A Bonus? French Scientist Says Non, Merci

PARIS—Didier Chatenay is putting his money where his mouth is. To voice his opposition to a new bonus system in France that rewards scientific excellence, Chatenay, a top physicist at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) published an open letter on Monday, saying thanks, but no thanks to a pay hike of up to €15,000 per year.

French science and education minister Valérie Pécresse introduced the bonuses this summer as a way to reward the country's best researchers. Research agencies are currently working out details of the scheme, which would benefit roughly one in five scientists. But researchers' organizations like Sauvons la Recherche have dismissed the pay hikes as divisive; they want salary increases across the board, especially for young scientists.

Under proposed CNRS rules, Chatenay—who says he earns €4600 a month—would qualify automatically because he won the agency's Silver Medal in 1999. In his letter, addressed to CNRS top leadership, he stresses that one of the defining characteristics of the French academic world is that it awards "symbolic recognition devoid of any material benefits."