Research

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.

CNRS Biology

CNRS Biology’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

CNRS Biology website

CNRS Chemistry

CNRS Chemistry’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)

CNRS Chemistry website

CNRS Ecology & Environment

CNRS Ecology & Environment’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

CNRS Ecology & Environment website

CNRS Engineering

The mission of CNRS Engineering 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

CNRS Engineering website

CNRS Mathematics

CNRS Mathematics’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

CNRS Mathematics website

CNRS Nuclei & Particles

CNRS Nuclei & Particles’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

CNRS Nuclei & Particles website

CNRS Physics

CNRS Physics’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

CNRS Physics website

CNRS Humanities & Social Sciences

CNRS Humanities & Social Sciences’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

CNRS Humanities & Social Sciences website

CNRS Informatics

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 CNRS Informatics and the CNRS’s interdisciplinary tools.

CNRS Informatics website

CNRS Earth & Space

CNRS Earth & Space’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

CNRS Earth & Space 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.

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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

Researchers 

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.

Guarantees

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 : joel.moret-bailly@cnrs.fr

Whistleblower

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.

Guarantees

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: 
lancement.alerte@cnrs.fr 

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 :
remy.mosseri@cnrs.fr

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.

Missions 

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

COMETS

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 : comite.ethique@cnrs.fr.

The CNRS's six major societal challenges

The CNRS set out six major societal challenges in its last Objectives and Performance Contract (COP) signed with the French state to which it aims to make a substantial contribution through the coordinated mobilisation of its ten Institutes. 

In the  COP 2019-2023 the CNRS set out six challenges facing today's society that the organisation wishes to decisively respond to in the coming years through the coordinated mobilisation of its ten Institutes. These are complex challenges that were revealed or are driven by science like climate change and artificial intelligence or alternatively that can benefit from science shedding light on them like the energy transition.

The six challenges

1.    Climate change 
2.    Educational inequalities 
3.    Artificial intelligence 
4.    Health and environment
5.    Territories of the future
6.    Energy transition 

"It is new for the CNRS to explicitly set itself societal challenges to respond to as the organisation previously only set itself numerical targets for scientific production, success rates in European calls for projects or in the use of research results," explains Alain Schuhl, the CNRS Deputy CEO for Science (DGDS). This change is a matter of "common sense" because "the strength of the CNRS lies its capacity to create synergies between the strong disciplines it covers to help provide answers to the questions society asks that rarely confined to one discipline alone'.

The CNRS Scientific Office coordinated an inter-institute dialogue through which dedicated working groups identified its laboratories' existing actions and projects involving the six selected societal challenges. This highlighted the CNRS's specific added value as an organisation that covers all fields of knowledge and enabled the measures required to optimise interactions to be defined. Calls for projects were launched in September 2020 with each challenge being the subject of at least one call for projects. These calls were led and managed by the Mission for Transversal and Interdisciplinary Initiatives (MITI) whose objective is to support original interdisciplinary and breakthrough projects requiring the combined expertise of at least two laboratories from two CNRS Institutes. These six challenges also constitute a powerful tool to convey the CNRS's strategy in Europe and internationally because the issues of today and the future are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary issues that go beyond the purely national level.

"The advancement of knowledge must remain our main motivation because it is essential to our capacity to understand and provide solutions to today's major socio-economic issues that will also condition the future. The societal challenges - climate change, educational inequalities, artificial intelligence, health and environment, the territories of the future and the energy transition - set out in our COP illustrate this motivation," as Antoine Petit, CNRS Chairman and CEO, makes clear.

