As Americans debate the advantages of including science funding in the economic recovery package, scientists in France are taking it to the streets. French scientists have been on strike since the beginning of February, a response to funding and higher education reforms that would impact the relative stability of researchers’ employment thanks to current state control of funding and academic appointments.

Science Insider included some (translated) excerpts from Sarkozy’s speech:

I don’t see at all how a system of weak universities, led by a finicky central government, could be an efficient weapon in the battle for intelligence. On the contrary, it’s a system that infantilizes and paralyzes creativity and innovation. That’s why we gave the universities autonomy …

No other country has produced so many institutes, agencies, groups and other microscopic organizations that dilute means and responsibilities, pull every which way, and waste time and money …

Is science just a question of financial means and jobs? How then do we explain that with science spending higher than in Great Britain, and about 15% more researchers than our English friends, France is well behind in its scientific production? Somebody better explain that to me! More researchers, fewer publications, and excuse me, I don’t want to be unpleasant, with a comparable budget, a French researcher publishes 30% to 50% less than a British one in some sectors …

And you really have to see how fired up he is:

It’s interesting to see how another country, one with a system quite different from the cutthroat environment American scientists face, is struggling with similar issues of institutional structuring and productivity. But while the arguments in the US question the benefits of government-funded science and the relative economic impact of funding slippery ideas like “creativity” and “innovation”, Sarkozy uses these words to lash out against French scientists and decentralize the funding power into the hands of universities.