Didier Houssin

Let’s Take Care of Science! Publication date : February 28, 2018

Professor of surgery at the Université Paris-Descartes, a surgeon and department head at the Hôpital Cochin, Didier Houssin directed the Établissement français des greffes [French transplant agency ], before becoming Director General for health at the French Ministry of Health from 2005 – 2011. From 2013 to 2016, Didier Houssin chaired the Management Board of ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, and From 2011 to 2015, he was the CEO of the French Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (AERES, then HCERES). He is currently a member of an advisory group at the World Health Organization.
“Beautiful, joyful, universal, superpowerful…”: this describes science today, according to Didier Houssin. And, using supporting examples, he points out that science has never achieved such power, through its diagnostic tools, the masses of data, and the sums involved. Should we be overjoyed, or disturbed by this?

In Didier Houssin’s opinion, science has in some ways become a victim of its success. And, after having been used for diplomatic and military purposes in the nineteenth century, it now finds itself summoned to contribute to economic growth -- not without consequences that could result in its distortion, or at least in seriously falsifying its approach: whether this involves increasingly significant administrative restrictions, inter-disciplinary and institutional in-fighting, media coverage, a source of errors and misunderstanding, or – even more serious – scientific hubris, which leads to indifference, or even fraud – the ills the scientific colossus is suffering could indeed cause it to implode into itself.

And yet, if we wish to heal science remedies do exist! They involve training for a scientific education that would begin in elementary school, and the development of a culture valuing quality and assessment.

“Science above all needs preventative measures, education in health and for a healthy lifestyle. A scientist must necessarily be the foremost and principal actor in promoting the health of science.” – DH