INSU National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy

Understand and predict through observing,
experimenting and modeling

What is the origin of the universe, what is it made of, and how does it change?
Is there life in other planetary systems? How does the Earth system work, and how did life first appear? What processes led to the formation of the Earth's carbonaceous and metallogenic resources? How can earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other geohazards be predicted? How will the climate change at the global and regional scale? What will be the impact of such change on hydrological systems and water resources? These are just some of the important issues addressed by the CNRS National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU).

Mission

The National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy aims to design, promote and coordinate national and international research in the fields of astronomy and of solid Earth, ocean, atmospheric and space sciences.

Working with other partner organizations and universities, INSU carries out prospective scientific studies in order to identify emerging research areas that require priority support. As part of the joint programs that it coordinates, the Institute funds research projects and sets up national and international facilities. INSU also helps to structure national research in its own field, in particular by managing the network of Observatoires des sciences de l'Univers (Earth Science and Astronomy Observatories—OSU).

Strategic priorities

Priority research areas at INSU mainly cover:

  • the formation and evolution of the universe, its components (especially dark matter and energy), and the objects that make it up (galaxies, stars and planetary systems);
  • the formation, history and structure of the Earth, the interaction between its interior and envelope, its natural resources (metals, energy, water, soils, etc), and the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
  • climate change and variability, biogeochemical cycles (carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, etc), atmosphere-cryosphere-ocean interaction, and atmospheric composition;
  • exchanges between land surface and the atmosphere and oceans, evolution of eco-hydrological systems, and weather-related hazards.

Instruments

INSU approves and supports national long-term monitoring services in the Earth and environmental sciences (observation of the atmosphere, ocean and land surface; earthquake and volcano monitoring; magnetic, geodetic and gravimetric monitoring). The Institute coordinates and/or manages observation and experimental services for environmental research, as well as national and international facilities (equipment platforms, oceanographic research vessels, aircraft and telescopes). Finally, INSU helps to set up information systems for the archiving, provision and exploitation of collected data.

International presence and research applications

INSU coordinates strategic planning for European astronomy (ASTRONET) and collaborates in the development of European observation networks (RESIFEPOS, ERA-MIN, ICOS, IAGOS, EMSO, etc). The Institute sets up and/or participates in international programs (AMMA, MISTRALS, Argo, GEOTRACES, IODP, etc).

It manages large facilities together with European and international agencies, and designs instruments within the international consortiums that it often leads.

With regard to research applications, the Institute contributes to operational forecasting services in France (Mercator Ocean for oceanography), Europe (PREV'AIR for air quality and GMES for the environment) and worldwide (GEOSS for the environment and natural hazards), and it takes part in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Key figures

  • 3 090 researchers and academics including 958 from CNRS, 2 849 engineers and technicians including 1 477 from CNRS and 1 662 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows*
  • 102 research and service units and 2 research federations*
  • 2 research networks*
  • 3 international joint units, 10 international associated laboratories and 38 international programs for scientific cooperation
  • 75 patents families
  • 1 146 ongoing industrial agreements in 2011

*Source: Labintel, 31/12/2011 – processed by CNRS / SAP2S