The only French organisation for multidisciplinary research, the CNRS is a key player in international research, as well as a recognised innovator. Excellence, freedom of research, interdisciplinarity, and knowledge transfer are just some of the organisation’s values in the service of research that is in touch with economic and social issues.

Pushing back the frontiers of knowledge

The CNRS chooses to pursue research excellence that explores natural and social phenomena in greater depth, in an effort to push back the frontiers of knowledge. Based on researchers’ inquisitiveness, this science — which is constantly evolving — is a source of progress for humanity.

Multidisciplinary research

From basic research…

“Frontier research”, or so called basic research, is at the heart of the CNRS’s mission. It pushes back the limits of knowledge and expands our understanding of natural and social phenomena. Ranging from atoms, cells, and cognition to Roman law and gender stereotypes, all fields of knowledge come under the scrutiny of the scientific method, which tests theories through experimentation and argumentation.

…to its applications

The CNRS successfully applies for many patents, and establishes scientific partnerships with industrial actors in order to explore possible applications for its discoveries, and to develop technologies. The transfer of its basic research results drives innovation based on a scientific foundation of the highest quality.

Le centre Artificial intelligence for science, science for artificial intelligence (AISSAI)

Dans le cadre de son plan stratégique sur l'Intelligence Artificielle (IA), le CNRS a lancé son centre IA pour la Science et Science pour l'IA (AISSAI). L'objectif principal de ce centre est de structurer et d’organiser les actions transverses impliquant l’ensemble des instituts du CNRS aux interfaces avec l’IA.

En savoir plus sur AISSAI


The Artificial intelligence for science, science for artificial intelligence (AISSAI) center

Open Breadcrumb configuration options
As part of its strategic plan on Artificial Intelligence (AI), the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has launched its AI for Science and Science for AI (AISSAI) Center. The main objective of this center is to structure and organize transverse actions including all CNRS institutes that interact with AI.

Learn more about AISSAI

A wealth of discoveries

Find out more about ten striking sets of scientific results from the past three years, selected by the CNRS Institutes. Energy storage, the origins of life, the secrets of the atom...These cutting-edge discoveries in basic research most often relate to highly topical issues.

Interdisciplinarity stimulates new approaches

Interdisciplinarity advances science by bringing disciplines together. This encounter can occur between established domains, but also between seemingly remote fields (physics and philosophy, for instance). New concepts, methods, and innovative solutions have resulted from interdisciplinary cooperation, which would not have been possible if scientists had remained confined to their respective domains.

Mission for Interdisciplinarity

The CNRS has made interdisciplinarity one of the priorities of its scientific policy. Numerous examples have shown that breakthrough discoveries are made at the interface between disciplines, thanks to researchers from different backgrounds. The Mission for Interdisciplinarity (MI) provides tools and dedicated funding to support novel projects led by interdisciplinary communities.

Learn more about MITI (in French)


Interdisciplinary “challenges”

The “challenge” is a support tool that offers particular incentives. Like an incubator, it can structure research communities within a few years, sometimes from disciplines that are quite remote. The CNRS has positioned itself through this approach as a key player in the national and international debate on future challenges such as mass data, energy transition, or knowledge of the living.

A global policy for big data

Supercomputing, “cloud,” the use and technology transfer of mass data now concern all scientific disciplines. These subjects, which link the most basic research with the most applied, represent a strategic multidisciplinary challenge for generating new knowledge. In 2015, the CNRS created the Computing-Data Mission (Mi-Ca-Do) to define and implement a global policy jointly shared with its national and international partners.

Super calculateur
The CURIE supercomputer can complete up to 2 million trillion operations per second.© Cyril Frésillon / CNRS Photo library

Large-scale instruments at the forefront of research

The CNRS designs and implements Very Large-Scale Research Facilities (TGIR) and Research Infrastructure (IR) with its French, European, and international partners, for the benefit of the entire scientific community. As a result, international teams working at the forefront of research in all fields have access to high-performance facilities: telescopes, high-energy particle accelerators, neutron sources, synchrotron radiation sources, lasers and intense magnetic fields, supercomputing systems, etc.

The Virgo interferometer in Cascina near Pisa, Italy, detected distortions in space generated by the passing of gravitational waves.
The Virgo interferometer in Cascina near Pisa, Italy, detected distortions in space generated by the passing of gravitational waves.© Cyril Fresillon / Virgo / CNRS Photo library

The CNRS Institutes

Within the CNRS Research Office (DGDS), the CNRS Institutes are the structures that implement the institution’s scientific policy, and oversee as well as coordinate the activities of laboratories.

The ten CNRS Institutes cover more or less extensive scientific fields, share projects, and promote cooperation between disciplines. They are directed by specialists in their domains who come from either the CNRS or the universities. The Institutes collaborate closely with functional departments on the following issues:

  • international policy,
  • site policy,
  • technology transfer and innovation,
  • scientific and technical information.

Institute of Chemistry (INC)

The INC’s mission is to develop and coordinate research involving the development of new compounds, the understanding of chemical reactivity and prediction of the relations between the structure of molecules at the atomic level and the properties of these molecules.

Research areas

  • Chemistry of and for the living (exploration and development of new models and tools for pharmacology, biotechnology, medicine, cosmetics, the agri-food and agrochemical industries)
  • Green chemistry and sustainable development (creating new and cheaper chemical reactions that are also more effective, selective, and secure)
  • Functionalisation of matter (design and monitoring of material properties, especially for energy, and the development of nanochemistry)

INC website

Institute of Ecology and Environment (INEE)

The INEE’s mission is to develop and coordinate research in the fields of ecology and the environment, including biodiversity and human-environment interactions.

Research areas

  • Ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Impact of global change
  • Health-environment
  • Resources
  • Chemical ecology and environmental chemistry

INEE website

Institute of Physics (INP)

The INP’s mission is to develop and coordinate research in physics, with two primary objectives: to understand the world and to respond to the challenges facing society today. The INP laboratories are centered around two main fields:

  • Fundamental laws, optics and lasers
  • Condensed matter physics and nanoscience

INP website

Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB)

The INSB’s mission is to develop and coordinate research in biology that seeks to understand the complexity of the living, from atoms to biomolecules, and from the cell up to complete organisms and populations.

Research areas

  • Structural biology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Pharmacology
  • Neuroscience
  • Cognitive science
  • Immunology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular biology
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Plant biology
  • Systems biology
  • Biodiversity

INSB website



Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS)

The INSHS’s mission is to develop research on human beings, both as producers of language and knowledge, and as economic, social, and political actors.

Research areas

  • Cultures and societies in history
  • Human beings, societies, and the environment
  • Behaviour, cognition, and communication
  • Contemporary worlds

INSHS website

Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS)

The mission of the INSIS is to ensure the continuum between basic research, engineering, and technology by promoting a “systems” approach through the development of the disciplines central to the Institute.

Research areas

  • Sciences and technologies related to automation, signals, and electronic and photonic systems
  • Sciences and technologies covering mechanics, energy, and processes

INSIS website

National Institute for Mathematical Sciences and their Interactions (INSMI)

The INSMI’s mission is to develop and coordinate research in different branches of mathematics, ranging from its basic aspects to its applications. It also helps structure the French mathematical community and integrate it into the international scientific landscape.

Research areas

  • The different domains of mathematics
  • Mathematical modeling and simulation
  • Interface with other scientific disciplines
  • Interactions with companies and society

INSMI website

National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU)

The INSU’s mission is to create, develop, and coordinate national and international research in astronomy and Earth sciences, as well as ocean, atmospheric, and space sciences.

