The French state has entrusted the CNRS with the role of advancing knowledge for the benefit of society. The organisation seeks to accomplish this national mission while respecting ethical rules and showing commitment to professional equality.

To identify and conduct, alone or with its partners, research that is in the interest of science as well as the technological, social, and cultural advancement of the country.
Mission entrusted by the state to the CNRS, decree of November 24, 1982

A five-pronged mission

1. Conduct scientific research

The CNRS conducts “research that is in the interest of science as well as the technological, social, and cultural advancement of the country”. Oriented toward the common good, this research approach is multidisciplinary in nature, long-term in outlook, and open to the unknown.

2. Transfer research results

The CNRS’s aim is for society to benefit from the advances it achieves, whether they relate to technologies, sustainable development, or societal issues. Numerous measures for technology transfer and application have been implemented to that effect, notably with industrial partners.

3. Share knowledge

The CNRS gives access to research results and data, for they are part of our common heritage. This sharing of knowledge is intended for different audiences, including the scientific community, the media, and the general public.

4. Train through research

Knowledge is also transmitted through training and the conduct of research, with the CNRS welcoming hundreds of future researchers, PhD students, and postdoctoral fellows in its laboratories each year.

5. Contribute to scientific policy

The CNRS participates in the national research strategy with its partners, notably at major French university locations. It also carries out evaluations and expert assessments on scientific matters.

Decree regarding the organisation and functioning of the CNRS (in French)

Promoting ethics in research

Integrity in research has become a key element in scientific policies. In recent years, norms defined on the European and international levels have prompted countries and research institutions to tackle this issue head on. As a pioneer in the domain, the CNRS is perfectly in keeping with the philosophy of the National Charter of Ethics for the Research Professions (2015).

The purpose of research is to contribute to the development of knowledge and the advancement of science. It relies on the principles of honesty, scientific integrity, and responsibility, on which the public bases its confidence in research.
CNRS Ethics Committee, Integrity and Responsibility in Research Practices

A best practice guide

Centered around the concrete activity of researchers, the Integrity and Responsibility in Research Practices guide is a reminder of the framework in which researchers work: the civil service, the rights and obligations of civil servants, and professional responsibility (non-discrimination, gender equality, combatting harassment) notably with regard to PhD students. It lists the basic rules for the production and processing of scientific data (reliability, traceability, etc.), as well as for scientific publications (plagiarism, royalties, open access, etc.). The guide also touches on the issues of intellectual property and conflicts of interest, and provides recommendations for all of these points.

CNRS Ethics Committee

Created in 1994, The CNRS Ethics Committee (Comets) is an independent advisory body connected to the CNRS Board of Trustees. It represents all disciplines, and ensures gender equality. Its mission is to :

  • reflect on the ethical aspects of research practice, the main stakes involved, and relations with society
  • raise awareness of the importance of ethics among researchers and staff
  • formulate opinions together with recommendations

The Ethics Committee does not directly intervene in scientific controversies, and does not deal with specific cases, which fall under the purview of the CNRS ombudsperson.

Operational ethics and bioethics

For all questions relating to regulations on ethics, the Comets can resort to both an internal and external audit. The Committee notably works with the Bioethical Regulation Unit of the CNRS’s Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB), the organisation that addresses all issues related to operational ethics in laboratories.

When it comes to ensuring compliance with ethical research rules involving human beings, the Inserm’s Ethics Evaluation Committee (CEEI) or the Institutional Review Board (IRB) can be approached if needed.

Changes in the legislation and regulation of bioethical matters — especially research involving human beings — also fall under the remit of the CNRS’s Bioethical Regulation Unit.

Find out more

Commitment to professional equality

The CNRS’s Mission for Women’s Integration, reporting directly to the CNRS president, is a pioneering governing body in France’s research landscape. For more than fifteen years, it has endeavoured to promote gender equality in the workplace, as well as the integration of gender in research programmes.

Women represent 34.5% of researchers, and 49.7% of engineers and technicians. Despite recent progress, gender parity has not yet been achieved among scientists.
Elisabeth Kohler, Director of the Mission for Women’s Integration

The “Acting for Professional Equality at the CNRS” action plan (2014) has four main focuses: striving for professional equality within the CNRS (recruitment, careers, honors); promoting an interdisciplinary “gender” approach in research; encouraging scientific and technical careers with young people, especially girls; developing European and international partnerships.

Visit the Mission for Women’s Integration website (in French)