Le Monde and other French papers stated today that the government plans to cut the 2003 research budget by 0.8% to €8.84 billion. But the official announcement is difficult to untangle. Next year's public research and development budget will either increase 5.3% or fall 1.3% from this year, depending on how one reads the budget outlined yesterday evening after a vote by the French council of ministers.

Research unions are calling the rise a "trick of the eye," as the higher figure relies on disputed public funds supposedly not consumed in 2002. "Nobody was easily deceived," says Jacques Fossey, secretary-general of the National Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS). His organization calls the draft budget "unacceptable."

As two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to salaries, the National Union of Scientific Researchers expects the reduction will result in the loss of about 50 research positions and a 10% drop in funds for...

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