Serious researchers in France

The Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), in France, is immersed in a mixture of waters. The CNRS is the largest basic research organization in Europe. The newly appointed director, Mr. Guy Aubert has made the decision that this year only 60% of the money destined for this purpose will be spent. This news has angered researchers and taken them to the streets.

The reason for the protest is not only this budgetary constraint, but it is the last of the bad news that has come to researchers in recent times. For many what is in doubt is the future of the organization itself. An unpublished document recommends that CNRS departments be reduced from seven to four and laboratories from 1,300 to 400. Some of the other laboratories would pass to the University.

Just this year, in June, research budgets (except rents) have suffered a reduction of 8%. It is unacceptable that two such reductions occur in the same year. Moreover, for many research institutes and laboratories this decision can generate a harsh financial crisis, as they have spent more than 60%.

The Jacques Monod Institute in Paris has spent 75% and its managers have asked Aubert to review its decision. If the decision of these institutes (and others) were to prosper, all activities would be suspended until the end of the year. During the last months of the year researchers will have to go to libraries to work, since for example they will lack reagents in their laboratories.

But it is not a money account. Some people think that these changes are only pioneers of others who want to be made in the future. The Government does not want such an autonomous institution, but laboratories and research centers that work on the priority lines that it has established. Thus, the ultimate goal, an institution with thousands of researchers on payroll, would become an entity that distributes scholarships and grants in specific lines. In this sense, the recommendations made in the aforementioned document argue that effectiveness and dynamism are the cause of these changes. Workers' representatives, on the contrary, consider that the underlying reasons are to control the world of research and put it at the service of political and economic objectives.

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