Edition 230 - June 2020

French law on research back in the spotlight despite pandemic

The French law on research (« Loi de programmation pluriannuelle de la recherche ») is back in the spotlight.
The law commonly known as “LPPR” was already the subject of unrest in the research community back in March (See March 2020 Newsletter). Back in march, the absence of a draft text in full as well as criticism on the public pieces of content of it had lead to a march on 5 March 2020 asking for its withdrawal. As a quick reminder, the law allegedly has two main objectives: to give more value to the career of young researchers and to augment the level of research in France.

One of the main criticisms against that law remain that it allegedly puts researchers in a precarious situation by offering them contracts of undetermined length or CDI (Contrat à Durée Indéterminée) which are actually linked to specific projects leading to those contracts being in fine temporary.
Also, while the law is officially a budgetary law aiming at giving more value to research in France, the status of researchers is what is at stake in its content.
One of the measures that angers the most is the creation of “chaires de professeur junior” which will allow to hire alternatively researchers for 3 to 6 years with only the possibility of a permanent contract, which is criticized as creating more unstable  situations and reinforcing competition as well as breaking the status of researcher.

In fine, the most controversial aspect of this law is the fact that it is presented as a budgetary law whereas only 2 articles of the project, out of 24, are focused on budgetary issues, which will mainly be the issue of future governments. Indeed, while only the project has been made available online since 7 June, meaning that its content might not be identical to the one that will be examined by parliament (although it is unlikely that its content will have changed significantly), the budgetary aspect of the law is under heavy criticism. The budget for research is to be augmented on a span of 10 years : EUR 5 billion will be added with EUR 400 million in 2021, however, this means that most of the financial burden will be on future governments…which are in no way obliged to follow up on it.

So far, since 7 june, it is unlikely that its content has changed significantly after it has been examined by the CNESER on 12 June and CTMESRI (comité technique ministeriel de l’enseignement supérieur de la recherche) on 17 June. The examination by the council of ministers as well as by the Conseil d’État might however lead to evolutions of the text.

What has happened since? If the French lockdown measures made it seem as if the project had been set aside for some time, it now appears that the law is back on the table  with the CNESER (Conseil National de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche) meeting on 12 and 18 June 2020 to discuss the project, which was  voted in with 32 votes for and 26 against, meaning that it was agreed upon only by 55.2% of the votes with a 44.8% opposition.

On 12 June 2020, 400 researchers and students met in Paris to demand that the project of law be striken out, accusing the government of putting in motion a reform whereas Macron had stated back in March that, in the wake of the sanitary crisis (which hasn’t ended) there wouldn’t be new reforms.

On 18 June 2020 a new march was again organized in Paris, the same day that it was being examined by the CNESR.

The project will be examined by the council of ministers on 8 July of this year, however a date for the parliamentary vote hasn’t as of yet been set. Opposition to the project talks about a “forced entry” of the project which seems to remain identical to the one initially presented in December.

Even senators such as Pierre Ouzoulias wondered if the project would reach the Parliament since the government will only examine it in July, which means it might only reach the parliament in September, right when the crucial annual law on financing of 2021 will be discussed.

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