The President of the CNRS, Alain Fuchs, is inviting researchers and academics to submit research project proposals to the CNRS in response to last week's terrorist acts in Paris. This general mobilization of brains takes the form of a letter addressed to the 115,000 members of the higher education and research community.
Three days after the attacks in Paris, the head of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique invites his colleagues to propose " all subjects that may raise questions posed to our societies by the attacks and their consequences, and open the way to new solutions - social, technical, digital ". " It is science that makes it possible to better understand what is really targeted and affected, in all of us and throughout the world, by these assassinations, and can offer, if not solutions, at least new avenues of analysis and action. "he writes in a letter, a copy of which is reproduced at the end of this article.
Research proposals should be submitted in a presentation of three to five pages maximum and should be sent to the address attentats-recherche[at]cnrs.com. The letter specifies that all proposals will be studied by the research laboratory, without however specifying the number of projects that will be ultimately selected. Alain Fuchs specifies that the projects selected according to a rigorous but rapid procedure will be provided with the means to present results as early as 2016. A state of emergency means that even within the research community, which is often accustomed to not counting the time.
The President of the CNRS states in an interview to Libération that the projects selected may receive an endowment "of a few thousand euros".
What is the reception of this initiative in scientific circles? "Mitigé," says Libération. Indeed, some researchers point to an initiative that was too rapid, carried out in the urgency and emotion of the events, while others wonder "about the form and procedure". Others stress the interest of principle. This is the case of the researcher François Burgat, of the Institute for Research and Studies on the Arab and Muslim World, quoted by Libération: "... the idea of the "Arab and Muslim World" is a very important one.the very principle of mobilizing our brains rather than our guts seems healthy to me. ». He considers it useful to seek, in the scientific approach, a contribution to society in the crisis we are going through.
The union SneSup FSU is the most critical; it considers the initiative "extremely unfortunate" and recalls that researchers did not wait for the attacks to work on these issues. The modus operandi does not satisfy the union at all, which states: "There has been much criticism of the propensity of some politicians to legislate in a hurry, in a more or less appropriate way, in response to every tragic event. The same warning should apply a fortiori to scientific leaders: a research policy cannot be "improvised" in response to current events, however dramatic they may be."
Despite these criticisms or reservations, the Project Selection Committee is expected to hold its first meeting in December 2015. The aim is "to occupy vacant land, to answer questions that cross several disciplines, to use everyone's expertise," explains Fuchs.
Written on Wednesday, Alain Fuchs' letter to researchers has already received about 40 replies. Science and Future reveals that a mathematician has proposed using game theory to help identify potentially dangerous individuals in crowds. Another researcher has proposed a study of young people who drop out of school early.