Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Austerity Budget Includes Increased Spending for Science and Education

Expanding bubble in space

Rigid and naive approaches to reducing government budget deficits usually involve significant cuts in all areas of spending. It is therefore quite impressive that the new French austerity budget under President François Hollande has a more measured and thoughtful approach.  As reported by Barbara Casassus in Nature News, the French government is targeting a reduction in spending of roughly 3% in most areas, but not in the area of higher education and research:

French Higher Education and Research Minister Geneviève Fioraso had something to smile about as she briefed reporters the day before the government unveiled its 2013 austerity budget on 28 September. Hers was one of the few ministries to escape spending cuts as socialist President François Hollande and his team strive to honour their commitment to slash the deficit from 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 3% next year. Instead of pruning spending by 3.5% as ministers had been instructed, Fioraso managed to negotiate a 2.2% spending increase to give a 2013 budget for her ministry of just under €23 billion (US$29 billion), or €26 billion if contributions from other ministries are included. This was even more than the increase given to schools, which were one of the three priorities touted by Hollande in his election campaign earlier this year.

This is very good news, because the long-term goal of austerity measures is to improve the economy. Reduced spending for research and education would likely undermine this goal. The increased budget allotment will be used to directly create jobs and support research grants:
The upshot of the cash increase is that 1,000 new university posts will be created, a third each going to lecturer-researchers, researchers and support staff, and none of the 68,449 publicly funded research jobs will be cut. Funding for research grants will rise by 1.2% to €7.86 billion, although that is a drop in real terms as inflation is expected to average 1.75% for the year. As Hollande had pledged, the funding split between the National Research Agency (ANR), which finances most projects, and basic research institutes is rebalanced. ANR allocations will shrink from €709 million to €687 million this year, and institutes will receive an extra €60 million for operating expenses. More than €1.1 billion is slated for international programmes, up from just over €1 billion this year. The European Space Agency (ESA) will get a 3.8% rise, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) will get 58% more.

In addition to directly creating new jobs, this support for research and education is an important investment in the future of France. The French government will also give tax breaks to smaller companies that are developing innovative technologies. One can only hope that this recognition of how important it is to invest in education and research will also be shared by the US government. 


  1. Typical liberal propaganda: Let us spend more government money. Guess what, this blog is run by a researcher who would get more money if the government spent more money on research. Big suprise.Go do something useful with your life!!!

  2. It is true that as a researcher I do have a bias, because my own research might benefit from research funding. However, that does not make the statement that investing in research and education is beneficial for society any less true. I also support increased funding for research and education in areas that are very distinct from my own field of interest. Suggesting that all scientists may-have a pro-science bias is a little bit like suggesting that parents should not campaign for improved education for their children, since the parents may have a pro-children bias.