Research areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geophysics
  • Climatology
  • Hydrology
  • Volcanology
  • Seismology
  • Environment
  • Planetary science
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics

INSU website

Institute for Information Sciences and Technologies (INS2I)

With the dual objective of both conducting and supporting research, the Institute organises and develops projects in computer science and digital technology. One of its primary goals is to make these two research areas a central part of multi- and interdisciplinary issues, along with information science, in particular through its partnership with the INSIS and the CNRS’s interdisciplinary tools.

INS2I website

National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3)

The IN2P3’s mission is to develop and coordinate research in the field of nuclear physics, particle physics, and astroparticles.

Research areas

  • Particle physics
  • Quark-gluon plasma and hadronic physics
  • Nuclear physics and astrophysics
  • Astroparticle physics
  • Neutrino physics and astrophysics
  • Research and development of accelerators
  • Computing grids and data science
  • Nuclear applications for the health, energy, and environment sectors

IN2P3 website

Establishing partnerships

The CNRS plays an essential unifying role in the effective functioning and influence of French research by virtue of its partnerships with academia, industry and regional authorities. This partnership-based approach structures the organisation’s science, innovation, and education policy.

Multiple forms of cooperation

Academic partnerships

Since the creation of associated laboratories in 1966, partnerships and diversity have been the rule for CNRS research structures. The organisation’s 1,100 laboratories have all signed agreements and conventions with partners. In addition, 90% of its laboratories are joint research units (UMR), which bring together personnel from the CNRS and one or more other institutions (university, school, other organisation, etc.) to work on jointly defined subjects. 

Industrial partnerships

Industrial actors are essential partners of the CNRS, working alongside the academic world (higher education and public research). This cooperation, which is sometimes little known to the public, takes the form of joint research projects, patents, domestic and international public-private research organisations, and the creation of start-ups. These are so many concrete realisations that make the CNRS a key player in the French innovation landscape.


Strength concentrated at strategic sites

Centres of excellence

The CNRS is an essential contributor to the construction of world-class university sites that coordinate learning, research, and innovation. By promoting synergies and optimising resources, this site-based policy seeks to create champions of academic research in France who can compete with the world’s best multidisciplinary universities.

The Investments for the Future Programme

Present throughout France, the CNRS is well positioned to promote this programme. It is a full-fledged participant in the Investments for the future (PIA) scheme through its role in Idex (Initiatives of excellence) projects and I-sites (Science Innovation Territory Economy Initiatives). A founding member of 14 networks of universities and higher-eductation institutions (ComUEs), it is present in the administrative boards of numerous universities.

Site agreements

With its partners, the CNRS signs site agreements that define a shared scientific strategy, and provide a functional framework for joint research units (resources, contracts, etc.). The organisation helps structure sites by contributing its research excellence, scientific networks, industrial partnerships, international cooperation, and access to large research infrastructure.  

The actors of the CNRS site policy 

The CNRS Research Office (DGDS) coordinates the institution’s site policy through the directors of its ten Institutes.  

The Department for the Territorial Organisation of Research (Dapp) is in charge of assisting higher education institutions in their new responsibilities within the French research system. It coordinates the various operations through which the CNRS contributes to the development and promotion of large scientific clusters, working hand-in-hand with local actors and authorities.

The CNRS is a major player in the Paris-Saclay cluster that brings together research organisations, higher education institutions, and companies to make up a world-class scientific and technological centre.© DR

The CNRS’s 18 regional offices, each under the responsibility of a regional representative, serve as the primary point of contact for the organisation’s partners in the field. They provide laboratories with essential services in human resources, financial management, partnerships and technology transfer, information systems, hygiene, and security. This cooperation has intensified in recent years in response to a commitment to ensuring coherent management of joint research units in the higher education and research landscape.

CNRS regional offices

Research in the laboratory

CNRS laboratories are the organisation’s “building blocks”. Their teams, which consist of researchers, engineers and technicians, are behind the production and transmission of knowledge. Most laboratories are joint research units, bringing together partners from academia (universities, schools, and other research organisations) and industrial actors.

Highly diverse teams

Laboratories managed in partnership

The CNRS counts approximately 1,100 laboratories spread across France. The vast majority are joint research units (UMR) associated with a university, higher-education institution, or research organisation. They shape the local scientific landscape. In addition to these laboratories, there are 36 international joint units (UMI), whose number has been growing significantly since 2010.

Staff members with varied duties and status

Joint research units, which develop and disseminate knowledge, are characterised by the diversity of their team members’ status and duties. CNRS researchers, engineers and technicians work alongside academics, engineers and technicians from other institutions (universities, engineering schools, other research organisations). Their teams are complemented by contract employees (PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers, engineers and technicians).

UMR, label of excellence

Obtaining the UMR status for a laboratory is a mark of recognition in the world of research, both in France and abroad. Reassessed every four years, this label makes it possible to hire CNRS personnel (researchers, engineers, technicians, administrative staff), and gives access to the organisation’s funds and international cooperation tools. 30% of French university laboratories are joint research units in partnership with the CNRS.

Professionals in the service of science


More than 15,000 researchers work in all scientific disciplines as represented by the organisation’s ten Institutes. They are recruited either by a competitive entry examination based on a scientific project, or by contract.

Researcher profiles:

  • 47.9 years: average age
  • 34.6% women
  • 90 different nationalities

Scientists drive research at the CNRS, which they have made the world’s leader in terms of scientific publications. The visibility of their work depends on their participation in conferences and seminars. Researchers also play an essential role in teaching and disseminating knowledge. They assist PhD students and young scientists, and can manage teams as well as teach. Encouraged to transfer their research results (through partnerships with industry, by applying for patents, creating companies, etc.), they are also key actors in relations between science and society through their participation in informational events intended for the general public. 

Engineers and technicians 

Nearly 18,000 engineers and technicians dedicate themselves to research and related support activities, or are involved in administrative duties (in laboratories, regional offices, or CNRS headquarters). Like researchers, engineers and technicians are recruited through competitive entry examination, or as contract employees.

Film produced by the CNRS. Animation: Nina Demortreux and Nicolas Mifsud. Music: “A Difficult Start” by Julien Vega, edited by Frederic Leibovitz

Training through research

Training for and through research is one of the missions of the CNRS. Each year, more than 500 young scientists begin a PhD at the CNRS. Recruited through a doctoral contract, PhD candidates are under the supervision of permanent researchers, and are fully integrated in laboratory teams. Approximately 1,700 PhD students of 80 different nationalities are preparing a thesis in a CNRS laboratory.

Assessing research

At the CNRS, the evaluation of public research is crucial, both for its actors, researchers, and for the public authorities that finance it, as well as for society, which has expectations and queries regarding scientific advances and their applications. This is an important issue in the context of international competition, public funding constraints, and societal evolution.

At the CNRS, assessment applies to the entire organisation, including its laboratories, researchers, engineers, and technicians. It relies on several criteria, such as scientific publications, awards, recognition from the scientific community, and technology transfer among others.

Evaluating the CNRS

In 2016, an international advisory committee evaluated all CNRS activities, following the institution’s completion of a self-evaluation covering both its scientific and research support activities. The advisory committee issued a report proposing analyses and recommendations for the main challenges facing the CNRS between now and 2025, pointing to its budget in particular.

Evaluating the laboratories

Joint research units are assessed every five years by an independent national governing body, the High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Hcéres). Evaluations are completed by committees of experts from academia or the private sector, and their reports are made public. 

Hcéres website

Evaluating researchers

Researchers are evaluated and their careers monitored by the National Committee for Scientific Research (CoNRS), a collective governing body elected from among members of the scientific community. Each year, researchers present an activity report on the progress of their research, scientific publications, teaching and technology transfer activities.

