Centre national de la recherche scientifique

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Centre national de la recherche scientifique
Logo of the CNRS
Motto French: Dépasser les frontières
English: Advancing the Frontiers
Formation 19 October 1939; 79 years ago (1939-10-19)
Type Governmental organisation
Purpose Fundamental research
Headquarters 16th arrondissement of Paris
Official language
Alain Fuchs
Main organ
Comité national de la recherche scientifique
€3,4 billion
Website www.cnrs.fr

The French National Centre for Scientific Research (French: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS) is the largest governmental research organisation in France[1] and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.[2] It employs 32,000 permanent employees (researchers, engineers, and administrative staff) and 6,000 temporary workers.[3]


Following a 2009 reform, the CNRS is divided into 10 institutes:[2]

  • 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)

Previously, it was divided into INSU, IN2P3, and several "scientific departments".

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 1 is mathematics; section 7 is computer science and control). 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 just for the region of Paris).

CNRS runs its research units either independently or in association with other institutions, such as INSERM or universities. In French these units are called laboratoires informally and unités de recherche in administrative parlance. They are either operated solely by CNRS (and then known as unités propres de recherche or UPR) or as mixed organizations (unités mixtes de recherche or UMR), respectively. Each research unit has a unique numeric code attached and is headed by a director (typically, a university professor or CNRS research director). A research unit may be divided into research groups ("équipes").

CNRS also has support units, which, analogously to the research units, are called unités propres de service (UPS) or unités mixtes de service (UMS). A UPS or UMS may for instance supply administrative, computing, library, or engineering services.

Currently, CNRS researchers are active in 1,256 research groups, 85 percent of which are "mixed" and also include non-CNRS researchers (most notably university professors); mixed groups tend to be housed inside universities and other institutions of higher education. The prevalence of such "mixed" research groups is an unusual characteristic of the French system.

The headquarters of CNRS are at the Campus Gérard Mégie in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.


Researchers who are permanent employees of the CNRS are classified in two categories, in order of seniority:

  • Research scientists (chargés de recherche): 2nd class (CR2), 1st class (CR1).
  • Research directors (directeurs de recherche): 2nd class (DR2), 1st 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").

All permanent support employees are recruited through annual nationwide competitive campaigns. Following a 1983 reform, the candidates selected have the status of civil servants and are part of the public service.

International relations

The CNRS is represented with administrative offices in Brussels, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Washington, D.C., Bonn, Moscow, Tunis, Johannesburg, Santiago de Chile, Israel, and New Delhi.


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 performance of the CNRS has been questioned, with calls for wide-ranging reforms. In particular, the effectiveness of the recruitment, compensation, career management, and evaluation procedures have been under scrutiny. Governmental projects include the transformation of the CNRS into an organ allocating support to research projects on an ad hoc basis and the reallocation of CNRS researchers to the universities. Another controversial plan advanced by the government involves breaking up the CNRS into six separate institutes.[4][5]


Alain Fuchs was appointed president on 20 January 2010. His position combines the previous positions of president and director general.

Past presidents

Past directors general

  • Jean Coulomb (1957–1962)
  • 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)

Some selected CNRS laboratories

See also


  1. Dorozynski, Alexander (November 1990). "The CNRS at 50. (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) (Salute to French Technology)". R&D.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  3. "CNRS Key figures". CNRS. Retrieved 24 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  5. Stafford, Ned (5 June 2008). "Chemists give cautious welcome for French science reforms". Chemistry World. Retrieved 16 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links