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French presidential hopefuls woo researchers

Two of France's presidential hopefuls have listed increasing research investment as a top priority to be tackled when in office, the French daily newspaper, Le Monde, reports.

In a column published in the December edition of the French magazine 'Research', the centre-right ca...
French presidential hopefuls woo researchers
Two of France's presidential hopefuls have listed increasing research investment as a top priority to be tackled when in office, the French daily newspaper, Le Monde, reports.

In a column published in the December edition of the French magazine 'Research', the centre-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy said that if in office, he would see to it that the total amount spent on research and development (R&D) - both public and private - would increase by €15 billion over the next six years. For its part, the French Government would inject a further €4 billion - a 25% increase - into the current public R&D budget, he said.

'It's not a promise, it's a necessity. Otherwise, we will lose the intelligence battle,' Mr Sarkozy told an auditorium of students at a Parisian university on 18 January, noting that money should go to funding projects rather than infrastructures. He invited the students to climb aboard 'the locomotive of scientific excellence' to help France catch up in world research.

Mr Sarkozy also spoke of the need to look at how research was organised. 'It's not just a question of credits, there are also organisational problems.' He referred to the need for universities to have greater autonomy, the reform of the scholarship system, and the building of university campuses 'worthy of the name'.

Meanwhile, in a column to be published in the February edition of 'Research', socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has given her thoughts on the future of research in France. If elected, Ms Royal pledges to increase the annual research budget by10%.

Investment in R&D has been decreasing in France since 2002, despite the country's commitment to meet the Barcelona objective of increasing R&D to 3% of GDP by 2010, noted the socialist candidate. Indeed, according to the latest figures from Eurostat, France spent 2.13% of its GDP on R&D in 2005, compared to 2.20% in 2001. As a result, large numbers of young researchers are heading overseas to find work, something which Ms Royal said she deplored.

The socialist candidate also said she wanted to mobilise the French regions and Europe behind the strategic priority of research, and encourage private research investment through correctly evaluated tax breaks. Furthermore, Ms Royale underlined the need for a strong university base. 'Strong research needs strong universities that meet international standards, and that can cooperate through networks and offer PhD students real status,' she said.

But scientists and researchers will not be satisfied by rhetoric alone. On Mr Sarkozy's proposals, 'It's a manipulation of words and numbers,' Henri Audier, a member of the French national scientific research trade union (SNCS) told LCI, a French television channel. He said that it was worthwhile to remember that the centre-right presidential candidate was minister of finance from 2002 to 2004, a period which Mr Audier described as the 'darkest years' for French research.

As for Ms Royal's promises, while they appeared 'to stick more or less' Mr Audier said he preferred to read the socialist's candidate's programme in detail before passing judgement.

Source: Press sources (LCI, Le Monde)

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Record Number: 26976 / Last updated on: 2007-01-19
Category: Other
Provider: EC
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