Science and research, major absentees from the presidential campaign – Sciences et Avenir

The scientific research ? Where ? Where ? It will not have escaped anyone with the slightest interest in science that the presidential campaign, in the mainstream media version, does not say a word. Too difficult, a question of time – especially if we are talking about climate change, a subject which nevertheless interests more than 80% of French people. The terrible news from Ukraine, the focus on purchasing power, the xenophobic eructations… everything contributes to making people forget what will inspire the advances of tomorrow, which are already being concocted in people’s minds and laboratories, giving rise to startups or are seriously considered by large corporations. And if we ended up hearing about the scandal of the disappearance of mathematics in the common core in the last classes of high school, and also of the vertiginous fall of girls in the field, it is because the risk for education ended up not only by very seriously worrying a number of researchers but by affecting actors of influence such as certain big bosses who, anticipating the lack of quality engineers in their own field of activity, still gave voice.

Worse or almost? It is the abysmal absence in this campaign of a reflection on the role of women in the scientific field, even though we are witnessing the digital transformation of society and the major development of artificial intelligence (AI ) which moreover upsets the very way of working in science. Women in the field would not exceed 22% (worldwide figure quoted in the book Medicine and artificial intelligenceCNRS edition).

“26 concrete proposals including 8 priorities”

No wonder that the mustard ended up (re) rising in the face of three associations “Women engineers, Women and mathematics, Women and Sciences”, supported by no less than 18 others (1), who have endeavored to challenge for more of one month the candidates with “26 concrete proposals including 8 priorities”. We cannot list them all here but they can be found on the site of “Women and Science”. We will note here two axes that are striking in these proposals. The one for connoisseurs and the one for those ignorant of these subjects, of which there is no doubt that they are massive!

For the latter, why not “carry out a communication campaign on scientific and technical professions (like that of the Army, among others) with a week of events involving companies and associations” (proposal 4). In fact, the lack of knowledge of all the new professions, not to mention those to come, caused in particular by this digital boom, is currently widening a gigantic gap between those who pursue certain scientific and technical studies and all the others. If such a campaign helped to challenge stereotypes about women and science – a brain not made for maths, the inability to see space and read maps, all that nonsense… – it couldn’t hurt .

The obligation to “strengthen the initial and continuing training of science teachers”

For the “connoisseurs”, on the side of education, higher education and research, we see that we have to start early, and catching up will not be easy. Proposal No. 7 insists on the obligation to “strengthen the initial and continuing training of school science teachers”.

A constantly repeated request, knowing that 84% of school teachers are women from non-scientific backgrounds. Years after the lower grades, we should continue raising awareness, not only during the school curriculum and “at the key moments of orientation” (proposal 11), but organize useful mixing in society itself. This is the meaning of proposition 13 which calls for “to offer girls and young people from underprivileged or rural backgrounds 3ᵉ internships in scientific laboratories and in industry”. It remains to be hoped that the big signatory bosses for maths will practice, tomorrow, a real opening of their companies.

By Dominique Leglu

1) The 18 associations are AFNEUS, BECOMTECH, Digital Ladies & Allies, Femmes du Numérique-Numeum, Femmes@Numérique, Gender Scan, Grandes Ecoles au Féminin, ParisTech au Féminin, Parité sciences, A few Digital Women, Succeeding in women’s equality -Men, Social Builder, Chemical Society of France, French Physical Society, Computer Society of France, Syntec Engineering, Women in Nuclear, Women In Tech.

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Science and research, major absentees from the presidential campaign – Sciences et Avenir


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