All-round programming of resources
The media visibility of scientists since the beginning of the crisis has shown the essential role of research, yet this should not be appreciated in relation to its direct utility: fundamental research must be able to be done freely without being subject to other purposes, whether societal or economic, and it needs time. The risks of a pandemic represent a multidisciplinary challenge, and do not only concern medical research. Obviously, the human and social sciences must also be considered in terms of what they can provide as responses, particularly in terms of education, work organization or mode of production to manage pandemics. Research policies must therefore take this into account so as not to respond solely to urgency or the “visible”.
The observation is terrible and widely shared: underinvestment in research is at the origin of the pitiful “performances” of French actors in health research, whether public or private. In this area, the “French backwardness” is moreover only one aspect of the question (1). If we consider coronavirus vaccines as common goods that should not be monopolized by a single institutional actor, it does not matter what the nationality of those who develop them and of those who produce them is. The blindness of political and administrative elites in relation to the reality of the work of scientists is particularly worrying and we are paying dearly for the strategic choices made by large industrial groups such as Sanofi, which did not hesitate to lay off its own researchers in the midst of the pandemic. while it has largely benefited from the research tax credit.
Knowing that the technique of vaccines using messenger RNA is based on advances in basic research dating back about thirty years, what if the researchers of the time had been subjected to funding constraints as absurd as humiliating things that are going on today? To obtain the necessary material and human resources, they should have responded to a call for projects. With the criteria that are imposed today, a mixture of heightened competition and short-term vision of scientific issues, this research would never have been funded. Where would we be today?
Basic research requires time, sometimes expensive equipment, stable teams, recurring budgets and all-round programming. Funding research in a logic of competition and precariousness is a serious mistake. Public research requires an increase of 10 billion euros over ten years to reach 1% of GDP. A plan for scientific employment is also essential, covering recruitments of 5,000 to 6,000 staff per year for at least five years. The recent research programming law (LPR) but also the 2021 budget missed these fundamental issues. The LPR only provides for an additional 5 billion euros effort over ten years and the few targeted researches on coronaviruses have been at a constant budget.
This period of pandemic has shown how necessary it is more than ever to guarantee the independence and democratic functioning of academic research within public research and higher education organizations.
(1) “Pharmaceutical innovation: how to make up for the French backlog? »Note from the CAE of January 26, 2021.
Translated into english by Bhavi Mandalia for Pledge Times :
Article original (en français) publié le 8 février 2021 par Pierre Chaillan pour L'Humanité :