L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

19 April 2007 Blog Home : April 2007 : Permalink

Science and French Presidents

Over at GNXP there is a link to a fascinating Nature interview with each of the three leading French presidential candiates being asked the same questions (via email I guess). Bayrou and Sego don't manage to say anything beyond the usual duck-billed platitudes about how they intend their government to spend more money on pretty much everything. Sarko certainly isn't shy about campaing cash promises either but he does make a few other interesting responses as well.

Is French science in decline and, if so, why? How much will you invest in science, when and on what priorities?

Nicolas Sarkozy: It's true that we've had various warning signs over the past few years that the relative position of French science in the world is being eroded. France nonetheless maintains expertise of the highest international level in many disciplines, in particular in mathematics, physics and engineering. I note too that France exports its scientific expertise abroad, even if I regret the fact that many of our young scientists increasingly choose to leave the country because they no longer feel they can succeed at home.

How would you modernize France's universities?

M. Sarkozy: As of the day after the elections, I will be ready to launch a major reform of French universities designed to give them much more autonomy. This will include powers to recruit, to fix salaries, to decide how they organize themselves, to build endowments and to diversify their funding sources. I will also rebuild the way that they are governed, restructuring their executive boards and the ways they choose their presidents.

What cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions would you commit France to and how would you attain them? What should be agreed post-Kyoto?

M. Sarkozy: I am proud to be able to say that France made a visionary choice in committing itself several decades ago to developing its nuclear-power programme. Just think, the carbon emissions saved by France using nuclear-power stations rather than fossil fuels are equivalent to those of all Europe's cars. Of course, we have also made scientific and technological priorities of research on renewable energy and more energy-efficient means of production and transport.

Note that these responses are edited by me to avoid the bits I'm not interested in highlighting. I think that the bit about "exporting its scientific expertise" is particularly good. I'm not sure if Sarko has actually said it but this exporting of the brightest and best is not limited to science,

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin