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3700 french, european and international scientists boycott Sarkozy’s system…

April 23, 2009

They will no longer carry out any appraisals for the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche : National Research Agency) and the AERES (Agence d’évaluation de la recherche et de l’enseignement supérieur : Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education). Their text below is a call to stop accepting the current french government policy on higher education and research. You can find it in many languages here.

“Higher education and research are currently undergoing a great transformation. More and more research is done under short-term contracts, leading to the employment of temporary staff. Scientific and educational choices are less and less defined by scientists. According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Research,

applied reseach is to be given absolute priority. The Ministry will regularly dictate the new objectives applicable to all areas of research. In addition, the production and transmission of knowledge are supposed to save the economy and will now be evaluated and directed only towards this objective. To do so, the evaluation and the management of higher education and research will be based on indicators so greatly simplified that they may be detrimental. The fact that the sources of financing are increasing and fragmenting,and are moreover based on the same model, adds to the bureaucratization of science without offering diversity. This will ultimately lead to the abandonment of research on many topics.
These evaluations are imposed despite all warnings from the scientific community. The supposed priority given to higher education and research was in fact concretely expressed by the suppression of 900 positions, by a disastrous decrease in budget, and by a “Campus Strategy” ( regrouping various universities in one area) that will lead to whole regions being left with under-financed universities in danger of failure. This new way of managing higher education and research is based on two recent organisations : ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche : National Research Agency) and AERES (Agence d’Evaluation de la Recherche et de l’Enseignement Supérieur : Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education). The former receives most of the grants and therefore deprives universities and governmental research organisations of their power, and thus of any scientific autonomy. It leads to a disorganised system in which there would no longer be strong links (such as those provided by laboratories, institutes, or other places for collective activity) between the Ministry and individual teams. The latter are forced to compete for public funds. Only the biggest and best established will survive (exactly like the “Campus Strategy”, which leads to the destruction of small universities, even the most dynamic). Moreover, the ANR is responsible for the increasing number of temporary positions being offered. Together with the decreasing number of tenured positions, this creates a real time bomb !
The AERES, in which all members are nominated, takes the place of collegiate organisations which formerly evaluated research (CoNRS, CNU). We are not questioning how serious the work of the experts may be, but we disapprove of the fact that their reports later go through a series of opaque filters and rearrangements, whose outcomes have, more than once, surprised and shocked the people concerned. In June 2008, following a proposal launched by SLR, 15000 people committed themselves not to accomplishing any tasks that would undermine the strength of research in our country, if the government does not take into account the requirements of the research community. The government made choices, and took its responsibilities. We are taking ours.
We refuse to contribute to the destruction of higher education and research. Therefore we now commit ourselves to refuse to provide expert appraisals for the ANR or AERES, as long as there remains no sign of change in the government policy, especially regarding budgeting and the closure of tenured positions.
We strongly disagree with the scientific policy of the government and refuse to be their accomplices. We defend another policy, more consistent with the interest of our country and with our idea of higher education and research.”

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