The reform “LARROUTUROU”: A new organisation for a stronger and more open CNRS

[this essay was for my course on Reform Management. it was largely based on a report. A lot of the information was based on http://www.lsv.ens-cachan.fr/~petit/Divers/LORS-Special-CNRS.pdf but this information was greatly cross checked with colleagues that were there when the reform too place and are still in CNRS, so they could give me an opinion on what changed and what did not ]
1. Introduction
Governments are increasing becoming aware of the important role that research and technology play in the economic, social, environmental, competitive and sustainable development of a country. As a result, the existence of strategic research and technology initiatives and the proper and efficient organization of scientific efforts are a key policy priority for any European country. In fact, one the five EU headline targets on which Europe 2020 (a strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth), is that 3% of the EU’s GDP should be invested in Research and Development (R&D). In the case of France, since 2004 the indicator of this target GERD (Gross domestic expenditure on R&D) as a percentage of GDP, ranged from 2.08% (in 2007) to 2.26 % (in 2009).
To continue to excel in the changed regional, national and international conditions, the general direction of CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the largest fundamental research organisation in Europe, has implemented the “Project for CNRS”, which involved six key changes in the organisation. This renovation project of great magnitude was prepared in early 2004 by Gerard Mégie, an atmospheric physicist and the then President of CNRS, and Bernard Larrouturou, a Mathematician and then Director-General of CNRS. The subsequent reform is now remembered as the “Reform Larrouturou”.
In this paper, after a very brief description of CNRS, the general aims of the Reform will be outlined and followed by a description of how it was formulated. For these changes to be achieved, a number of organisational changes were required. The six key changes imposed by the reform will then be discussed, in each case through a description of what was the status quo before (Situation A), of what was planned according to the reform, of the arguments for and against each change, of whether these were in fact implemented (Situation B) and of whether these have been properly incorporated in the organisation of CNRS (Situation C).
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Overview of the presence and influence of interest groups in decision-making in the EU

[this was my essay for the European Integration course]

1. Introduction

From the very beginning of the European Union (EU), interest groups have been an important element in its evolution, an element inextricably interwoven with the functioning of European institutions. The term interest group (IG) is used to describe organisations or bodies that represent trade unions, firms, farmers, local and regional authorities, consumer groups, environmental and animal protection interests etc (Labdas, Mendrinou, Hatziyanni, 2009).
IG influence greatly contributes to the EU’s democratic legitimacy and to the formation a common reference framework for the various European public spheres. A coexistence of a variety of public spheres can be observed, which are evolving through complex interactions between the many different material and virtual factors that shape European policies (Labdas, Mendrinou, Hatziyanni, 2009).
As a result, the presence of economic and social IGs has been ever increasing since the mid-1980s, indicating that their political mobilisation has been indeed considerable. This increase has been partly due to the complexity of the EU’s multilevel governance and the central position of highly fragmented European institutions. As a result, a great range of access points has been available to these groups to exert their influence on the decision-making process.
In addition, due to the constant criticism of the democratic deficit (lack of accountability, transparency of decisions and participatory opportunities, Michalowitz (2007)), the European Commission (EC) has demonstrated increasing openness towards IGs (e.g. White Paper on Governance or the Transparency Initiative, Kohler-Koch and Finke (2007)). In fact, nowadays, any explanation of policy outcomes without mentioning the contribution of IGs would be incomplete, especially since the influence of policy outcomes is their main goal.

