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CNRS: A Frontrunner looks ahead to 2020


C. Brechignac

© C. Lebedinsky/CNRS Photothèque

Catherine Bréchignac

A. Migus

© C. Lebedinsky/CNRS Photothèque

Arnold Migus
Director General

The year 2008 sets off full of hopes and challenges. For CNRS, it follows a year of success that culminated with the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Albert Fert, and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IPCC1, which includes a dozen CNRS researchers.
The coming year will be decisive for French research, as France seeks to further restructure its national research system. The first step in overhauling the French research system was the creation of the National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR) whose calls for proposals have already become a standard feature in the strategy of French researchers. Now France’s recent law on the freedoms and responsibilities of the universities
ushers in a new phase in this process. It is our firm belief that the renewed relationship between CNRS and French universities must be based on a pragmatic approach that takes into consideration both past accomplishments and future imperatives to maintain CNRS’ leading position in Europe and in the world.
It is in this perspective that our organization has strengthened its position over the past few years, and acquired a genuinely European dimension. CNRS already showed itself the leading European organization in terms of collaborative contracts during the European Union’s 6th Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP6), between 2002 and 2006. During the same period, its share of scientific publications in the European Research Area (ERA) rose from 10.5% to 12.2%, even as the ERA was taking on new member countries. Taking advantage of its strong presence in the ERA, CNRS relies on its best researchers and laboratories as “hubs” around which it builds its network of international research partnerships. More than half the scientific publications by CNRS researchers are now co-authored with researchers from other countries. To build on these results, and above all, prepare for the next decade, CNRS will finalize its “Horizon 2020” strategic plan in 2008, and should be signing a four-year contract specifying its objectives and the resources made available by the French government, hence giving a multi-annual perspective to its actions.
Thus 2008 opens with a buoyant CNRS, synonymous with both ambition and success.
Ambition: By reinvesting its industrial property earnings,2 CNRS will place France in third position worldwide in the field of supercomputers, as early as first quarter 2008. The facility located at IDRIS (Institute for Development and Resources in Intensive Scientific Computing) meets the increasing demand for modeling and simulation in areas such as climate change and its impact on the environment, or the complete modeling of a living cell in silico. Together with the recent creation of the Institute for Computational Grids (Institut des Grilles), this CNRS initiative puts France well on its way for developing the next generation of European Supercomputers.
Success: Young CNRS researchers, some of whom have already attained “senior” rank, obtained an impressive score in the Europe-wide competition launched by the ERC (European Research Council) to promote young researchers. They did extraordinarily well, getting the best results with nearly 10% of all funded projects. This proves, yet again, the power of attraction that CNRS continues to exert, its ability to recruit bright young talents, and the capacity of these young researchers to set up projects of excellence and of French laboratories to take them on.
As the New Year gets under way, we wish everyone a creative and productive 2008, where initiative, audacity, and risk-taking are put to good use for the benefit of science and society. As for CNRS, our wish for 2008 is to see our organization keep its leading position in French, European, and worldwide research. We shall do everything in our power to make it happen.

Notes :

1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
2. In the past few years, CNRS has systematically been in the top-ten bracket of patent applicants in France.


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