The term "huge mess", applied to science in France, well sums up some experts on public research's view. On that matter, Rémi Barré has chosen to take as his starting point Olivier Postel-Vinay's book, which is very typical of this point of view.
Postel-Vinay first examines the problems facing French research (inertia, lack of either accountability or transparency, etc.), which is conducted via an old-fashioned, rigid, centralized state system unable to adapt to a changing world. He then goes on to show the poor results achieved by French science and technology, despite strong forces for change.
According to Postel-Vinay, the source of the problems of French public research lies in the inappropriate way in which the whole system is organized. He therefore proposes that the issue of the universities and their relationship with research institutions must be tackled, arguing for an action plan aimed at moving away from the traditional French approach towards the standard Anglo-Saxon one.
According to Rémi Barré, thinking that we should first integrate the "grandes écoles" and the research bodies into the universities is illusory: those are major changes, which are impossible to carry out in the short and middle run. We'd better try to strengthen the virtues of the French model -the researchers'independence, the ability to attract highly skilled people and to build on accumulated research work over the long term -in the frame of a deep decentralisation of the responsibilities.
Such reforms will only come about through concerted action, involving everyone concerned and creating an impetus to reinvent and update the existing model, which won't be possible without a real forward-looking policy for the national research system.
According to Rémi Barré, the question is not whether one model is preferable to another, but to set in motion the dynamics of change which will make France a country with strong science and industrial innovation within an increasingly competitive European context.