Origins and a historical precedent

Alain Prochiantz et Thierry Mandon

In early 2016, at the request of the scientific and research community, the Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research addressed the issue of welcoming to France researchers and lecturers-researchers from countries in which the political situation prevents them from working and places their lives and that of their families in danger.

Despite a historic precedent set in 1936, France, unlike other major democracies (the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany), did not have any mechanisms in place to help scientists at risk.

On January 16, 2017, the national PAUSE program was launched to provide support for higher education establishments and research organizations committed to hosting at-risk researchers from abroad by providing co-funded grants to recruit these researchers.

The genesis of the program

The program was shaped around:

-   The report on the needs evaluation for welcoming to France researchers, archaeologists and historians from countries involved in conflict (Syria, Iraq, Yemen), drafted in January 2016 by Franck Braemer, Research Director of CEPAM (Culture, Environnement, Préhistoire, Antiquité, Moyen Âge) at the Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis and Director of the French archaeological mission in southern Syria;

-   Discussions at the Symposium “Franco-Syrian cooperation: thinking with Syria today and building the Syria of tomorrow” held at the École des Hautes Études En Sciences Sociales (EHESS) on May 2 and 3, 2016;

-   Dialogue with the French Vice-Chancellors’ conference (CPU) which took a stance to defend academic freedoms in the light of attacks on teaching staff;

-   The conclusions of the “Report on hosting at-risk scientists in France – Recommendations for the creation of a national scheme” by Liora Israël, Senior Lecturer, École des Hautes Études En Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

During the seminar entitled “Migrations, refugees, exile” organized by the Collège de France on October 12 to 14, 2016, Thierry Mandon, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, announced the launch of a program to host scientists at risk.

At this event, geneticist Edith Heard, a professor at the Collège de France, and neurobiologist Alain Prochiantz, Director of the Collège de France, gathered together a host of notable figures from the world of science and civil society to form a Sponsorship Committee for the program. They all signed an article published on October 15, 2016 on the website Le Point.fr to alert opinion to the issues and to the urgent need for France to host scientists at risk.

Launch of the national PAUSE program

On January 16, 2017, the PAUSE (Programme d’aide à l’Accueil en Urgence des Scientifiques en Exil) program was officially launched with the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research, the Collège de France, which is the project lead, and the Chancellery of the Parisian Universities which is providing premises for the team.

This national program, which brings together the higher education teaching and research community and other relevant organizations (Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior), receives an initial endowment of €1 million from the Ministry for Higher Education and Research which will be topped up with additional institutional and private funding from sponsorship and public donations.

On January 23, 2017 the first call for applications was launched, which was heavily subscribed by higher education and research establishments. It resulted in the award of grants for 25 researchers at risk, all senior scientists, mostly from Syria and Turkey.

On March 2, 2017, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, accompanied by Secretary of State Thierry Mandon, launched the subscription fund at the Collège de France under the aegis of the Fondation de France, which will receive private donations for PAUSE, thus demonstrating strong support for this national program. An additional public endowment of 1 million euros was awarded to the program.

In May 2017, as a result of a second call for applications, funding was provided for 38 additional researchers; 63 lecturer-researchers can now be hosted in some fifty higher education and research establishments throughout France.

A historical precedent

Louis_Rapkine2

Credits: Institut Pasteur / Archives Louis Rapkine

Under the Front Populaire in 1936, Louis Rapkine, who belonged to a Byelorussian family which migrated to France and Canada, was carrying out research in France, notably at the Collège de France. As a foreigner, he was barred from engaging in political activity. He therefore secretly established the Comité d'Accueil et d'Organisation du Travail des Savants Étrangers (Committee for hosting and organizing work for foreign scientists) with support from several scientists, including Paul Langevin, Jean Perrin, Edmond Bauer, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie, and Jacques Hadamard.

This committee was established to host Jewish academics who were refugees from Central Europe. Louis Rapkine secured the necessary funding for his initiative, which he then extended to refugees fleeing from Fascism in Spain and Portugal. The committee received funding from the government, but operated using private funds, for which official recognition of the organization by the Front Populaire was crucial. It received donations notably from the Rothschild family, André Mayer, and Robert Debré.

During the war, Louis Rapkine travelled to London and then New York. He set up a rescue plan for French scientists and those of other nationalities, with the agreement of General de Gaulle and the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. After the war, he received funding from this foundation to re-establish the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) led by Fréderic Joliot-Curie, and for exiled scientists to return to France and the United Kingdom.