“France must reinvest in fundamental research in mathematics”

D.years the magazine Challenges in March thirty great leaders wrote a column for “save calculations”. They warned of the consequences of the high school reform that will lead to a decline in mathematics taught hours and a reduction in the pool of science students, even if industrialists need “more engineers better trained to face the ecological and digital transition”. Florent Menegaux, president of the Michelin group, in an interview with Sunday newspaperhe added it “The planet needs researchers and scholars to objectify and understand phenomena and identify the most appropriate solutions”.

The impact of mathematics on employment and on GDP which weighs at least 13% and 18% respectively, according to the recent study conducted by the CNRS, there are obviously problems for the nation.

France is proud of its Fields medals (equivalent to the Nobel Prize in Mathematics) and its numerous awards (Abel, Wolf) which testify to the recognition of the value of French research in mathematics. A thirteenth medal was awarded this summer. Will we continue to have them?

In addition to the immediate danger to the economy, which has made these great leaders take the pen and implement changes in high schools as soon as this school year begins, will it be enough? – wanted by the President of the Republic, another, more long-term, is emerging on research in mathematics. France remains interesting given the quality of the research carried out on all topics. This may not be the case ten years from now. It’s bad? It is not forbidden to say that it is more important to have more engineers and fewer researchers, but is it a good calculation? Everything is tailor-made.

Mathematical research in France is mainly carried out in university laboratories by teacher-researchers who teach the discipline there (and there are some in almost all science courses), accompanied by a limited number of researchers from organizations (over 85% of employees public are teachers-researchers).

Drop in hiring

However, data from the Ministry of Higher Education shows that annual hires of teacher-researchers in mathematics declined steadily between 2011 and 2020, from 202 to 98. A sufficient number of hires ensures a renewal of managers and themes and allows good mobility of people and ideas. This is no longer the case. At the same time, didactic burdens increase, with an increasing number of mathematics students, and administrative expenses, which must be shared. The time devoted to research is therefore naturally more limited.

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