Version anglaise

Originally published in French in the Huffington Post in February 2018, translated by Carolyn Avery and Chantal Barry.


“Culture is not inherited; it must be fought for”. These words spoken by André Malraux when he was Minister for Cultural Affairs have not yet been applied to the field of scientific transmission. For many years now, the universality, the cultural value and the social impact of science have been called into question. However, the normal and expected uncertainty that underlies the first stages of any scientific or technological development has tended to raise serious concerns among the general population. Ideological positions based on a growing distrust of the way in which scientific data are collected fuel these concerns. In such a context of cultural relativism, social understanding of science becomes far removed from scientific considerations. As early as January 2008, a group of academics published an article in the newspaper Le Figaro warning that the prevailing atmosphere of suspicion hindered innovation. In 2013, Robert Badinter, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, Alain Juppe and Michel Rocard took to the columns of the Libération newspaper to signal that it had become impossible in the current climate to conduct open and adversarial scientific debate without being disrupted by loud, and sometimes violent, minorities. The fact that the centre for scientific culture, La Casemate (part of the Grenoble Technopole) was set on fire by anti-progressive minorities in November 2017 is of grave concern. In the battleground against expertise, protest now involves attacking symbols of scientific culture. This constitutes an infringement of democracy as it strikes the very essence of civilization.

So yes, scientific culture must be fought for. Similarly to women’s rights, which Simone de Beauvoir warned are never definitively acquired, scientific culture is not simply an accumulation of discoveries and fixed knowledge. It is the legacy of a set of cultural values that both renews the social contract and contributes to the formation of enlightened and free citizens who are capable of a reasonable and informed understanding of the risks incurred. This rapprochement with societal issues is far from trivial. Lest it be forgotten, daily time savings, modern methods of cooking and cleaning, food preservation, the agricultural revolution, communications, access to leisure time and facilities and the 70% average increase in life expectancy since the beginning of the twentieth century, are the direct result of scientific and technological achievements.

In such a context, precaution, defined as a regular interactive process between the evaluation and use of available scientific data is essential. While the constitutionality of this principle is evident, it is unfortunately accompanied by an omnipresent “populist precaution”, to quote the sociologist Gérald Bronner. Evidence of the existence of this populist precaution was provided in 2016 when approximately one hundred Nobel Prize winners felt compelled to publish an open letter calling on governments around the world to disavow campaigns opposing ‘golden’ rice. Relevant and appropriately qualified scientific and regulatory authorities consider the production of this genetically modified organism enriched in vitamin A to be entirely safe and capable of reducing many of the illnesses caused by vitamin A deficiency. Other products derived from genetic engineering have the potential to improve matters in a number of areas and are therefore entirely worthy of testing. The editorial published in 2013 (see above) underscored the institutional effects of the reigning deleterious social environment, particularly among research organizations that tend to prioritize studies on the tenuous risks engendered by innovation rather than on the benefits such innovation may lead to.

Far from being an isolated opposition to crops and food enhanced by biotechnology, such behaviors highlight the need for a cultural understanding of precaution to limit its negative effects. Depriving farmers of reasonable access to the tools of modern biology and phyto-sanitary products would be likely to cause a serious health and economic crisis. Apart from its significant role in passenger transportation, the once-feared aerospace industry is today key to understanding the earth’s atmosphere and meteorology. Cultural ignorance focuses the attention on the possible consequences of technological developments, which are evaluated and can be monitored, rather than on the consequences of public reticence, which cannot be measured. Precaution should not be about resisting change, but about protecting the health of people and the environment. To systematically deprive humanity of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, microwaves, electricity meters, red meat, fertilizers, gluten, weather satellites and telecommunication tools would certainly have more negative than positive effects, and would therefore seriously undermine the spirit of the constitution. Protesters against scientific advances need to learn how to distinguish between the real effects of a development and social myth.

So yes, scientific culture must be fought for. With the digital revolution, the deregulation of the information market is greater than ever and requires vigilance from the politico-media system and the freedom of research from any kind of pressure. In February 2017, a unanimous vote was cast by a plurality of political groups at the end of a French parliamentary session approving a resolution on science and progress. Much to the surprise of the scientific community, the silence of the media on the subject was deafening. And yet, there is an urgent and vital need for information about scientific progress to be made available to the general public. National representatives have acknowledged the insufficient consideration of scientific expertise in political decision-making processes. Reports by the Parliamentary Office of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST) on topics ranging from synthetic biology to new biotechnologies receive little or no coverage. Thus, for example, the success of clinical trials on young girls with incurable leukemia in the US in 2013 and the UK in 2015 using the new tools of targeted genome modification had little or no social impact.

