12-14 octobre 2010 : Geneve : services publics de qualité

mardi 24 août 2010
par  Denis Départements

services publics de qualité : passons a l’action : conférence organisée par le conseil des syndicats mondiaux (voir fichier joint)

Outre la nécessaire mise en garde contre la tentation de destruction des services publics comme "réponse naturelle" à la crise financière, cette conférence, première du genre, souligne bien que le concept de service public n’est pas seulement Français mais tout a fait international, et une notion importante pour le futur.

une radio sur internet devrait retransmettre sur cette conférence

voir aussi sur facebook (chercher radiolabour)

site de la conférence http://qpsconference.org/

PDF - 858.3 ko

éléments d’intervention :

research and high education should be a public service

Denis Jouan (SNCS syndicat national des chercheurs scientifiques)

Research and knowledge should aim first at mankind general interests, which includes in particular the free progress of knowledge and the access to a knowledge that is not biased by specific interests like financing or trading. Public service of research and high education is the main part of the best way to achieve this.

In the last 20 years, the same ideology that have led to the recent and ongoing financial crisis has been applied to HER in Europe, through development of new structures for fundings and assessment, at the regional, national and international level, developing a “culture of project” based on short term goals and an international market of researchers with limited duration contracts. In the spirit of the priority for competition and innovation (which means the downstream effect of fundamental research leading to new tradable products) it could appear logical - even if socially questionable - to reduce research to know how and to short term goals. Anyway this vision is not developing in parallel to public ones with broader goals but is becoming the unique one, with standard management techniques directly aiming at mass production, with metric assessment considering first what can be easily quantified (for instance the price of a publication), and attempts to copy the motivation model of traders. Everywhere the academic structures, the collective and collaborative model are put on jeopardy, replacing collegial bodies by mercenaries managers and collective intellectual achievement by variable salary.

This is a general trend for all disciplines, very dangerous at a time when already many examples - due to the short term profit logic - of misuse of technical power have shown their deadly long term effects, and in contrast underlined the need for more respect of general interest and of nature.

The crisis in a certain extend is also an effect of this short term focus and reduction of the academic intellectual area to a subpart, creating dangerous blind spots where disasters develop. The president of the association for political economy declared “We believe that the absolute hegemony of the neoclassical approach over the research and teaching institutions in our country is an obstacle that has to be fought because it leads to a dangerous impoverishment of the economic discourse, as illustrated by the current economic crisis”. Recently a “manifesto of appaled economists” underlined 10 “pseudo obvious facts” in usual economics, for instance “public spending must be cut in order to reduce public debt”, which are pillars of the propaganda which is used in several countries in order to use and ease the crisis by the privatization of public services.

At a time where communication and control have gained worldwide dimension thanks to new technologies, and most of it is in the hands of financial powers, it is essential to keep and develop a public sector in the field of knowledge, and particularly at its borders. By nature (for fundamental research) and for the interest of all people, freedom must be the rule at the frontier of knowledge :

Let’s keep free the border of knowledge with a true research public service !

Some practical directions

1) Reaffirm the public service as a goal and reference, and specify that it should be at least defended where it exists. Together with the civil servant status, it is the best way to guarantee the independence of the research and researchers, its public relevance (progress of knowledge, independent expertise, intellectual diversity and freedom)

2) Mobility : it has to be a right for the persons, not an additional pressure on the worker. For research, one has to defend the creation of public servant permanent position (or its functional equivalent) everywhere, and also for young researchers.

3) International recommendations should not be used to degrade the existing situation, for instance for working conditions, in particular statuses, or public service of research and high education

4) Assessment of scientific policies, careers and activities : must be done by elected peers. Metric assessment should be avoided (the demand for quality needs to be précised on that respect).

5) Funding agencies : should finance directly research institutions that have the role of organizing research, and not finance teams or labs. Transparency and global view is needed in order to help real diversity.

6) European research area : should maximize subsidiarity principle, coordinate at European level only what really needs to be done at this level.

In the 2009 Unesco conference on HER the notion of public service has been finaly replaced by public good. It should be important that this international meeting clearly states a worldwide support for a goal of public service for Higher Education and Research.

Regarding some of the sayings during the conference
Coherence, stronger revolutionary discourse : one of the problem is the lack of coherence of texts from international organization, where social and financial is mixed, and finally it offers no protection against neoliberal interpretation. Beware of nice values and general goals but openness to wild market ! every solution that is supported first by the market needs social control or redistribution.

Make clear that the propaganda is lying : very often it is said “this is only in your country, that is old and expensive solution or a social rignt that is a priviledge ”

For instance, before European elections, which is defending very old retirement for a long time, I heard in radio that big questions at this level was typically cucumber diameter ! we have to fight against media misleading informations.

Links :

manifesto of appaled economists

recommendation IE 2007 “for a HER public service”


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