Academic Dishonesty: Students’ Corruption

[this is not very related to science but it is an issue I feel very strongly about. This was my essay for the Ethics and Corruption in the public sector course I took during my Masters in Public Policy.]
1. Description
One of the behaviours that negatively affect an educational system is the very high levels of students’ academic dishonesty. This is especially the case for written examinations, the main assessment procedure in both high-school and university level education in Greece.
Academic dishonesty is a very dangerous type of corruption because it happens when people are at such a young age, at the stage when they learn how to think, try to find out what they believe in and develop into the people that they will eventually become. If a behaviour is perceived as correct or normal at this stage, it is more likely that it will be repeated for the rest of the life of the individual, or even be transferred in situations outside education. By adopting such a corrupt behaviour at such an early stage, young people are more likely to be corrupt as adults as well.
Academic dishonesty in the context of written examinations exists in many forms. Students can increase their chances of getting good grades by finding out the questions before the exam, copying from other students during the exam, copying from material brought into the exam room (notes in the bag, on the floor, in pencil cases, etc), from texts written on their hands, arms, thighs etc, and/or using technology (e.g. using mobile phones to obtain answers from the internet or from friends at home) or even by sending someone else to sit the exam for them. All these forms of cheating are used to great extents depending on the situation.
The focus of this essay will be university students who are performing any of the above behaviours during their higher education studies. They are the ones who initiate and benefit from the corrupted act of cheating in written examinations.  The alarming trend that served as inspiration for this essay is the increasing number of university students that consider cheating as an integral and justified part of their studies, even a right. The majority of students nowadays consider it completely independent of corruption.

Institutional Framework for Research and Technology (N. 3653/2008)

[This is another essay I wrote for my MA course in Public Policy and Management. I was advised to write it in Greek, so it is in Greek. The subject of this essay is the Institutional Framework for Research and Technology (Law 3653/2008), a law that was never implemented and is currently postponed once again until 31/12/2011]
TSOUKALAS, Ioannis A. [UPDATE: This essay was published in this blog at a time when Research and Technology has been in the news due to the resignation of the Greek General Secretary of Research and Technology, Professor Achilleas Mitsos, on the 31st of December 2010. As a response, Professor I. Tsoukalas, currently an MEP, who was the General Secretary of Research and Technology between 2004 and2008 and responsible for the Law 3653/2008, produced the following press release (taken from http://www.eppgroup.eu/press/showPRExport.asp?PRExportID=24297):
Δήλωση του Ευρωβουλευτή της ΝΔ, Καθ. κ. Ιωάννη Α. Τσουκαλά, σχετικά την παραίτηση του Γενικού Γραμματέα Έρευνας και Τεχνολογίας, Καθ. κ. Αχιλλέα Μητσού
“Με αφορμή την παραίτηση του Γενικού Γραμματέα Έρευνας και Τεχνολογίας του Υπουργείου Παιδείας, Δια Βίου Μάθησης και Θρησκευμάτων, Καθηγητή κ. Αχιλλέα Μητσού, ο Ευρωβουλευτής της ΝΔ, μέλος της Επιτροπής Βιομηχανίας, Έρευνας και Ενέργειας του ΕΚ, Καθηγητής κ. Ιωάννης Α. Τσουκαλάς, δήλωσε τα εξής:
«Με θλίψη αλλά χωρίς έκπληξη πληροφορήθηκα τον εξαναγκασμό σε παραίτηση του Γενικού Γραμματέα Έρευνας και Τεχνολογίας, Καθ. κ. Αχιλλέα Μητσού.
Είχα στηρίξει πολλές ελπίδες στη μακρά εμπειρία του ως Γενικού Διευθυντή της Γενικής Διεύθυνσης Έρευνας και Τεχνολογίας της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης και ήλπιζα ότι η κυβέρνηση θα τον στήριζε ώστε η μακρά αυτή εμπειρία του να αποδώσει το έργο που η ερευνητική κοινότητα της χώρας έχει μεγάλη ανάγκη. Παραβλέπω την απογοήτευσή μου για την πλήρη παραθεώρηση του έργου της ΝΔ (νόμος 3653/2008, τον οποίο το ΠΑΣΟΚ αρνήθηκε να εφαρμόσει), παρόλο που ο κ. Μητσός σε επανειλημμένες δημόσιες δηλώσεις του υποστήριζε τις ίδιες αρχές διαφάνειας, αξιοκρατίας και αριστείας, όπως και η ΝΔ με τον παραπάνω νόμο.
Δυστυχώς ατομικές πολιτικές προσώπων της κυβέρνησης, που υπερβαίνουν κατά πολύ και τη νομιμότητα και τον θεσμικό ρόλο τους (και όπως προκύπτει και από την παραίτηση του κ. Μητσού, ρίχνουν σκιές σχετικά με την αποτελεσματικότητα και τη διαφάνεια του τρόπου διαχείρισης των κοινοτικών κονδυλίων), αποδίδουν στη χώρα έναν τύπο διοίκησης της «αυλής Λουδοβίκου του 14ου».
Με καλή πίστη και χωρίς πρόθεση πολιτικής αντιπαράθεσης, κάνω έκκληση στον Πρωθυπουργό, όπως και στην Υπουργό Παιδείας, να επαναφέρει σε τάξη στελέχη της κυβέρνησής του που εκθέτουν ανεπανόρθωτα τη δημοκρατική συγκρότηση της χώρας».
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Εισαγωγή

