“The Telethon is magnificent, it’s really a very positive act of civil society,” says Jean Viard

3637 all weekend, and like every end of the year, this is the number to dial to help research against rare diseases, and to help researchers who need our donations, money private sector which is added to public funding.



Reading time: 258 min

Telethon 2023, December 7, 2023, dancers perform the dance of the Olympic Games, created by French choreographer Mourad Merzouki, at the opening of the 37th edition of the Telethon in Saint-Denis.  (JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

It’s the big weekend of the Telethon and the call for donations on 3637, to help researchers who need us, these donations, this private money, which supplement public funding. A social question that we decipher with the sociologist Jean Viard.

franceinfo: Doesn’t the State rely a little too much on these actors for missions that should be its responsibility?

Jean Viard: We must not exaggerate, because state budgets are considerable. The Telethon is actually something magnificent. When I was young, when it was created, I said to myself it’s the job of the State to finance research, what is this way of doing the quest like this? And then I realized that in fact, little by little, they were creating networks everywhere with lots of activities, and basically, in this question, it is about citizen commitment. And what’s more, one year, I was asked to chair the Telethon, the sale of objects, so I was the auctioneer, and I realized that it was really a place of sociability around sick, around research.

So I think that in France, the idea that civil society is an important actor in many subjects, we are not used to it historically, and so it is very positive when it develops, and we are moving towards that because we can clearly see that politics is a bit stuck on many subjects. It is truly a very positive act of civil society.

And there was this announcement on Thursday, December 7, of the creation of a new Presidential Science Council. 12 scientists will try to explain research needs to the president. Was this missing?

Today, we are in the midst of an immense technological, scientific and industrial revolution. It is not the only solution to winning the climate war, but it is still one of the great solutions. What we call the industry of life, that is to say bringing the industrial process inside life itself.

So, this is a huge shift in terms of innovation and research, and we must indeed launch our research centers into this fight. And that’s what’s happening. It’s not all the research, but for part of the heart of the research on these subjects, we must not be naive, there are problems of money, of salaries, it’s a bit like in the National education, there is also a money problem, which we must not hide.

Does the President of the Republic need this dozen scientists to tell him in which direction research should be taken?

Clearly, the President of the Republic has a fairly high vision of his function and his power, especially his influence. And so he wants people around him, close to the Elysée, to offer him visions on different subjects. The fact that very high-level scientists are regular interlocutors of the President of the Republic is good news, because science, at the start of the 21st century, was somewhat pushed aside.

And then there was the great pandemic, messenger RNA, which is a French invention that we were unable to develop. So France is often very innovative, and then how we do the business behind it. There it was rather the others who did the business behind it.

So this question of promoting science and promoting the link between science and industry, and that industry invests – because research is also in companies, it is not just public research – These are all the links that need to be tightened. Afterwards, I am not going to offer an opinion on the organization of the Elysée, but let’s say that it is part of this logic of putting science back at the heart of societies, and there, I think it is a good idea.

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