Learn more about CoNRS

Assessment: Peer review

The assessment of scientific activity and research traditionally relies on the principles of “peer review”. Researchers use qualitative criteria to evaluate one another, for example within the reading committees of scientific journals. These bodies, which are made up of researchers, decide whether the papers that are submitted to them should be published.

As a part of its Open Science policy, the CNRS signed the DORA declaration on July 14, 2018: this is a commitment to avoid the use of bibliometrics and to rely on qualitative assessment, as well as to take into account the full variety of research activities.

In this context, the evaluation of researchers by the sections and interdisciplinary commissions is based on the following four principles:

  1. It is the results themselves that are evaluated, not the fact that they may have been published in a prestigious journal or other high profile media.
  2. The scope, impact and personal contribution made to the outputs submitted for evaluation prevail over their exhaustive listing.
  3. Assessment shall take all types of research output into account, and in particular, where it makes sense, the data underlying the publication and the source code necessary to produce the results.
  4. All the cited productions shall be available in HAL or possibly another open archive, insofar as their type allows it.

Ethics, deontology, scientific integrity and whistleblowing

Ethics, deontology and scientific integrity are core values for the organisation.

Ethics involve thinking about the values that underpin our acts and their consequences and also appeals to our sense of morality and responsibility. Deontology is a matter of the duties and obligations imposed on a profession, a function or a responsibility. Scientific integrity means the obligation for research practices to be 'properly' conducted.

At the CNRS these matters are managed by the Ethics Officer, the Whistleblower, the Scientific Integrity Officer, the Ombudsperson and the Ethics Committee.

Ethics officer

The role of Ethics Officer derives from the law dated April 20th 2016 on ethics and the rights and obligations of civil servants and its implementing decree in April 2017. The Ethics Officer is legally responsible for responding to requests for advice from civil servants on ethics and more specifically on integrity, probity, neutrality, secularity, professional secrecy, the independence of researchers, hierarchical obedience, occupying more than one job and conflicts of interest.

Referral procedures

Any staff member can contact the Ethics Officer to ask for advice when he or she encounters difficulty in his or her work or wishes to anticipate such a situation before it occurs. All CNRS authorities (unit directors, management departments, general management) may also request advice from the Ethics Officer on any ethical issue. Generally any advice from the Ethics Officer leads to a discussion with the person who has contacted him/her.


The Ethics Officer's work is covered by professional secrecy to protect staff members who ask for advice and to guarantee the Ethics Officer's independence in the performance of his or her duties. The Ethics Officer will never inform anyone of his or her exchanges with those who refer matters and any information given is anonymised in the annual report.

The CNRS Ethical Charter

The French charter on research professions

The Ethics Officer

This position has been held since September 1st 2018 by Joël Moret-Bailly, who is a university professor and lawyer.
Contact :


The Whistleblower's mission was set out in two laws, one from the 2013 law and the second from 2016, and involves verifying the admissibility of alerts and organising the way these are managed particularly in the event of a crime or an offence involving a serious and manifest violation of CNRS laws and regulations. The use of the internal alert procedure ensures the protection of any staff member who makes an alert 1) in good faith and 2) launches that alert 'internally' to resolve the situation that is at the origin of the issue.

Referral procedures

The Whistleblower's work involves receiving reports from any staff member working in a CNRS structure and also any external collaborator such as a service provider or occasional collaborator with the CNRS who reports or testifies in good faith and in a disinterested manner to facts that constitute a crime or an offence, a serious and manifest violation of the law or a situation involving a conflict of interest.
Reports cannot be anonymous, must be as detailed as possible and accompanied by any supporting facts, information or documents. An acknowledgement of receipt is issued to the staff member concerned as soon as a request is received. This sets out a provisional deadline for processing the reported facts. Reports are first examined by a panel coordinated by the Whistleblower and made up of the Ethics Officer, the Scientific Integrity Officer, the Head of Human Resources (or his/her representative) and the Director of the Legal Affairs Department (or his/her representative). The system put in place guarantees the confidentiality of the authors of the alert's identity, the people involved and all information gathered by the recipients of the report.


As long as the Whistleblower follows legal procedures, there can be no negative consequences for him or her regarding the launch of the alert. The Whistleblower guarantees the confidentiality of those who report alerts and respondents.

The Whistleblower

This position has been held since September 1st 2018 by Joël Moret-Bailly who is a university professor and lawyer.
To report an alert: 

The Scientific Integrity Officer

Scientific integrity derives from the set of rules and values that govern scientific work and guarantee its honesty. It is essential to the credibility of science and the trust society places in science itself. Research misconduct is generally defined as the trilogy of 'FFP frauds' namely the fabrication or falsification of data and plagiarism plus a broader 'grey area' including, among other things, dubious behaviour when involved in publications or expert assessments because of concealed interests.

The Scientific Integrity Officer leads the CNRS Mission for Scientific Integrity (MIS) which deals with allegations of misconduct and works with the Ethics Officer on training and raising staff awareness of scientific integrity and ethics issues.

The MIS is currently made up of seven people:

The CNRS Scientific Integrity Officer (French acronym - RIS) : Rémy Mosseri1, CNRS emeritus research professor from the Theoretical Physics of Condensed Matter Laboratory (CNRS/Sorbonne Université). Physicist.

There are five project managers:

  • Christian Jutten2, emeritus professor at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, Grenoble Images Speech Signal and Control Laboratory (CNRS/Université Grenoble Alpes). Information sciences.
  • Lucienne Letellier3, CNRS emeritus research professor, Institute of Integrative Cell Biology (CNRS/CEA/Université Paris-Saclay). Biophysicist.
  • Cécile Michel4, CNRS research professor, Archeology and Sciences of Antiquity Laboratory (CNRS/Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Université Paris Nanterre/Ministère de la culture) and professor at the University of Hamburg. Historian. Archaeologist.
  • Caroline Strube5, CNRS research professor, Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience (CNRS/Aix-Marseille University), head of training. Biologist.
  • Irène Till-Bottraud6, CNRS research professor, Physical and Environmental Geography Laboratory (CNRS/ University of Clermont Auvergne/ University of Limoges) and director of the Environmental Research Federation. Evolutionary ecology.

Administrative manager: Dorothée Peitzmann.7

Membres de la MIS


Referral procedures and how allegations are processed

The following principles govern all investigations: confidentiality for the entire procedure; transparency as regards the procedures themselves; the protection of those involved; the presumption of innocence for those who are the object of an allegation; prompt information for the persons involved; particular care taken regarding potential conflicts of interest when selecting experts; support for those who are unjustly accused in restoring their reputations.

The Scientific Integrity Officer is the sole contact for allegations which may be submitted by all. A person making an allegation may then request that his or her identity be kept confidential even in exchanges with CNRS general management but, as a corollary to this guarantee, allegations cannot be anonymous.

An allegation can only accepted if the CNRS was the employer of the person (or one of the persons) involved at the time the problem arose or alternatively of anyone who considers him or herself the victim of misconduct such as plagiarism, for example. In some cases however, the Scientific Integrity Officer may ask to be involved in an investigation as an observer according to his or her assessment of the potential prejudices for the organisation.
The first step is to determine the nature of the allegation and check whether scientific integrity officers from other universities or research organisations need to be involved in the investigation. Those involved will be informed promptly about the allegation and asked to respond. The Mission for Scientific Integrity then begins its phase of expertise work which may involve individual experts or an inquiry commission. The Scientific Integrity Officer makes a final report to the CNRS Chairman and CEO who will then decide what action to take and particularly if any disciplinary follow-up measures are required.