Η έρευνα και η τεχνολογία διαδραματίζουν σημαντικό ρόλο στην οικονομική, κοινωνική, περιβαλλοντολογική, ανταγωνιστική και αειφόρο ανάπτυξη της χώρας μας. Η ύπαρξη στρατηγικής για την έρευνα και την τεχνολογία και η καλή και αποτελεσματική οργάνωση τους θα έπρεπε άρα να αποτελεί βασική πολιτική προτεραιότητα. Παρολ’ αυτά οι βασικές μεταρρυθμιστικές προτεραιότητες της χώρας μας ήταν η εθνική άμυνα και η εθνική οικονομία, πράγμα που φαίνεται και από το ποσοστό του ΑΕΠ (για εθνική άμυνα 5-7% ενώ για την έρευνα 0,6%).
Δεν είναι παράξενο λοιπόν, το ότι το νομοθετικό πλαίσιο της έρευνας και της τεχνολογίας που ισχύει σήμερα στη χώρα μας σχεδιάστηκε το 1985 (Ν. 1514/1985). Αν και αυτό τροποποιήθηκε μερικώς πριν περίπου μια δεκαετία (Ν.2919/2001), σε σχέση με τις ραγδαίες αλλαγές που έχουν γίνει στην οργάνωση της έρευνας και της τεχνολογίας είτε σε άλλες χώρες, είτε σε Ευρωπαϊκό επίπεδο, η Ελλάδα έχει μένει όλο και πιο πίσω σε αυτό το χώρο. Σε μια εποχή στην οποία οι περισσότερες κυβερνήσεις, συμπεριλαμβανομένου της Ελληνικής, δίνουν ιδιαίτερη έμφαση στην επιστήμη και στην τεχνολογία, ως το μόνο όχημα που θα μπορέσει να μας οδηγήσει στην ανάπτυξη και έξω από τη κρίση, μια ριζική συστημική αλλαγή στο σύστημα της έρευνας και τεχνολογίας θα έπρεπε να αποτελεί προτεραιότητα. Continue reading

Pollution and Environmental Policy: nitrate pollution from agricultural sources in the case of Greece

[short note: as I’ve mentioned before I have started a new masters course in Public Policy and Management. I will be publishing my essays on this blog, and this is one of these essays.]

INTRODUCTION

In an economy that has achieved Pareto optimality (social efficiency), any additional changes in the economy would benefit some people only by making others worse off. In the real world however, markets fail to achieve this social efficiency and one of the main reasons for this, is the existence of externalities.
An externality occurs when the welfare of individuals and corporate profits are affected not only by the actions of individuals themselves or their companies but also from acts of third parties. Whenever these individuals or their companies are affected beneficially, there are said to be positive externalities, whereas whenever these individuals or their companies are affected adversely, there are said to be negative externalities. A common example of a negative externality is environmental pollution. Pollution will be used for now on, instead of the more general term of “negative externality”. Continue reading