1.    Climate change 

Increasing numbers of researchers are turning to themes linked to climate change because of the urgency of the issue. This is the case even though the study of climate change and finding solutions to limit or adapt to it are resolutely systemic and transdisciplinary and involve fields ranging from climate and energy sciences to ecology and social and political sciences with researchers working at all levels of observation, experimentation or modelling. Multidisciplinarity is a true specific feature of the CNRS and the organisation aims to use this strength to link these themes to enhance their visibility while contributing to the emergence of new synergies and original work. "To achieve this, we are studying the work of the different CNRS Institutes as well as international research with interest. Our aim is to set up a cross-disciplinary unit to focus on subjects that are not covered by our Priority Research Programmes and Equipments (PEPRs). One example is the instrumentation of the future for observing the climate using new low-energy and connected sensors which is the theme of the next conference organised in the framework of the climate change challenge," reports Sophie Godin-Beekmann, co-coordinator of the challenge and Deputy Scientific Director (DAS) at the CNRS National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU).

Follow the news about this challenge

The exploratory PEPRs linked to this challenge : FairCarbon, OneWater, Traccs, Irima, Bridges 

2. Educational inequalities

The education system of today seems insufficiently capable of promoting equal opportunities for all pupils. How should this problem be dealt with? "The idea of equality takes little account of the differences between pupils and thus seems to have its limits. We need to focus on the notion of equity to address differences and provide pupils with individualised responses based on their starting situations as regards access to education according to their territory, age, population, disability and so on," explains Ricardo Etxepare, co-coordinator of the challenge and DAS at the CNRS Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS). Those working on the educational inequalities challenge therefore aim to study such differences from an interdisciplinary standpoint at a time when the education system is undergoing a true revolution brought about by the new literacy that derives from digital technology. Three CNRS Institutes in particular are working on this issue - the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB) and the Institute for Information Sciences and their Interactions (INS2I) - and the aim is to integrate issues affecting all disciplines. "In June, the MITI launched a call for expressions of interest the aim of which is to set up consortia symbolising this interdisciplinary approach. Other initiatives are already underway like the 'Science for Education' Priority Research Programme (PPR) or the 'Digital Teaching' PEPR for which the CNRS is currently setting up networks of the teams involved". In 2023, an international multidisciplinary conference will be organised on the theme of educational inequalities with the Priority Thematic Network (RTP) on Education to bring together the scientific community to study educational issues. In the long term, the challenge's coordinators are considering the creation of a scientific observatory on educational inequalities to monitor the impact of research investments and determine how long-term research could provide responses to educational inequalities.

Follow the news about this challenge

Linked to this challenge : the 'Digital Teaching' acceleration PEPR, the 'Autonomy' (ageing and disability) PPR

3. Artificial intelligence 

The development of digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the practice of research in many scientific areas through progress in massive data, complex algorithms, machine learning, automation and so forth. Constructing the AI of tomorrow to accelerate scientific discovery inherently involves a multitude of scientific, ethical and environmental challenges. The many disciplinary fields the CNRS covers mean it is the only French – and even European - organisation that can deal with these issues as a whole. Rather than simply juxtaposing the issues, the subject will benefit from an integrated approach with two fundamental and complementary pillars - AI for Science and Science for AI as represented by the ASSAI centre of the same name that has been set up in the framework of the CNRS AI challenge set out in the COP. "The creation of this multidisciplinary centre launched in November 2021 will create a favourable space for dialogue between interested scientists from different disciplines and from AI to structure communities and establish new collaboration modes between AI and the other sciences. This will involve the organisation of thematic semesters which are the centre's true foundations and will include conferences, webinars, seminars, and research schools enabling scientists from various disciplines around the world to take stock of established issues," reports Jalal Fadili, director of the AISSAI centre.

Linked to this challenge : The 'Artificial Intelligence' acceleration PEPR, the 'Diademe' exploratory PEPR