The CNRS Mission for Scientific Integrity (MIS)

The Scientific Integrity Officer

he position of CNRS Scientific Integrity Officer (RIS) was created in August 2018 and is held by Rémy Mosseri, CNRS research professor in physics.
Contact :

The CNRS Ethics Committee

The CNRS Ethics Committee (COMETS) was set up in 1994 and is an independent advisory body whose decisions are made public. COMETS is under the supervisory authority of the CNRS Board of Trustees and deals with issues referred to it by this Board, the Scientific Council or the CNRS Chairman and CEO. It may also decide to take up a case on its own initiative. Its independence means it can freely consider the ethical implications of major issues involving research.


COMETS deliberates on general ethical issues raised by research practice related to:

  • The social and moral consequences of the development of science and its practical applications;
  • The principles that govern researchers' individual behaviour of researchers and how CNRS bodies function;
  • The practice of science itself.

At the end of these deliberations, COMETS then makes recommendations on the definition, justification and application of rules on research ethics and deontology. COMETS's decisions and the training activities it runs or takes part in help raise awareness of research's ethical and societal dimensions among researchers and those in management positions. In doing this, its aim is to clarify the exercise of the freedom of research in the light of staff members' duties and responsibilities towards the CNRS and, more generally, towards society.

COMETS is a body that studies cases. It is neither an operational ethics committee that can give accreditation to projects nor a deontology body dealing with breaches of scientific integrity rules. It does not give rulings on individual cases concerning scientific projects or breaches of researchers' ethics.

A presentation of COMETS

The Ethics Committee


Christine Noiville was appointed chairwoman of the Ethics Committee on October 1st 2021. She is a legal specialist, CNRS research professor, the director of the Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences of the Sorbonne (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, CNRS) and also chairs the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety (HCTISN).

Contact :

Les six grands défis de société du CNRS

Le CNRS a identifié six grands défis sociétaux, dans son dernier Contrat d’objectifs et de performance (COP) signé avec l’État, pour lesquels il a l’ambition d’apporter une contribution substantielle, via une mobilisation coordonnée des dix instituts. 

Le CNRS a inscrit dans son COP 2019-2023 six défis auxquels nous faisons face dès aujourd’hui et que l’organisme souhaite éclairer de manière déterminante dans les prochaines années, via une mobilisation coordonnée de ses dix instituts. Des défis complexes qui ont été révélés ou sont portés par les sciences, comme le changement climatique et l’intelligence artificielle, ou qui peuvent être éclairés par celles-ci, comme la transition énergétique.

Les six défis 

  1. Changement climatique 
  2. Inégalités éducatives
  3. Intelligence artificielle 
  4. Santé et environnement 
  5. Territoires du futur 
  6. Transition énergétique  

« Se fixer explicitement des défis sociétaux est nouveau pour le CNRS qui se donnait précédemment uniquement des objectifs chiffrés de production scientifique, de taux de succès aux appels européens ou de valorisation des résultats de la recherche », explique Alain Schuhl, directeur général délégué à la science (DGDS) de l’organisme. Un changement « de bon sens » puisque « la force du CNRS consiste à créer des synergies entre les disciplines fortes qu’il développe, afin de contribuer à apporter des éléments de réponse aux questions, rarement disciplinaires, que se pose la société ».

Dans un dialogue inter-institut coordonné par la direction générale déléguée à la science, des groupes de travail dédiés ont identifié les actions et projets déjà menés au sein des laboratoires sur les six défis sociétaux sélectionnés. Cela a permis d’apprécier la valeur ajoutée particulière du CNRS comme organisme couvrant l’ensemble des champs de la connaissance et de déterminer les directions à prendre pour optimiser les interactions. Des appels à projets ont été lancés dès septembre 2020 et tous les défis ont bénéficié d’au moins un appel à projets mené par la Mission pour les initiatives transverses et interdisciplinaires (MITI) dont l’objectif est de soutenir des projets originaux, interdisciplinaires, et en rupture, nécessitant l’expertise combinée d’au moins deux laboratoires issus de deux instituts du CNRS. Ces défis sont aussi un outil puissant pour véhiculer la stratégie du CNRS à l’échelle européenne et internationale alors que ces enjeux d’aujourd’hui et pour demain sont des problématiques plurielles et interdisciplinaires qui dépassent le cadre national. 

« L’avancée des connaissances doit rester notre motivation principale, car c’est dans cette avancée que réside notre capacité à comprendre et à apporter des solutions aux questions socio-économiques qui se posent aujourd’hui et conditionneront l’avenir. Les défis sociétaux – changement climatique, inégalités éducatives, intelligence artificielle, santé et environnement, territoires du futur et transition énergétique –, définis dans notre COP, illustrent cette motivation », souligne Antoine Petit, président-directeur général du CNRS.

1.    Changement climatique 

Face à l’urgence du changement climatique, de plus en plus de chercheurs et chercheuses se tournent vers des thématiques en lien avec ce sujet alors que l’étude du changement climatique et la recherche de solutions pour le limiter ou s’y adapter sont des défis résolument systémiques et transdisciplinaires, allant des sciences du climat et de l’énergie à l’écologie et aux sciences sociales et politiques, à toutes les échelles d’observation, d’expérimentation et de modélisation... Par la pluridisciplinarité qui fait sa spécificité, le CNRS veut rendre plus visibles ces thématiques et contribuer à faire émerger de nouvelles synergies et des travaux originaux en les mettant en relation. « Pour cela, nous étudions avec intérêt les travaux des différents instituts du CNRS mais aussi ce qui se fait à l’international. Nous souhaitons créer une cellule transverse qui se focaliserait sur des sujets non traités par les PEPR, comme par exemple l’instrumentation du futur pour observer le climat avec de nouveaux capteurs sobres et connectés, thématique du prochain colloque organisé par le défi Changement climatique », rapporte Sophie Godin-Beekmann, co-coordinatrice du défi, directrice adjointe scientifique (DAS) à l’Institut national des sciences de l’Univers du CNRS.

Pour suivre l'actualité de ce défi

PEPR exploratoires liés au défi : FairCarbon, OneWater, Traccs, Irima, Bridges 

2. Inégalités éducatives

Le système éducatif ne semble pas aujourd’hui en mesure de s’affirmer suffisamment comme un instrument au service de l’égalité des chances de tous les élèves. Alors comment affronter ce problème ? « L’idée d’égalité qui fait peu d’état des différences des élèves semble avoir ses limites. Il faudrait s’appuyer sur la notion de l’équité pour aborder les différences et individualiser les réponses aux élèves à partir de leur situation de départ (accès à l’éducation selon le territoire, l’âge, la population, le handicap…) », explique Ricardo Etxepare co-coordinateur du défi, DAS à l’Institut des sciences humaines et sociales du CNRS (INSHS). Le défi Inégalités éducatives vise donc à étudier ces différences de manière interdisciplinaire au moment où l’école vit une véritable révolution avec la nouvelle alphabétisation qui passe par le numérique. Les travaux sont portés en particulier par trois instituts du CNRS : l’Institut des sciences humaines et sociales, l’Institut des sciences biologiques et l’Institut des sciences de l’information et de leurs interactions avec un soucis d’intégrer des problématiques touchant toutes les disciplines. « La MITI a lancé un appel à manifestation d’intérêt en juin avec pour objectif de créer des consortiums qui symboliseraient cette approche interdisciplinaire. D’autres initiatives telles que le PPR Sciences pour l’éducation ou encore le PEPR Enseignement et numérique sont en cours, pour lesquelles le CNRS réalise un travail de mise en réseau des équipes. »  En 2023, un colloque pluridisciplinaire international va être organisé sur ce thème des Inégalités éducatives avec le Réseau thématique prioritaire (RTP) Éducation destiné à rassembler la communauté scientifique sur les enjeux d’éducation. Sur le long terme, les coordinateurs du défi réfléchissent à la création d’un observatoire scientifique des inégalités éducatives pour faire l’état de ce que les investissements en recherche ont pu produire en termes d'impact, et ce en quoi la recherche à long terme pourrait contribuer au sujet du défi des inégalités éducatives.

