But where has the Scientific Council gone?

The president of the scientific council, Jean-François Delfraissy. – Francois Mori / AP / SIPA
  • The Scientific Council has been off the radar for over a month.
  • How to explain this absence when France is currently on a ridge line concerning the coronavirus?
  • Gradually disowned by the government, the Scientific Council seems to have locked itself in silence.

France is going through a very uncertain period regarding the coronavirus. Between the government’s bet not to reconfine, the explosion in the number of variants, the drop in cases which find little explanation, the time has come for uncertainty. And in this great general fog, one absence is particularly felt: that of the Scientific Council which seems to have completely disappeared from the radar.

His latest opinion published on the government website thus dates back to January 13, more than a month. Some of these members still do interviews here and there, but the Scientific Council no longer speaks as an entity. Mahmoud Zureik, hospital practitioner in epidemiology and public health, notes: “The Scientific Council is discreet and no longer takes initiatives, while it is their role to continue to shed light on the debate with other scientists. However, in diffuse interviews, Council experts continue to warn about the health situation, which makes the silence of the organization all the more inexplicable.

Series tackles

For example, Arnaud Fontanet, member of the Board, during his media interventions evokes a problem in schools without the Scientific Board no longer taking a position on it. For Mahmoud Zureik, it is clear that “the Scientific Council censors itself, it curls up on itself and does not want to be in the same situation of discredit by the executive”.

Because if the Scientific Council has become so silent, it is perhaps out of weariness to be tackled by the government. More and more media leaks in recent months have shown the executive to criticize or downplay the role of the Scientific Council. Latest to date, an article from France Inter dating from February 10 in which members of the executive presented Emmanuel Macron as “chief epidemiologist” and better mastered the subject of the coronavirus than the experts.

Do not delegate to better rule

Stéphane Rozès, political scientist and president of CAP (Advice, analyzes and perspectives), analyzes: “In the perspective of the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron wants to build himself a posture of the one who knew how to take decisions against too fearful experts or an administrative too slow. “To be the man who got France out of the woods, taking decisions against the majority opinion. To shed light on its actions, the Scientific Council had to be plunged into the shadows. Stéphane Rozès always: “Emmanuel Macron wants to show that it is he who is in charge and that he does not need anyone to make decisions. “

If the Scientific Council had been extremely interesting politically during the first wave, “since it served to justify very unpopular and unprecedented actions”, notes the political scientist, it is now a handicap in view of 2022. Emmanuel Macron wanted to “resume the hand, silencing the Scientific Council, and making it appear too fearful and too cautious. “

Precedents during the first and second waves

Yet even in the first wave, the executive had the final say on the recommendations of the Scientific Council, choosing whether or not to implement them. Nothing could be more logical for Mahmoud Zureik: “It is normal that the government – which takes into consideration other economic, social, political, ethical parameters – decides to follow or not to follow the Scientific Council, which like its name the indicates is there only to advise and give a purely sanitary opinion. On September 11, while the Scientific Council pleaded for strict measures in view of the second wave, Jean Castex had contented himself with making a speech recalling the importance of barrier gestures. First humiliation for the Scientific Council, passed behind political considerations.

Since the deconfinement of December 15, a new line seems to have been crossed again. “What is not normal is not to justify not following the recommendations of the Scientific Council”, notes the hospital practitioner. For him, even if other factors come into play, “decisions must be informed by science, and science must be made by real scientists”. However, Stéphane Rozès points out, “the longer the situation persists, the more the scientist and the health sector lose importance in the face of other more political or economic considerations. “

Even if for the political scientist, it is clear that Emmanuel Macron will not hesitate to reappear the Scientific Council if the situation deteriorates too much and he needs an alibi to take stricter measures. Making decisions alone, yes, but not necessarily the most unpopular ones.

Source: 20Minutes – Une by www.20minutes.fr.

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