4. Health and environment

Several infectious episodes of zoonotic origin (HIV, Ebola, the plague, COVID-19, etc.) have demonstrated that interactions between environmental disturbances, the exploitation of ecosystems and human populations can lead to global health risks. As well as microbiological risks deriving from infectious diseases, the chemical risk linked to air, water and food pollution is also an issue. "Scientists have been working on issues related to the environment and health for a long time now. The fact the CNRS defined "health and environment" as a challenge in its COP demonstrates the organisation's commitment to the issue, to enhancing the visibility of the many facets of research in this area and to increasing the momentum of research focusing on interactions between the two themes. This is a truly important issue for society and involves multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research along with integrated long-term monitoring," says Anne-Marie Gué, coordinator of the challenge and scientific delegate at the Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS). The health and environment challenge is more specifically based on the development of interdisciplinary health and environment observatories monitoring the emergence of and/or documenting risk situations. These structures benefit from all the CNRS's disciplinary expertise including input from fields ranging from ecology and environmental science to economics, sociology, information science, modelling and engineering sciences. "We have initially concentrated on four sites - the Seine territory, the Camargue area, the 'Environment-Health-Society' International Research Laboratory (IRL ESS) in Dakar and the iGLOBES IRL in Arizona. So far, we have funded three consortia and an interdisciplinary cluster of four theses, all of which are part of one of the pilot sites, and we intend to enhance and increase this collective dynamic in 2023."

Follow the news about this challenge

The exploratory PEPRs linked to this challenge : Irima, One Water

5. Territories of the future 

The 'broad transversal' territories of the future challenge includes all the same issues as the other challenges set out in the COP. It involves the study of technologies and population trajectories, highlights the impacts of urbanisation, risks for biodiversity and inequalities, stresses the importance of energy transition and climate change issues and could also benefit from AI. Several lines of thought are currently being explored to develop detailed understanding of the complex system a territory represents, to share data and construct solutions that provide optimal responses to citizens' concerns. The territories of the future challenge has selected the Aix-Marseille metropolitan area as its pilot territory to carry out experiments on a system that has the potential to be reproduced in other territories. "There are a number of issues within the Aix-Marseille metropolitan linked to its coastal location, pollution, urbanisation, mobility, the environment and biodiversity. Our objective is to find a method enabling stakeholders and researchers to construct the right research issues together," explains Stéphanie Vermeersch, co-coordinator of the challenge and DAS at the INSHS. To achieve this, the CNRS recently organised a conference-workshop for exchanges between researchers, elected representatives, associations and the local authorities. The aim was also to determine the key issues to be dealt with through interdisciplinary collaboration and participatory research.

Follow the news about this challenge

Linked to this challenge : the 'Solutions for a Sustainable City and Territorial Innovations' acceleration PEPR

6. Energy transition 

Inter- and multi-disciplinary work has led to the emergence of new directions based on research at the disciplinary interfaces and these are of core importance to the energy transition challenge which requires dialogue and arbitration so a good balance can be found for the planet and society alike. The energy transition challenge relies heavily on the Energy Unit which promotes interactions between scientific and technological research into energy systems and the impact of such technologies on the environment and society in terms of lifestyle, societal and economic behaviour and so forth. The Energy Unit also develops new directions based on research at disciplinary interfaces. Indeed, "the social dimension involving forms of behaviour, practices, policies and the regulation of consumption also serves as a pillar for research linked to this challenge", reports Abdelilah Slaoui, coordinator of the challenge and head of the CNRS Energy Unit. The workshop for thought and prospective study of energy issues (Arpege) dedicated to this challenge defined three major ambitions - resilience, flexibility and sobriety - which need to be integrated into our future technological developments. Methodological, instrumental and interdisciplinary dimensions also need to be developed for these three ambitions. A specific transversal conference to focus on these issues on April 28th 2023 at the CNRS headquarters.

Follow the news about this challenge

The acceleration PEPRs linked to this challenge : 'Decarbonated Hydrogen''Advanced Energy Systems Technologies', 'Decarbonisation of Industry', 'Solutions for a Sustainable City and Territorial Innovations', 'Batteries'
The exploratory PEPR linked to this challenge : 'Subsoil'

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

Scopus
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 : agenda2030@cnrs.fr.

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 (mpes@cnrs.fr) which represents the CNRS.
  • Scientists who wish to take part in an expert review are invited to contact the MPES (mpes@cnrs.fr) 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. 

Presentation
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.

Abstract
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.

Abstract 

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.

Abstract

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. 

Abstract

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.

Abstract

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

Audiodescription

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.

Audiodescription

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.

Pain

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%