Pour suivre l'actualité de ce défi

Liés au défi : PEPR d'accélération Enseignement et numérique, PPR Autonomie

3. Intelligence artificielle 

Données massives, algorithmes complexes, apprentissage machine, automatisation… Le développement du numérique et de l’intelligence artificielle (IA) est en train de révolutionner la pratique de la recherche dans de nombreux domaines scientifiques. Construire l'IA de demain pour accélérer la découverte scientifique représente une multitude d’enjeux scientifiques, éthiques et environnementaux. Et avec toutes les disciplines qu’il couvre, le CNRS est la seule institution française voire européenne qui peut traiter ces questions dans leur ensemble, sans simplement les juxtaposer mais de manière intégrée, avec deux piliers fondamentaux et complémentaires : les sciences pour l’IA et l’IA pour les sciences - que représente le nouveau centre AISSAI, né du défi IA du COP du CNRS. « La création de ce centre pluridisciplinaire lancé en novembre 2021, créera le creuset favorable au dialogue entre scientifiques intéressés issus des différentes disciplines et ceux de I'IA afin de de structurer les communautés et établir de nouveaux modes de collaboration entre l'IA et les autres sciences. Cela passera notamment par l'organisation de trimestres thématiques, véritable ossature du centre, comportant colloques, webinaires, séminaires, écoles de recherche, pour faire le point sur des problématiques établies entre scientifiques de par le monde représentants des disciplines variées », rapporte Jalal Fadili, directeur du centre AISSAI.

En savoir plus sur l'AISSAI

Liés au défi : PEPR d'accélération intelligence artificielle, PEPR exploratoire Diadem

4. Santé et environnement 

Comme l’ont montré plusieurs épisodes infectieux d’origine zoonotique (HIV, Ébola, peste, COVID-19…), les interactions entre perturbations environnementales, exploitations écosystémiques et populations humaines peuvent conduire à la genèse de risques sanitaires globalisés. Au risque microbiologique lié aux maladies infectieuses, il convient d’ajouter le risque chimique lié à la pollution de l’air, de l’eau ou de l’alimentation. « Les scientifiques travaillent depuis longtemps sur les problématiques liées à l’environnement ou à la santé. En ajoutant le défi "santé et environnement" dans son COP, le CNRS montre son implication, donne de la visibilité aux nombreuses facettes de ces recherches et veut accroître la dynamique des recherches qui s’intéressent aux interactions entre les deux thématiques, un véritable enjeu de société qui engage une recherche pluri- et interdisciplinaire et une observation intégrée sur le temps long », indique Anne-Marie Gué, coordinatrice du défi, déléguée scientifique à l’Institut des sciences et de l’ingénierie des systèmes (INSIS). Le défi Santé et environnement s’appuie notamment sur le développement d’observatoires interdisciplinaires en santé et environnement permettant d'observer l'émergence et/ou de documenter les situations à risque en mobilisant toutes les expertises disciplinaires du CNRS – de l’écologie et des sciences de l’environnement à l’économie, la sociologie en passant par les sciences de l’information, la modélisation et les sciences de l’ingénierie. « Nous nous sommes focalisés, dans un premier temps, sur quatre sites : le territoire Seine, la zone Camargue, l’IRL ESS à Dakar et l’IRL iGLOBES en Arizona. Nous avons financé jusque-là trois consortiums et une grappe interdisciplinaire de quatre thèses, chacune des actions, thèse ou consortium, s’inscrivant dans un des sites pilotes et comptons amplifier cette dynamique collective en 2023. »

Pour suivre l'actualité de ce défi

PEPR exploratoires liés au défi : Irima, One Water

5. Territoires du futur 

Le défi « large et transverse » des territoires du futur fait intervenir l’ensemble des enjeux des autres défis du COP : il questionne les technologies, les trajectoires des populations, souligne les impacts liés à l’urbanisation et les risques pour la biodiversité et les inégalités, insiste sur les questions de transition énergétique et de changement climatique, et pourrait bénéficier de l’IA. Plusieurs pistes sont actuellement explorées pour développer une compréhension fine de ce système complexe qu’est le territoire, partager les données et construire des solutions optimales en lien avec les préoccupations des citoyens. Le défi Territoires du futur a choisi l’aire métropolitaine de Marseille comme territoire pilote pour expérimenter un dispositif potentiellement reproductible sur d’autres territoires. « La métropole d’Aix-Marseille concentre diverses problématiques :  les enjeux liés au littoral, la pollution, l’urbanisation, la mobilité, l’environnement ou encore la biodiversité. Notre objectif est de trouver une façon permettant aux acteurs et chercheurs de coconstruire des problématiques de recherche », explique Stéphanie Vermeersch, co-coordinatrice du défi, DAS à l’INSHS. Pour ce faire, le CNRS a organisé récemment un colloque-atelier pour favoriser la discussion entre chercheuses et chercheurs, élus, associations et collectivités territoriales, et pour déterminer les thématiques fortes pouvant être abordées en interdisciplinarité et en recherche participative.

Pour suivre l'actualité de ce défi

Lié au défi : PEPR d'accélération Solutions pour la ville durable et innovations territoriales

6. Transition énergétique 

Les inter- et pluridisciplinarités qui suscitent l’émergence de nouvelles orientations basées sur les recherches aux interfaces sont au cœur du défi Transition énergétique qui nécessite des dialogues et des arbitrages pour trouver un bon équilibre à la fois pour la planète et pour les sociétés. Le défi Transition énergétique s’appuie fortement sur la cellule Énergie qui favorise les interactions entre les recherches scientifiques et technologiques sur les systèmes énergétiques d’une part, et les recherches sur l’impact de ces technologies sur l’environnement et sur la société en termes de mode de vie, de comportements sociétal et économique, etc.  En effet, « la dimension sociale - avec les comportements, les pratiques, les politiques et régulation de consommation - est également un pilier des recherches du défi », rapporte Abdelilah Slaoui, coordinateur du défi et responsable de la Cellule Énergie du CNRS. L’atelier de réflexion et de prospectives sur l’énergie (Arpege) consacré au défi a pu délimiter trois ambitions majeures : la résilience, la flexibilité́ et la sobriété́ qui sont à intégrer dans nos prospectives technologiques et dont les dimensions méthodologiques, instrumentales et interdisciplinaires doivent être élaborées. Un colloque transverse spécifique sera consacré à ces problématiques le 28 avril 2023 au siège du CNRS.

Pour suivre l'actualité de ce défi

PEPR d'accélération liés au défi : Hydrogène décarbonéTechnologies Avancés pour les systèmes Energétiques (Tase)Décarbonation de l’industrieSolutions pour la ville durable et innovations territoriales, Batteries
PEPR exploratoire lié au défiSous-sol

Sharing scientific information

Scientific and Technical Information, which gathers all research-derived information, is a valuable and necessary resource for researchers. A pioneer in the domain, the CNRS offers a complete range of services for higher education and research. At the same time, it is committed to developing open science that is accessible to the largest number of people.

