent Goulet, a doctor in sociology who resigned from the University of Lorraine. In her open letter to Geneviève FiorasoIt expresses the dramatic situation in laboratories and universities.
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And the findings are not limited to France. A group of European scientists whose Alain Trautman (of the Sauvons la recherche movement) confirms the deterioration of research conditions throughout the continent. He signed an open letter denouncing the loss of sense of reality of the leaders. With this initiative, these researchers want to counter the now systematic destruction of national research infrastructures in European countries.
Larissa Caudwell, Journalist
Photo illustration "Science on the move despite Ignorance" by Victor Peter (1851-1911) / Palais de la Découverte Paris