A first in Paris: the Academic Pride

For my first post here (I hope the first of many), I had two major problems: which language to use and what topic to pick. But current events brought something forward that I believe to be adequate for this.

Academic Pride

This week in Paris (and other major French cities) was the first “Academic Pride” (I keep hoping “first” means there will be another one next year). As this is a topic close to my heart (what with me being a grad student and all), I thought I’d give you some more info on this event.

Regarding the first “major problem” I had… As this is something I think everyone should know about, I initially decided to write it in both English and French. This would take me longer to write (and as you know there is so little time and so much to do!) and make it more complicated for readers to find their marks… In the end, my post was way too long for me to willingly double the length! Hence, the entry will be in English only. But please don’t hesitate to comment and indicate which language you’d like me to use here in the future!

Before I really start, here are some links that might be of interest:

The organisers’ page (in French). Here you can find lots of info on what took place and why and also some practical links to online journals who talked about the whole thing.

They talked about it in Nature! I highly recommend to read this as it’s really short and explores some of the issues at stake here (in English).

Of course, even scientists are not always in agreement. Here is a blog post where someone explains why they didn’t go to the demonstration (in French).

What the French association “Save Research” said afterwards (in French).

This demonstration aimed to show that many researchers and professors are opposing the current announcements made concerning deep changes on the way research works in France, that they will not accept these changes which are grossly imposed on them, and for which they have not been consulted. While our dearest president claims French research “sucks”, this demonstration aimed to show people that researchers and teachers of all areas of study are proud of their work, that they believe in the importance of what they do and that they most strongly disagree with the above claim on the state of French research. Thus this Academic Pride took place on May 28th 2008, last Tuesday to be precise.

Or at least, this is my understanding of the event! :)

However, the point I wish to make here is not in the political realm. Instead, I would like to relate to you what happened on the day of the event and how I feel about it (not because I think my feelings are that important but because they are the ones I have handy).

To begin with, I should confess I wasn’t there myself :P I had a meeting early that afternoon and thought I’d go check it out afterwards because the end of the march was close to where my meeting was taking place (Jussieu). The meeting ended around 17h30 and when some of my colleagues and I went to see how things were going, we didn’t (and couldn’t) find anyone!

By the way, did I mention that it was rainy that day?

Anyway, we looked around a bit to see whether they had already gone or whether they hadn’t arrived yet, but couldn’t find anything conclusive. I thus spent part of my evening online and watching the news on TV, trying to find out what had happened… I didn’t have much luck – the only things I found were a couple people posting on blogs that they’d missed it too. How frustrating!

This is also part of my motivation to write this in English, in order to share the information with as wide an audience as possible. (Most of the links are in French, have you noticed?)

Nevertheless, little by little, information started to seep through. The organisers made a commendable effort to regroup the various journals and such that spoke of the event. My opinion on those I have found and read is that overall they’re all saying the exact same thing, based on a news release from the AFP (French Press Agency). It seems that in Paris the number of demonstrators was around 3000 people and the organisers were rather pleased with that.

As for my personal opinion, well I have to admit that I’m not into politics although I do try to keep informed and play my part as a French citizen. For me, while this demonstration is most certainly taking place in the middle of quite a hectic situation (to use but a euphemism), I can’t help but focus on the name chosen for this occasion.

Academic Pride.

For me, this walk was also (and perhaps mostly?) about showing one can and should be proud to be an academic in France. But believe you me, this is not an easy thing… Let me explain some more and share my limited experience with you. Here, when you tell people you’re a grad student, working towards a PhD, people look at you in a sad way and start pitying you! What do they think they are pitying? I love what I do (even though sometimes I hate it too ;) But that’s what passion is all about, no?) and I chose to do it because I think it’s fascinating!

I also dare hope that someday, it’ll be useful to someone, and you know what? It just might be (though I won’t go into details here). What more could one ask? (Oh yeah, apart from all the precariousness issues, ahem…) There’s most certainly nothing to be ashamed of, so why do people seem to look down when they learn what I do?

Why is it that, in this country, being an engineer is seen as being the best that education can give? Why do they think that being a PhD, having a doctorate, has no value if it’s not in medicine? Of course, this is gross generalisation I hasten to add! But still this is the overall feel that I have and you know what? It sucks.

If only for that reason and no other, I believe in the value of performing a yearly Academic Pride :) We are proud of what we do!

2 Comments so far

  1. Lil (lilianl) on June 3rd, 2008 @ 10:57 am

    indeed, i believe science should not be undervalued and if anything, there should be active investment to encourage more research :)


  2. mgm921 on June 29th, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

    I found your post very fascinating, being a doctoral student in the US with plans of moving to Paris in 2009. I am very curious of the academic and research climate in Paris and look forward to reading more of your posts.



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