The actors of scientific and technical information

The Scientific and Technical Information Department (DIST) implements the strategy on the production of scientific analyses, publications and data. It oversees the gathering, processing, archiving, and diffusion of documentary resources. It also provides laboratories with thematic and interdisciplinary portals for accessing these resources, as well as scientific monitoring tools. It takes part in the national debate on the transition to the digital age, and promotes knowledge sharing through open archives. The DIST leads a network of IST representatives in joint research units. It also publishes a wealth of material on scientific information news and strategy.

DIST publications (in French)

Bâtiment de l'Inist à Vandreuve-lès-Nancy
The Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (INIST), an intramural service unit of the CNRS in Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy (northeastern France), provides access to and promotes technology transfer for scientific production. Since 1989, it has been hea© DR

Essential services for research

Science is driven by science, and IST services are therefore essential to the activity of researchers, who need to access information on existing research in a particular field, analyse data, publish research results in scientific publications, and find applications for their work.

Global science at a click

The CNRS facilitates access to global scientific production through open archives and bibliographical databases. The organisation is the world’s second scientific producer, with more than 50,000 papers published each year (Scopus, Scimago, 2017).

Hal (Hyper articles online)
The objective of the multidisciplinary Hal open archive, which was created by the CNRS, is to share research results. It allows researchers to file research-level papers, whether published or not, in an open access database, as well as dissertations from French and foreign teaching and research institutions, or from public or private laboratories.

Découvrir Hal

CNRS researchers have access to the Scopus and Web of Science bibliographical databases, published by Elsevier and Thomson Scientific, respectively. They allow researchers to gain a better understanding of what is being published, and to plan for new collaborations. They are also used for bibliometric analyses, which quantify the publications of researchers.

Open science, or free access to knowledge

The potential of digital technology has opened the way for a new knowledge dissemination system. Open science has been a game-changer, promoting greater knowledge sharing for the benefit of researchers and society. This involves giving freer and wider access to public research data and results. This free access is not only free of charge; it also requires more transparency and discussions surrounding scientific work.

The CNRS is deeply committed to this process, and brings together numerous actors around this issue at the national level. It is therefore in keeping with the priorities of the European Union, which seeks to open up and pool knowledge on a large scale.

Digital law: the contribution of the CNRS

The “Law for a Digital Republic” of October 7, 2016 is the first legislative text co-written with Internet users. The contribution of the CNRS, which largely inspired the legislators, promoted breakthrough advances for researchers, entitling them to publish, after a shorter embargo period, any articles related to research that is funded mostly by public funds. In addition, the law enables public sector researchers to explore both scientific and non-scientific material without prior authorisation from right-holders, as well as the data associated with such material (Text and Data Mining).

The CNRS is leading Priority Research Programmes and Equipments

The aim of the Priority Research Programmes and Equipments (PEPRs) is to construct or consolidate French leadership in scientific fields that are linked to a technological, economic, societal, health or environmental transformation and are considered priorities at national or European level.

The PEPRs have total targeted funding of €3bn and exist in two forms - national acceleration strategy and exploratory PEPRs. These programmes are part of the 'directed' part of the France 2030 investment plan known as the 'financing strategic investments' segment. The CNRS is leading most of these PEPRs.

The CNRS leads or co-leads 13 acceleration PEPRs

The CNRS leads or co-leads 17 exploratory PEPRs 

The CNRS leads or co-leads 3 PPRs

The CNRS is committed to promoting sustainable development

Lors du Sommet du 25 septembre 2015 à New York, 193 pays ont adopté le Programme de développement durable à l’horizon 2030, articulé autour de 17 objectifs et de 169 cibles visant à mettre fin à toutes les formes de pauvreté et à lutter contre les inégalités dans un contexte de changement global.
Les Objectifs du développement durable visent à transformer nos sociétés pour les rendre plus justes, paisibles et prospères dans le respect de notre planète. Ils nécessitent l’implication de tous et doivent s’appuyer sur les connaissances scientifiques.

Le CNRS accompagne cette dynamique mondiale en développant la connaissance, l’innovation et les partenariats.

La recherche au CNRS couvre toutes les disciplines scientifiques et permet de traiter les enjeux à la fois propres à chacun des objectifs et à l’intersection de plusieurs objectifs : climat-océan-eau-santé ; eau-énergie-alimentation-biodiversité-éducation.

La liberté et la créativité des chercheurs du CNRS leur permettent d’engendrer des découvertes et d’apporter des innovations qui contribuent directement aux Objectifs du développement durable.

La recherche au CNRS, résolument internationale et de plus en plus multi-acteurs, est un vecteur puissant de partenariat à tous les niveaux. Le CNRS contribue fortement aux échanges entre pays et secteurs (académique, économique, financier, politique, associatif...).

Le CNRS s’implique dans des initiatives nationales et internationales pour relever les défis du développement durable : membre de l’Observatoire national sur le changement climatique, de la Fondation pour la recherche sur la biodiversité, il accueille le Global Hub de Future Earth ou encore le pôle européen de Urban Climate Change Research Network. Il se mobilise pour valoriser l’expertise de ses chercheurs dans les panels des Nations unies pour le climat et la biodiversité (GIEC, IPBES).

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Task Force « CNRS Agenda 2030 »

Une Task Force « CNRS Agenda 2030 » est constituée auprès de la direction du CNRS pour traduire en questions scientifiques l’agenda politique, promouvoir les découvertes et valoriser les innovations qui s’inscrivent dans les Objectifs du développement durable. Elle est joignable à l’adresse :

Collective scientific expertise


Basic research for the benefit of society – this is the ambition for the CNRS of its Chairman  and CEO, Antoine Petit. The creation of the Mission for Scientific Expertise (MPES) testifies to the organisation's strong institutional commitment to supporting public decision-making and enhancing understanding of major societal issues.

Carrying out expert reviews of scientific issues is one of the CNRS's missions and the organisation has adopted an institutional scientific expertise charter regarding this. Institutional scientific expertise at the CNRS is collective in nature. Its aim is to share knowledge and provide an independent scientific perspective to support decision-making and public debate.

Carrying out expert reviews of scientific issues is one of the CNRS's missions and the organisation has adopted an institutional scientific expertise charter regarding this. Institutional scientific expertise at the CNRS is collective in nature. Its aim is to share knowledge and provide an independent scientific perspective to support decision-making and public debate.

What is collective scientific expertise?

The term 'collective scientific expertise' refers to all activities aimed at answering a given question by critically assessing the scientific knowledge available. This in turn is intended to support public decision-making and inform public debate on the subject at hand.
Each collective scientific expert review leads to a collective expert report prepared by a group of experts mandated to work on the subject by the CNRS following a rigorous methodology which guarantees the quality of the study.
The collective expert report is accompanied by a synthesis intended for a broad audience and presents the state of the art of available knowledge. It reports on all the points of view expressed in the scientific literature which the study is based on including points for which the current knowledge does not enable conclusions to be drawn or which are the subject of scientific controversy. It may suggest further research on any unresolved scientific issues.
Collective scientific expertise is different from:

  • research itself which aims to produce new knowledge,
  • research evaluation which aims to assess the quality of researchers' work,
  • foresight studies which are used for scientific programming and planning,
  • interventions, opinions or studies that individual scientists or scientific teams make or provide for the media, think tanks or companies.

