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In my view, the promises made in France’s latest national research strategy to keep funding stable and improve career prospects for young scientists need to be more grounded in reality (see Nature 566, 164; 2019). Funds allocated to academic research projects by France’s National Research Agency have steadily decreased since the financial crisis of 2008. The number of permanent research positions available at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is also falling, down by 50 from last year. And, although it will cost less than 50 tenured appointments, the research ministry’s creation of 300 extra PhD scholarships for this year seems to be a short-sighted move. It will funnel more PhD graduates into less-secure positions, and so could fuel the brain drain of newly qualified researchers.