Back in February, before his successful election as the President of the French Republican, Emmanuel Macron had a message for Americans beleaguered federal scientists: come to France. Eventually, details emerged of a program, mischievously entitled “Make Our Planet Great Again,” that set aside $69 million and four-year-long research grants for climate scientists that took their work across the Atlantic.
As it turns out, that scientist-snatching initiative was wildly successful. Launched on June 8, the last six weeks have seen hundreds upon hundreds of applications flood in, many of which feature researchers currently living and working in the US.
Although many of these applications are for short-term research ventures, 154 of them are specifically for long-term, four-year stays with the aim of conducting research in France for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the government has been head-hunting high-profile climate scientists themselves, and offers will be made to 50 of them by the end of November.
Inspired by this success, German officials have also reportedly begun a scheme of their own, which is likely to generate similar levels of interest from American researchers.
This news is as wonderful as it is surprising. Federal spending on science programs is at an all-time low, and the government is constantly attempting to drastically cut this funding even further. Scientists are being bullied, dismissed and demoted with reckless abandon.
Most significantly, the Trump administration is riddled with anti-vaxxers and climate deniers, and the decision to pull out of the Paris accords hugely tarnished the country’s reputation. It’s no wonder that, above all, climatologists are seeking an exodus to a country that not only funds their research but respects them too.
It’s worth pointing out that, as in many countries around the world, scientific funding in France is still nowhere near as high as it should be. Nevertheless, Macron’s overt interest in portraying France as an environmental, internationalist center of cutting-edge research and climate advocacy is certainly welcome in the age of Trump.
Macron has made his position on the matter quite clear for many months now. In the short time since his inauguration, his government has legislated for a ban on the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and there will be no new leases for drilling for oil and gas as of this year. Of course, the Paris agreement forms a central tenet of his policy framework.
As this application surge shows, the world is sitting up and taking notice. America is suffering from a brain drain as a result – in more ways than one, we’d argue.