Reclaiming scientific culture requires thinking about mechanisms that kindle interest in culture and create a living encounter with science. This is a challenge that involves politicians, the media, scientists and cultural actors, and that calls for a greater recognition by public authorities of the role of associations that promote scientific culture. For this to happen, communication strategies that go beyond the traditional forms already adopted by scientific institutions must be developed. We also need a structure that helps the media understand and interpret scientific developments, particularly when controversial issues are concerned. It is imperative that students across all disciplines be sensitive to the popularization of science. There is an urgent need for digital functions adapted to the new information economy in the era of social networks to be developed. Youtube, for example, features a vast array of clips and documentaries hosted by presenters who make demonstration and explanation an enjoyable and entertaining experience, as do science museums, and who apply those skills to the cultural history of science, as do art museums. To paraphrase André Malraux, this is the only way for the future of science to become a gift transmitted by the past to the present.



  1. Virginie Tournay, CNRS Senior Researcher, CEVIPOF Sciences Po, OPECST scientific council.
  2. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, French Académie des Sciences, 2016 Nobel Prize Chemistry.
  3. Roger Guillemin, American Academy of Science, 1977 Nobel Prize Medicine/Physiology.
  4. Albert Fert, 2007 Nobel Prize Physics, 2003 CNRS Gold Medal.
  5. Jean-Marie Lehn, 1987 Nobel Prize Chemistry.
  6. Jules Hoffmann, Nobel laureate in Physiologie or Medicine, Member of the Académie Française and the French National Academy of Sciences
  7. Robert Badinter, University Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne Emeritus Professor and former President of the French Constitutional Council.
  8. Dominique Schnapper, EHESS Director of Studies, Honorary Member of the French Constitutional Council.
  9. Jean-Yves Le Déaut, OPECST former President, co-promotor of the Resolution on Science and Progress in France.
  10. Philippe Busquin, former member of the European Commissioner for Research.
  11. Geneviève Fioraso, former Minister of Higher Education and Research, OPECST former Member.
  12. Catherine Regnault-Roger, UPPA Emeritus professor, French Academy of Agriculture and French National Academy of Pharmacy.
  13. Gérald Bronner, French Academy of Technology and French Academy of Medicine.
  14. Gilles Roussel, President of the Conference of University Presidents (French CPU).
  15. The Conference of University Presidents (French CPU).
  16. Guy Lengagne, former Minister
  17. Bernard Accoyer, former President of the French National Assembly, co-promotor of the Resolution on Science and Progress in France
  18. Gil Kressmann, French Academy of Agriculture.
  19. Jean-Paul Krivine, Editor-in-chief of Science and Pseudo-sciences, French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS).
  20. Laurent Chicoineau, director of “Quai des savoirs” Toulouse.


  1. Pierre Corvol, President of the French Académie des Sciences
  2. Bruno Jarry, President of the National Academy of Technology of France.
  3. Agnès Artiges, Perpetual secretary of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
  4. Jean-Loup Parier, President of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
  5. Jean-Louis Bernard, President of the French Academy of Agriculture
  6. Bernard Hervieu, Former President of the French Academy of Agriculture
  7. Gérard Tendron, Perpetual secretary of the French Academy of Agriculture
  8. Christian Chatelain, President of the French National Academy of Medicine
  9. Daniel Couturier, Perpetual secretary of the National Academy of Medicine
  10. Marc Gentilini, Honorary President of the French National Academy of Medicine
  11. Michel Thibier, Former President of the Union of European Academies for Science Applied to Agriculture, Food and Nature.
  12. Claudin Tiercelin, Professor at College de France, member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques and member of the Academia Europaea.


