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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 41 - May 2004   
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 EDITORIAL
 Europeans’ political blues?
 Doubling European research investment
 Showcasing science
 The allergy enigma
 de Gennes – in perpetual motion
 A parliament in search of voters 
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Hitting where it hurts

Nurses, postal workers, train drivers, tax inspectors, farmers, newsagent tobacconists, smokers, restaurant owners, intermittent artists, Corsican prisoners, Swiss footballers, eradicators of transgenic maize, lawyers employed by dictators, columnists for RTD info, chief weapons inspectors, … 

In our developed democracies, many professions threaten to go on strike to obtain an improvement from the authorities to or protection of their situation. French researchers, outraged at the restrictions on research posts and funding in their country's public sector, have recently swelled the numbers of these protestors. 

Let there be no mistake. When a profession as private as that of the researcher decides to enter the arena of collective interest groups, then something is amiss. But what to do to attract attention and win public support when one has so little direct influence on people's day-to-day lives? 

Simply stop work? 

No. Whether it was because, with noble ideas of their social utility, they feared downing their research tools would damage the results of public research, or, more realistically, they suspected such a threat could prove totally ineffective, or, finally, because they could not bring themselves to sacrifice what is often a passion as much as a profession, they decided simply to stop carrying out the administrative tasks linked to their research. 

That is what struck to the core of the system. Getting off the bureaucratic merry- go-round, stopping circulating from ministries to secretariats and from offices to departments the many forms bearing their stamps and signatures. That is what jeopardised the central model and was of a nature to affect millions of civil servants, tens of millions of citizens, users, recipients and other administered parties.

That is the stroke of genius that warrants the label of 'brains revolt' applied to this movement, despite the vexing nature of such a description in regard to the other categories (see list above).

And if this action does not yield the expected result, then the researchers will have to attempt a strike of zeal that would consist, for example, of trying to exasperate the public by swamping them with a flood of discoveries, innovations, publications and patents!   

Candide

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