4 fundamental principles that guarantee the quality and credibility of an expert review


The CNRS Institutional Scientific Expertise Charter sets out four fundamental principles that need to be respected to guarantee the quality and credibility of expert reviews:

•    Competence - Experts are identified on the basis of their scientific activities and production and their competence to work on the subject of the expert review. The document corpus is constituted and all work organised with methodological rigour.
•    Transparency - Publication of the subjects of ongoing expert reviews and of the whole expertise process. At the end of an expert review, lists of the experts who took part and of the bibliographical references they worked on are published.
•    Independence - Situations involving a conflict of interest* are prevented by the experts being required to declare any possible interests or links before taking part in the expert review. Preservation from external interventions (those who request expert reviews, the media, etc.) during collective expertise work.
•    Impartiality - Plurality of viewpoints and disciplinary approaches in the composition of the groups of experts, the creation of the bibliographic corpus and how the work is reported (knowledge gaps, scientific controversies, etc.).

* In this context, a conflict of interest is considered to be any situation involving interference between a matter of public interest and public or private interests which may influence or seem to influence the independent, impartial and objective nature of the expert review (see article L121-5 of the French 'General Civil Service Code').

Collective scientific expertise actors

  • The Mission for Scientific Expertise (MPES) is part of the CNRS Scientific Office . It proposes and implements the CNRS institutional scientific expertise strategy. It centralises requests for institutional expertise (both external requests and self-referrals) and directs the preparation of responses to these. It organises and coordinates all expertise work carried out under the CNRS's responsibility. It also coordinates all communication activities related to CNRS institutional scientific expertise work.
  • The Scientific Expertise Steering Committee advises the MPES regarding all its activities. It makes recommendations for decisions regarding the launches and publication of collective scientific expert reviews as well as the composition of expert groups. It is chaired by the CNRS Deputy CEO for Science  and also includes the Principal Private Secretary  of the CNRS Chairman and CEO (or his representative in charge of public relations) and two people appointed by the CNRS Chairman and CEO. The Steering Committee may invite external personalities to take part in its work.
  • The scientific leaders are scientists recognised by their peers who possess a broad vision of the expert review's subject and the important issues involved. They lead the group of experts, making sure that the rules and principles of collective expertise are respected. They play a key role in all phases of the expert review – defining the framework for the study, constituting the group of experts, organising the review with the MPES's support, writing the collective expert report and taking part in the communication activities related to this expert review.
  • The Monitoring Committee is made up of the scientific leaders of an expert review, the MPES and representatives of the institutes concerned by the study subject. It takes part in framing the expert review and in selecting the experts. It assists the scientific leaders throughout the review.
  • The experts are asked to take part in an expert review because of their competence in one or more of the disciplinary fields related to the subject. They participate on a voluntary basis following analysis of their declarations of interest. They take part in all the work required for the study and collectively approve and validate the resulting collective expert report.

Practical information

The MPES is the prime contact for all questions about the CNRS's scientific expertise work and its completed and ongoing collective scientific expert reviews or even studies being envisaged.

Other contacts:

•    For individual expertise for the media and think tanks: please contact the CNRS press office.
•    To request the assistance of researchers for research, development and prospective activities in private or public sector organisations, please consult the Find an Expert website.

Ongoing expert reviews

Experts working on an expert review have a duty of confidentially regarding the subject for the whole review period. 

  • All requests for information concerning current ongoing expert reviews should be addressed to the MPES ( which represents the CNRS.
  • Scientists who wish to take part in an expert review are invited to contact the MPES ( indicating the title of the expert review that interests them, specifying the discipline(s) they work in, justifying their competence in the field of the study in question and including a CV. 

Plastics used in agriculture and for food (INRAE-CNRS)

Commissioned and financed by ADEME and the ministries in charge of Agriculture and Food, and of the Ecological transition, this collective scientific expertise carried out by INRAE and CNRS aims to review scientific knowledge on the uses of plastics in agriculture and food, their properties and impacts throughout their life cycle and their interrelationships in an eco-design approach. 

The use of plastics has been developing since the 1950s because of their very interesting properties. However, as they are not very, or not at all, degradable and therefore very persistent in the environment, plastic waste accumulates all along the trophic chains.
Current public policies or those in preparation display ambitious objectives in terms of changes in the use and recycling of plastics. However, a detailed knowledge of the uses of these plastics, of their properties and impacts, of their compositions and manufacturing methods is necessary to identify what could be banned, reduced, promoted, collected and reused as efficiently as possible. These questions are particularly acute for the agricultural and food sectors, which account for nearly half of the plastics used in France. 
At the request and with the financial support of ADEME and the ministries in charge of agriculture and food, and of the ecological transition, INRAE and CNRS are conducting a collective expert review of the available scientific knowledge on the uses of plastics in agriculture and for food together with their prospects for development and the properties required for these uses. This expertise will review the scientific literature to characterize the properties of these plastics according to their composition and life cycles. It will highlight their environmental impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as well as their health impacts. It will analyze the way in which the expected properties of these plastics can be taken into account in an eco-design approach and in the respect of sanitary standards. It will be based on a review of the regulations, focusing on the European context of the use of plastics.

CNRS and INRAE will ensure that the principles of competence, independence, impartiality and transparency are respected in the conduct of this collective scientific expertise. It is planned to last 2 years from June 1, 2022 and will be conducted by a multidisciplinary group of French and European scientists. 

Learn more about INRAE

Finished expert reviews 

Each expert review leads to a collective expert report which is made public. The report is collectively validated by the group of experts presented therein who worked on the expert review. It is accompanied by a synthesis accessible to a broad  audience. The CNRS is in no way responsible for any uses that may be made of the collective expert reports or syntheses it publishes.

The acoustic impacts of offshore wind projects on marine wildlife (November 2021)

Expert review coordinated by the CNRS a request from the French ministries in charge of ecological transition, sea, higher education, research and innovation.

The significant increase in underwater noise pollution produced by human activities over the past decades and its potential impact on marine fauna is causing serious concern among environmental stakeholders. The effect of noise on the ocean is well known internationally (UNESCO Global Ocean Observing System) and is taken into account in European regulations (EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive). In this context, the development of offshore wind farms is being debated because of the noise pollution they may generate.
This report provides an overview of scientific knowledge on the acoustic impact of offshore wind projects on three groups of marine fauna – marine mammals, fish and invertebrates – with few studies available concerning seabirds and sea turtles. It presents the mechanisms of underwater sound propagation; the multiple impacts on marine species of noise generated by wind projects (especially during their construction, but also during their operational phase), comparing them to other man-made noise emissions; and the effect of mitigation strategies. It also points to the lack of current knowledge, particularly with regard to some species and types of sound source. 

Eutrophication: causes, mechanisms, consequences and predictability (November 2017)

Expert review coordinated by the CNRS, in partnership with the Ifremer, the INRA and the Irstea following a request from the French ministries in charge of agriculture and ecological transition respectively and with financial support from the French Agency for Biodiversity.


Eutrophication is the most visible manifestation of the pollution of waters by organic matter and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) resulting from human activities. It leads to excessive algal growth and oxygen depletion in water which causes major disturbances to aquatic ecosystems. It has an impact on human health and associated activities and is thus a socially sensitive issue.

This report provides a critical appraisal of the international scientific knowledge about the causes, mechanisms, consequences and predictability of eutrophication phenomena. It also aims to provide a clearer definition of eutrophication by taking the land-sea continuum into account. Furthermore, it considers the requirements and operational issues linked to public action to identify levers for action and any scientific obstacles which require new knowledge to be acquired.


Incestuous sexual violence against minors (April 2017)

Expert review coordinated by the CNRS following a request from the French ministries in charge of children and research respectively.


Understanding the issue of incestuous sexual violence against children is hampered by many taboos and prejudices. In the context of the first plan to mobilise people against and combat violence against children (2017-2019), this report provides an appraisal of current knowledge from a gender perspective which favours several analytical perspectives - socio-historical analysis of collective representations, thought about quantification, positive criminal law and closed court cases, neuro-developmental and psychological consequences, psychological support.

