France Unveils Ambitious Reforms to Revolutionize Research System

France Unveils Ambitious Reforms to Revolutionize Research System

President Emmanuel Macron aims to reduce bureaucracy and elevate science in political decision-making

The French government has announced a groundbreaking set of reforms aimed at transforming the country’s research system. President Emmanuel Macron presented the billion-euro plan, which seeks to reduce bureaucracy and place science at the forefront of political decision-making. These reforms, the most significant in two decades, are in line with proposals put forth by geophysicist Philippe Gillet and aim to streamline research efforts, enhance collaboration, and improve the autonomy of universities.

Presidential Science Council to Advise Research Strategy

As part of the reforms, Macron announced the creation of a Presidential Science Council, consisting of 12 leading scientists who will meet regularly to advise the president on research strategy and key scientific issues. This council will play a crucial role in shaping research priorities and ensuring that science has a prominent place in political decision-making.

Transformation of National Research Institutes into Programme Agencies

To streamline research efforts, the seven national research institutes in France will be transformed into “programme agencies” over the next 18 months. Each agency will be responsible for the strategy and coordination of research in a specific theme, consolidating research efforts and eliminating fragmentation across various institutions. For example, the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission will oversee research on low-carbon energy technology, while the biomedical institute Inserm will focus on health research.

Autonomy and Collaboration for Universities

The reforms also aim to enhance the autonomy of universities and give them greater oversight of university-based research groups that include researchers from national agencies. This move seeks to foster collaboration and increase fluidity between universities and public research institutions. Macron pledged measures to save researchers’ time, such as reducing the number of quality assessments and expediting grant-funding decisions.

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Mixed Reactions to the Reforms

The announcements made by Macron were met with a mix of praise and criticism. Immunologist Alain Fischer, president of the French Academy of Sciences, commended the reforms, stating that Macron has taken scientists’ concerns about the state of French research into account. However, some researchers expressed skepticism. Patrick Lemaire, a biologist and president of an alliance of French learned societies, criticized the reforms as being purely ideological and divorced from reality. Lemaire argued that the plan does not adequately address the complexity of funding and administrative burdens faced by researchers.

Immediate Challenges and Future Outlook

While the reforms aim to address long-standing issues in the French research system, some researchers highlight more immediate challenges that need attention. Pierre Rochette, a geophysics researcher at Aix-Marseille University, emphasized the need to tackle complicated systems and dysfunctional software within research institutes like the CNRS. Despite the challenges, many researchers remain hopeful that the reforms will lead to positive change, given the competence and reliability of research minister Sylvie Retailleau.


France’s ambitious reforms to its research system mark a significant step towards reducing bureaucracy and elevating science in political decision-making. The creation of the Presidential Science Council and the transformation of national research institutes into programme agencies aim to streamline research efforts and enhance collaboration. While the reforms have garnered both praise and criticism, their successful implementation will require addressing immediate challenges and ensuring that the complexity of funding and administrative processes is adequately addressed. As France embarks on this transformative journey, the world will be watching to see how these reforms shape the future of scientific research in the country.

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