Aware of this state of affairs, the State is trying to promote closer ties between research and political decision-making at national level. I would like to cite two examples: the reorientations of both the Centre for strategic analysis and of INJEP. The Centre for strategic analysis, which reports directly to the head of State, replaced the General Planning Commissariat and now focuses its studies more precisely on the political priorities of the State. As a result, its 2007 work programme included a study dedicated to the issue of youth incivility and violence entitled “What are the interactions between parental supervision, institutional presence in the field and juvenile delinquency? Can we use the findings and the public policy frameworks that exist in other countries? How can public policies be improved?”5 INJEP was asked to add a mission of observation to its general mission of promotion of research, to provide better political visibility on research activities and facilitate the work of political decision-making.
The first important point to retain is that the links between researchers and decision- makers are particularly complex in France. Political decision-makers are not comfortable with the temporality and conceptual difficulty of research, while researchers, attached as they are to work based on theoretical and conceptual frameworks that make questions of action difficult to deal with, are afraid of being forced into purely operational finalities. The organisation of academic research in France is country-specific and tends to be far removed from directly operational preoccupations.
The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and universities produce fundamental research, and both are extremely protective of their independence and autonomy from political authorities or public policies. The world of academic research is wary of research that must serve a concrete purpose, while the political world and public authorities regret researchers’ lack of focus on operational possibilities.
Dialogue between researchers and political decision-makers in France has been maintained by institutions such as the General Planning Commissariat, traditionally responsible for bringing together the social partners, political decision-makers and researchers via work and synthesis groups. This principle of dialogue is worth pursuing. Certain practices and experiences could also be imported from other fields, such as: the work done by PUCA (plan urbanisme construction architecture) to bring researchers and decision-makers together thanks to specialists at the intersection between research and the political world, the work organised by the inter-ministerial programme entitled ‘City, culture and social dynamics”, which set up a programme committee composed of researchers and decision-makers to commission work and evaluate it together.
France does not have a culture of evaluation to facilitate this type of cooperation between researchers and decision-makers. The Viveret report insisted on the importance of evaluation as a participative, endoformative and democratic practice. Examples of evaluations linking researchers, decision-makers and practitioners
Centre for strategic analysis, « 2007 Work programme », p.7-8.