  1. Bernard Alaux, former director of “Cap Sciences” Bordeaux.
  2. Laurent Alexandre, surgeon and entrepreneur
  3. Ange Ansour, Les Savanturiers Co-founder and Director -School of Research
  4. Jean-Claude Artus, Emeritus Professor Medical University,; former department head of Nuclear Medicine, ICM (Montpellier Cancer Institute, France).
  5. Brigitte Axelrad, honorary professor of philosophy, vice-president of the French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS) and member of Zététic Observatory (French skeptical non_profit organisation).
  6. Virginie Bagneux, UNICAEN teacher-researcher and former president of Zetetic Observatory (French skeptical non-profit organisation).
  7. Yves Bamberger, Chairman of the Works Committee of the National Academy of Technology of France. Former Director of EDF Research and Development. Honorary Professor at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées.
  8. Cédric Blanpain, Professor, Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine, Cercle FSER.
  9. Vincent Berger, Professor and director of basic research, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
  10. Jacques Bernard, activist within an association that combats rare diseases
  11. Julien Bobroff, physicien, Professor at l’université Paris-Sud.
  12. Yves Bréchet, French Académie des Sciences.
  13. Serge Bret-Morel, President of Zetetic Observatory.
  14. Sébastien Carassou, astrophysicist and science communicator “the Sense of Wonder”, President of Conscience, an association for science outreach”
  15. Elodie Chabrol, International director Pint of Science festival
  16. Gabriel Chardin, CNRS Physicist, CNRS Silver Medal.
  17. Alain Chédotal, INSERM, French Académie des Sciences, Cercle FSER.
  18. Pascal Colombani, Vice President of the Strategic Research Council. Honorary President of Valeo.
  19. Laurent Cordonier, Ph.D in social science, University of Neuchâtel
  20. Yvette Dattée, INRA Honorary Senior Researchr, French Academy of Agriculture.
  21. Héloïse Dufour, Cercle FSER, Director.
  22. Mathias Dufour, President #LePlusImportant
  23. Guillaume Desbrosse, Director of CCSTI “La Rotonde de Mines” Saint-Etienne – President of AMCSTI.
  24. Jean-Pierre Décor, French Academy of Agriculture.
  25. Alain Deshayes, INRA Honorary Senior Research and President of the AFBV (French Association of Plant Biotechnologies).
  26. Téo Drieu, scientific mediator, “ballade mentale”.
  27. Michel Dron, UP Saclay / Orsay Emeritus Professor in plant biology, French Academy of Agriculture.
  28. Thomas C. Durand, Popularizer “La Tronche en biais”, Co-Director of the Association for Science and the Transmission of Critical Thinking (ASTEC).
  29. Jean-Marc Egly, INSERM Former Senior Research, Académie des Sciences.
  30. Marc Fellous, Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics. Denis Diderot University and Institut Pasteur Paris.
  31. Stuart Firestein, Professor, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University.
  32. Alain Fisher, Necker Professor of Pediatric Immunology, Professor at the Collège de France.
  33. Philippe Foussier, Former Grand Maître du Grand Orient de France.
  34. Georges Freyssinet, Plant Biotechnology Consultant.
  35. René Frydman, Gynecologist, Public Hospital sector, Paris, Initiative of the first French test-tube baby.
  36. André Gallais, Honorary Professor of Genetics and Plant Breeding, French Academy of Agriculture.
  37. Thierry Galli, INSERM Senior Research, Director of the Centre for Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
  38. Nicolas Gauvrit, Mathematician and website manager of “Esprit Critique Info”.
  39. Aurélie Haroche, Chief Editor,
  40. Patrick Hennebelle, astrophysicist, CEA Researcher, ENS-Ulm.
  41. Anne Houdusse-Juillé, CNRS Senior Research in Biophysics, Institut Curie, CNRS Silver Medal.
  42. Jean-Baptiste Jeany, Director of La Casemate
  43. Philippe Joudrier, INRA former senior researcher.
  44. Patrick Kessel, Honorary President of the Comité Laïcité République (CLR).
  45. Bernard Le Buanec, French Academy of Agriculture and French Academy of Technology.
  46. Anne-Yvonne Le Dain, Scientist, Geologist, Agronomist, former Member of Parliament
  47. Patrick Lévy, President of Grenoble Alpes University (UGA).
  48. Roger Lepeix, AFIS President.
  49. Florent Martin, Vice President of Zététique Observatory (French skeptical non-profit organisation).
  50. Patrick Mehlen, French Academie des Sciences, Silver Medal CNRS, Cercle FSER.
  51. Marina Messina, President of Zététique Observatory (French skeptical no- profit organisation).
  52. Christophe Michel, scientific mediator, videographer of the “Hygiène Mentale” chain.
  53. Jean-Luc Morel, CNRS researcher.
  54. Pierre Mutzenhardt, President of Lorraine University.
  55. Antoine Pariente, Professor of Pharmacology, University of Bordeaux (
  56. Gérard Pascal, French Academy of Technology and French Academy of Agriculture.
  57. Georges Pelletier, French Academie des Sciences.
  58. Jean-Claude Pernollet, French Academy of Agriculture, INRA Honorary Research Director.
  59. Anne Perrin, biologist, degree in philosophy. Independent consultant. Member of the French High Council of Public Health. AFIS former president.
  60. Florence Porcel, Popularizer and Youtuber.
  61. Franck Ramus, CNRS Senior Research in cognitive science, ENS professor, member of National Education Scientific Council.
  62. Jocelyn Raude, associate professor at EHESP School of Public Health.
  63. Henri Regnault, UPPA Emeritus Professor of Economics.
  64. Dominique Reynié, Professor at Sciences Po and Director of the Fondapol
  65. Daniel Rouan, President of the Fondation La main à la pâte, French Académie des Sciences.
  66. Marion Sabourdy, New Media manager in La Casemate
  67. Guy Saez, CNRS Emeritus Senior Research in Political Studies.
  68. Jean-Pierre Sakoun, President of the Comité Laïcité République (and on behalf of CLR).
  69. Jean-Loup Salzmann, former President of the Conference of University Presidents (French CPU).
  70. Guy Vallancien, French Academy of Medicine and OPECST scientific council.
  71. Daniel Verwaerde, French Academy of Technology.
  72. Charles Vincent, Research Scientist, French Academy of Agriculture, Honorary Member Entomological Society of America. Fellow of Entomological Society of America, of Entomological Society of Canada and of Royal Entomological Society (London, U.K.)