|Formation||19 October 1939|
|Headquarters||Campus Gérard Mégie, 16th arrondissement of Paris|
|Comité national de la recherche scientifique|
|€3.8 billion (2021)|
The French National Centre for Scientific Research (French: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS) is the French state research organisation and is the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.
In 2016, it employed 31,637 staff, including 11,137 tenured researchers, 13,415 engineers and technical staff, and 7,085 contractual workers. It is headquartered in Paris and has administrative offices in Brussels, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Washington, D.C., Bonn, Moscow, Tunis, Johannesburg, Santiago de Chile, Israel, and New Delhi.
From 2009 to 2016, the CNRS was ranked No. 1 worldwide by the SCImago Institutions Rankings (SIR), an international ranking of research-focused institutions, including universities, national research centers, and companies such as Facebook or Google. The CNRS ranked No. 2 between 2017 and 2021, then No. 3 in 2022 in the same SIR, after the Chinese Academy of Sciences and before universities such as Harvard University, MIT, or Stanford University. The CNRS was ranked No. 3 in 2015 and No. 4 in 2017 by the Nature Index, which measures the largest contributors to papers published in 82 leading journals. In May 2021, the CNRS ranked No. 2 in the Nature Index, before the Max Planck Society and Harvard University.
The CNRS operates on the basis of research units, which are of two kinds: "proper units" (UPRs) are operated solely by the CNRS, and "joint units" (UMRs – French: Unité mixte de recherche) are run in association with other institutions, such as universities or INSERM. Members of joint research units may be either CNRS researchers or university employees (maîtres de conférences or professeurs). Each research unit has a numeric code attached and is typically headed by a university professor or a CNRS research director. A research unit may be subdivided into research groups ("équipes"). The CNRS also has support units, which may, for instance, supply administrative, computing, library, or engineering services.
In 2016, the CNRS had 952 joint research units, 32 proper research units, 135 service units, and 36 international units.
The CNRS is divided into 10 national institutes:
- Institute of Chemistry (INC)
- Institute of Ecology and Environment (INEE)
- Institute of Physics (INP)
- Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3)
- Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB)
- Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS)
- Institute for Computer Sciences (INS2I)
- Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS)
- Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INSMI)
- Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU)
The National Committee for Scientific Research, which is in charge of the recruitment and evaluation of researchers, is divided into 47 sections (e.g. section 41 is mathematics, section 7 is computer science and control, and so on). Research groups are affiliated with one primary institute and an optional secondary institute; the researchers themselves belong to one section. For administrative purposes, the CNRS is divided into 18 regional divisions (including four for the Paris region).
Researchers who are permanent employees of the CNRS, equivalent to lifelong research fellows in English-speaking countries, are classified in two categories, each subdivided into two or three classes, and each class is divided into several pay grades.
|Scientist (chargé de recherches)||Senior scientist (directeur de recherche)|
|Normal class (CRCN)||Hors classe (CRHC)||Second class (DR2)||First class (DR1)||Exceptional class (DRCE)|
In principle, research directors tend to head research groups, but this is not a general rule (a research scientist can head a group or even a laboratory and some research directors do not head a group).
Employees for support activities include research engineers, studies engineers, assistant engineers and technicians. Contrary to what the name would seem to imply, these can have administrative duties (e.g. a secretary can be "technician", an administrative manager of a laboratory an "assistant engineer").
Following a 1983 reform, the candidates selected have the status of civil servants and are part of the public service.
All permanent support employees are recruited through annual nationwide competitive campaigns (concours). Separate competitives campaigns are held in each of the forty disciplinary fields covered by the institution and organized in sections. In the context of the competition, the section is made up of an eligibility jury, which reads the application files, selects some for the orals, holds the orals, and draws up a ranked list of potential candidates, submitted to the admission jury, which validates (or not) this ranking; the admission jury can make adjustments within this list. At the end of the admissions jury, the results are announced.
The competition is governed by very strict, well-defined legal rules, including the sovereignty and impartiality of the jury and the rules governing conflicts of interest: candidates are strictly forbidden to have any contact with a member of the jury, and no one may put pressure on the jury in any way whatsoever. If a member of the jury belongs to the candidate's family, he or she may not sit on the jury. The same applies if a candidate has worked extensively with one of the jury members over the past two years, or has a direct and regular relationship with him or her.
In 2020, the average age at recruitment was 33.9 years for chargés de recherche (research fellows), with wide variations between sections (in the humanities and social sciences, it was 36.3 years).
In 2020, the average recruitment rate was 21.3 applicants for 1 open position, here again with wide variations between sections. The most competitive sections are usually 35 (literature, philosophy and philology), 36 (sociology and law), and 40 (political science). In 2023, in section 35, there were 158 applicants for only 4 open positions, hence a recruitment rate of 2.53%. By comparison, section 12 (molecular chemistry) received just 33 applications for five open positions.
The CNRS was created on 19 October 1939 by decree of President Albert Lebrun. Since 1954, the centre has annually awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals to French scientists and junior researchers. In 1966, the organisation underwent structural changes, which resulted in the creation of two specialised institutes: the National Astronomy and Geophysics Institute in 1967 (which became the National Institute of Sciences of the Universe in 1985) and the Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules (IN2P3; English: National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics) in 1971.
The effectiveness of the recruitment, compensation, career management, and evaluation procedures of CNRS have been under scrutiny. Governmental projects include the transformation of the CNRS into an organization allocating support to research projects on an ad hoc basis and the reallocation of CNRS researchers to universities. Another controversial plan advanced by the government involves breaking up the CNRS into six separate institutes. These modifications, which were again proposed in 2021 by ultraliberal "think tanks" such as the Institut Montaigne, have been massively rejected by French scientists, leading to multiple protests.
- Claude Fréjacques (1981–1989)
- René Pellat (1989–1992)
- Édouard Brézin (1992–2000)
- Gérard Mégie (2000–2004)
- Bernard Meunier (2004–2006)
- Catherine Bréchignac (2006–2010)
Past directors general
- Jean Coulomb (1957–1962)
- Pierre Jacquinot (1962–1969)
- Hubert Curien (1969–1973)
- Robert Chabbal (1976–1980)
- Pierre Papon (1982–1986)
- François Kourilsky (1988–1994)
- Guy Aubert (1994–1997)
- Catherine Bréchignac (1997–2000)
- Geneviève Berger (2000–2003)
- Bernard Larrouturou (2003–2006)
- Arnold Migus (2006–2010)
Past and current president director general (CEO)
Alain Fuchs was appointed president on 20 January 2010. His position combined the previous positions of president and director general.
- 2010–2017: Alain Fuchs
- From 24 October 2017 to 24 January 2018 (interim): Anne Peyroche
- Since 24 January 2018: Antoine Petit
- CNRS Gold medal
- CNRS Silver Medal
- CNRS Bronze Medal
- Centre pour la communication scientifique directe
- European Financial data Institute
- Laboratoire d'ethnologie et de sociologie comparative
- Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the Spanish counterpart to the CNRS
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