France Universités : relaunching biomedical research in France
On the occasion of World Health Day, April 7, 2023, France Universités publishes a report on the state of biomedical research in France and formulates its proposals.
Based on an in-depth bibliometric analysis, the study reveals France’s situation on the international scene in biomedical research in terms of scientific production and impact, and helps better understand the respective weight of the main institutional players in this field.
Four major lessons can be drawn:
– The French investment in biology and health research per capita does not match that of comparable European countries (United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain).
– Although biomedical research in France is not declining per se, it has plateaued below its potential over the last decade, unlike other European countries. Moreover, France appears to be more specialized in traditional fields than in cutting-edge or emerging fields. Potentially, this may induce further delay, particularly in emerging fields with a strong contribution from social sciences.
– Universities and their CHUs (university hospitals) generate over 60 % of the research produced in France. While universities carry interdisciplinary approach in life sciences, and CHUs conduct nearly all health sciences research, there is little overlap. Consequently, biology and health research are insufficiently linked to research in other disciplines.
– CHUs underperform in terms of scientific impact of publications, with a lower citation rate than universities and INSERM, in basic and translational research but also in public health.
The study confirms the negative impact of the French biomedical research system organizational complexity on its ability to steer research policy and respond to major national priorities. This issue has already been raised by the Academies of Medicine and Pharmacy in their 2021 joint report.
In light of these observations, France Universités proposes to seize the opportunity of the review clause in the Research Programming Law for the years 2021 to 2030, in order to increase research funding to 3 % of GDP (1 % of GDP for public research) by 2027; to increase the share dedicated to biomedical research to at least 30 %; and permanently safeguard the credits dedicated to hospital clinical research in the Social Security Finance Law.
Additionally, we propose to merge all the national health research programs funding under a single steering committee, in order to develop a common health research strategy, by entrusting INSERM with piloting the national health research programming, and the universities with the steering of local scientific policy.
France Universités also recommends re-universitizing and re-medicalizing the governance of CHUs in order to consolidate the major changes that have taken place since 2007 for universities, and to strengthen the partnership between university hospitals and universities by means of a contract of objectives, means and performance consistent with the respective multi-annual contracts of each party.