Research: Emmanuel Macron announces a major “transformation” and installs a “presidential science council”

The “presidential science council” was installed Thursday, December 7 after a speech by Emmanuel Macron, in front of dozens of researchers gathered at the Elysée, in which the head of state announced a “transformation” of research French

Research: Emmanuel Macron announces a major “transformation” and installs a “presidential science council”

The “presidential science council” was installed Thursday, December 7 after a speech by Emmanuel Macron, in front of dozens of researchers gathered at the Elysée, in which the head of state announced a “transformation” of research French. “France is a major research country and must remain so,” he said, adding that “talking about research, about science, is a priority for the country even more today than yesterday.” Emmanuel Macron promised a “real revolution”, to make research in France “more competitive” and remedy a “fragmentation” which weakens the national position.

“I hope that we succeed in transforming our large national research organizations”, such as the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) or the National Institute of agricultural research (INRAE), “into real program agencies”, which are “strategists” in their field, declared the Head of State during this meeting at the Elysée.

Emmanuel Macron also called for the opening within eighteen months of “act 2 of autonomy” for French universities involving “real multi-year contracts” and “reformed governance”. For universities to be able to “organize” and “manage” research at the level of their territory, as he suggests, “this implies” that they “strengthen their autonomy”, pleaded the Head of State . “We must move forward without taboo” on “the issues of governance, economic model and, in fact, build real contracts of objectives, means and performance with much more incentive funding”, he added, avoiding, however, announcing a reform of the statutes so as not to reawaken the controversies which had accompanied, under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, act 1 of this autonomy.

A tip to help with “guidance, alerting and monitoring”

The idea of ​​Thursday's meeting was also to launch the "presidential science council", which "is not intended to have the role that the scientific council played during the epidemic" of Covid-19, according to Emmanuel Macron. The objective of the council is “at the highest level, to help [the president] in guiding, alerting and monitoring the decisions taken,” explained Mr. Macron. The committee will be made up of around ten researchers, the Elysée had already explained on Wednesday. It will be a permanent body, which will play “an internal advisory role” to the President of the Republic, the Elysée further clarified. Its opinions will not be made public, unlike the scientific council chaired by Jean-François Delfraissy and established by the Elysée in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The objective is to allow the president to have insight into scientific subjects which do not necessarily make the headlines, but on future issues”, underlined the Elysée. Taking the example of a researcher “who, ten years ago, could have spoken to the president about RNA vaccine technology”, while France experienced “a form of collective trauma” of having been at lagging behind to produce a vaccine against Covid-19.

Among the twelve members of this “presidential science council”: Nobel Prize winners in physics Alain Aspect (2022), in economics Jean Tirole (2014), mathematician Hugo Duminil-Copin, Fields Medal 2022, Aude Bernheim, researcher in microbiology at Inserm, oncologist Fabrice André, director of research at the Gustave-Roussy Institute, or even ecologist Sandra Lavorel, 2023 CNRS gold medal. The council will not have a presidency. “Its format is intended to be effective so that the president has live opinions and feedback from researchers for certain scientific priorities,” said the Elysée.