opinion | The Law of Research: the “simultaneous” failed experiment

Posted January 30, 2023, 12:27 p.m

Unexpected virtue will be a reminder on the debates raised by the law of research that without quality research, a society cannot be perpetuated or formed. Widely debated and still fiercely criticized, it nevertheless carries two antagonistic measures that are less or less comparable: junior professorship (CPJ) and reppyramidage.

CPJs are ushering in an unprecedented change in French higher education and research, where the relevance of public service realized through teaching (MCF) and research assistant positions has so far dominated. . They are a term consisting of an Anglicism from the United States for a conditional lease agreement.

CPJs, greater simplicity and transparency

This recruitment policy has since become widespread in many high-quality European universities, including some major French institutions.

They are similar to university professorships for young researchers with a probationary period of 3 to 6 years. The risk comes down to a declared scientific production goal mitigated by substantial salaries, research funds, and limited teaching volume. The initiated procedure meets the expectations of simplicity and transparency and is confirmed in its implementation.

Criticized by some, CPJs allow young teacher-researchers to better project themselves into their daily lives and avoid trying to apply for professorships, sometimes influenced by networks and other local hiring policies. candidates.

A conservative approach to repyramidization

If the research law established CPJ, however, it includes a dissonant measure called repyramidage. This involves a limited number of promotions to professorships within each institution to rebalance the ratio of tenured staff to 40% across disciplines. This practice is again associated with a conservative approach to academic careers, which reinforces unequal treatment to the detriment of MCFs with less significant experience and dynamic and excellent research.

These differences automatically increase with the diversity of the scientific quality of different institutions and the importance given to pedagogical and institutional tasks in the absence of scientific development. In other words, MCFs with advanced careers whose content of academic work does not lead them to hold a professorship can benefit from this measure. Worse still, some MCF who didn’t excel at their university would probably be elsewhere.

“At the same time” policy

CPJs carry a dual promise, scholarly attributes and academic stability. Conversely, repeated pyramiding reinforces the practice of internal promotion to the detriment of careers based solely on scientific merit. It is also something that has little regard for the expected needs of the French academic world. Repyramidization, which reflects the subtle reality of the heavy institutional and pedagogical burdens some carry, cannot answer this.

It is probably impossible and certainly not desirable to roll back the science policy of several decades. The generalization of tenure and its useful perspectives cannot be only a short-term solution to the remaining heterogeneity of the university body. There is still an urgent need to restore scholarly production to the role of cornerstone to bring together the favorable conditions for a large-scale reform of the academic system.

Revitalize career prospects

Two simple steps can revive the career prospects of the brightest MCFs. Obtaining internal promotion to the rank of professor based on practical demonstration of finding a position of the same nature at another institution. Nothing prevents the evolution of an appropriate competition platform to accompany such a policy. Of course, a manipulable procedure would reduce the unwanted effects of promises of possible progress in favor of scientific quality.

The desired goal of 40% of professors is possible without age criteria or internal promotion. It would be enough to break the transformation of MCFs into professors on the sandstone of the retirement of the former, accompanied by the assurance of continuity of renewals.

The research law has by no means secured the future of the French academic world. If tenure formalized by CPJs allows us to hope for the best, repeated pyramiding cannot prevent us from considering the worst.

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