It fosters progress in knowledge of the phenomenon both in terms of figures and of an overall understanding of the phenomenon and its consequences in a dynamic perspective of support for public policies. It suggests avenues of thought for research (in the neurosciences, collective behavioural sciences, gender and sexuality studies, legal studies, etc.) and regarding raising awareness, training and care.

The environmental impacts of the exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources (June 2014)

Expert review coordinated by the CNRS and the Ifremer following a request from the French ministries in charge of ecology and research respectively. 


The increase in the worldwide demand for metals has revived the exploration of mineral resources including in the deep ocean which has significant potential reserves of metals. However, the environmental impacts and economic consequences of exploring and exploiting these mineral resources need to be assessed and actually very little is currently known about the ecology of the ecosystems associated with these mineral resources and their links and interactions with more distant sites. Furthermore, the ecological benefits these sites or their uses provide may influence the conditions for their exploitation.

In the framework of the national programme for research and access to deep-sea mineral resources, this report provides an exhaustive critical review of scientific findings about the environmental consequences of the exploration and exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources. It highlights gaps in knowledge, questions and uncertainties and also suggests lines of research for the future. The report is aimed at all stakeholders in the marine sphere and will support the development of public policies regarding applications for mining exploration permits. It will also reinforce France's position in the development of an ambitious marine research and innovation strategy as it takes environmental requirements into account and promotes the sustainable exploitation of the deep seabed.

The agronomic, environmental and socio-economic effects of herbicide-tolerant plant varieties (November 2011)

Expert review coordinated by the CNRS and the INRA at the request of the ministries in charge of agriculture and ecology respectively.


Crop weed control is a determining factor for agricultural yields which means selecting the right plant varieties capable of tolerating the application of existing herbicides is important because this provides farmers with a technical response to weed control difficulties. The cultivation of these plant varieties is also presented as enabling farmers to reduce the quantities of herbicides used. Nevertheless, these plant varieties bring up certain questions. What are the medium and long-term effects of their cultivation? What role could they play in policies aimed at reducing the use of pesticides?

This expert review features a multidisciplinary approach combining life sciences and economic and social sciences and thus provides the fullest report possible on knowledge of the impacts of breeding and using herbicide-tolerant varieties. It highlights the specific problems associated with these varieties. One of the research results discussed shows that repeated use of these varieties under certain conditions could make them ineffective in the medium term. This expert review also stresses that weed management should not rely solely on these varietal innovations and should instead integrate different complementary approaches.

Other collective expert reviews the CNRS contributed to

CNRS staff participate in many collective scientific expertise carried out by agencies or other organizations because of their expertise in the areas of the expertises in question. In some cases, the contribution of CNRS personnel is very significant. 

Research into radicalisation, the forms of violence that result from it and the way societies prevent and protect themselves from it. An overall summary of knowledge, proposals and initiatives (March 2016)

Expert review coordinated by the ATHENA alliance which was submitted to the French Research Ministry. Find out more.

Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis

Contribution by the 1st Working Group to the sixth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Find out more.

Photo credit: CNRS Images photo library. 

Ethics and animal models

The use of animals in research remains an essential scientific practice that is rigorously supervised and involves ethical concerns on a daily basis.

Using animals to help research progress

Alternative methods have been developed but animal experimentation in research remains essential for studies of the full complexity of life. However researchers can't just do anything they like! Several criteria must be met to obtain the right to work with animal models and a certain number of rules must be respected, requiring a high level of protection for the animals used. A CNRS production.

Text: Estelle Rünneburger and Charlotte Pallud
Voiceover: Douglas Antonio Motion
Design: Loïc Kessler
Subtitles: Aude Nicla


Animal welfare - a current issue

Animal welfare and particularly the use of animals for the purposes of scientific research is a core contemporary concern. However, researchers have wrongly remained too silent about this subject which means citizens may lack the right information on regulated scientific practices that respect animal sentience and are guided by ongoing ethical studies and thought.

The use of animal models in research remains an essential practice

Understanding all forms of life

The use of animal models is essential to decipher living organisms and there is currently no alternative that can completely replace this.

In vitro (cell-based) or in silico (computer modelling) methods have an important role to play in many research projects but these alone do not enable researchers to understand and reproduce all the multiple interactions within a living organism.
Research requires all types of models (in vivo, in vitro, in silico) to understand the complexity of life at different scales.

Health applications

Studying animals is often essential for researchers to understand the origins of human pathologies and develop new therapeutic approaches.
"Giving up the use of animal models would mean moving towards blind and dangerous medicine that contravenes all the rules of bioethics and international law on clinical trials involving humans." Catherine Jessus, director of the INSB from 2013 to January 2019.

Why is animal research essential for scientific medical progress?

The GIRCOR is an association dedicated to thought and communication on the use of animal models in research. It was set up in 1992 on the initiative of Hubert Curien, the then Minister of Research, and today has over forty member institutions from the public (CNRS, INSERM, INRAE, CEA, Universities, etc.) and private sectors (SANOFI, IPSEN, VIRBAC, LEEM, SIMV, etc.).

The GIRCOR has been chaired since 2015 by Ivan BALANSARD, the Veterinarian at the CNRS Ethics and Animal Models Office. GIRCOR dialogues and communicates with the general public and manages the transparency charter on the use of animals for scientific and regulatory purposes in France.


Practices governed by strict and fair regulations

Researchers' practices are governed by strict regulations requiring a high level of protection for the animals used.
The regulations in force in France dating from February 2013 set out the different rules applied:

The species of animals concerned

The regulations protect vertebrate animals including self-sustaining larval or advanced foetal forms and cephalopods. This means they apply to fish, birds and mammals but not to insects. The use of primates is restricted and the use of great apes like chimpanzees is forbidden in Europe.

The origin of animals

The animals must come from approved breeders or suppliers.

Approval of establishments

Any establishment that breeds, supplies or uses animals must be approved by its préfecture (local government authority). A vet is appointed for each establishment and regular inspections are carried out.

Ethical reviews and authorisation of research projects

All research projects that include animal experimentation must obtain a favourable ethical evaluation from an approved ethics committee. They also need to obtain an authorisation from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.


Potentially painful experiments must be performed under appropriate analgesics and/or anaesthetics.

Animal welfare body

Each institution has an animal welfare body that monitors research projects.

The regulations ensure that no procedures involving animals are carried out if an alternative method exists that responds to the same scientific objective. The 3Rs rule is the basis of these regulations.

An ethical approach

The 3Rs rule - replace, reduce, refine
This has been the ethical basis for the use of animals in science since 1959.
Replace – using other models than animals whenever possible:

  • Computer models (in silico);
  • Physico-chemical methods, cells or organoids (in vitro);
  • Using less sensitive animal models (invertebrates like the drosophila fly or the C. elegans worm, etc.).

Reduce – Cutting the number of animals used:

  • Optimising biostatistical studies and experimental design;
  • Promoting the sharing of scientific data and the publication of negative results;
  • Promoting the sharing of biological samples.

Refine –Minimising constraints, stress and pain:

  • Improving animal housing conditions;
  • Improving anaesthetic and analgesic protocols;
  • Favouring non-invasive exploration approaches (MRI, ultrasound, etc.);
  • Establishing appropriate limits by controlling the evaluation of animal welfare.

Key figures

The animal models used the most in research1  :

  • 1Source: Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, 2019
Mice 60,7%
Fish 10,5%
Rats 8,7%
Rabbits 9,1%
Dogs and cats 0,25%
Primates 0,2%