Legal framework

In France, research policy, whether for basic or applied research, is conducted by the ministry responsible for scientific research (the MESRI – Ministry for Higher Education, scientific Research and innovation) and largely structured by the Research Code and the Law dated July 23, 2013 relating to higher education and research. 

Research Code 

Enacted in 2004, the Research Code consolidates all the legislative measures relating to the research tasks, objectives, general organization and activities, as well as the operation of all institutions, bodies and personnel involved in research. Its codification is mainly based on two laws, adopted in 1982 and 1985, governing the orientation and the programming of research in France. These laws include a set of general provisions and guidelines determining the status of researchers and the research institutions to which they are attached, as well as defining the resources which may be made available to the research stakeholders in France. These laws helped to structure the organization of research activities which, prior to 1982, were conducted empirically within diverse frameworks and poorly coordinated. 

Law No. 2013-660 dated July 22, 2013 relating to higher education and research

The purpose of this law, adopted in 2013, is to stimulate research by strengthening its international outreach and restoring its ambition and coherence. Among its many provisions, this law provides for the development of a national research strategy and the protection of basic research activities, while promoting the mobility of foreign researchers and teachers. The text also aims to foster student success through various measures (setting priority orientations for certain high school graduates, enhancing employability, etc.) and the drafting of a national research strategy for higher education.

National Research Strategy 

Published in 2015, the National Research Strategy (SNR – Stratégie Nationale de Recherche) focuses on 10 challenges facing society. Its primary ambition is to improve our knowledge so as to properly tackle the numerous socio-economic issues of the XXIst century, such as global warming, the digital revolution or food safety. Directions for research are derived from these challenges and enable the identification of the main issues requiring coordinated actions given their impact on society. 

For further information on National Research Strategy (SNR)

National Strategy for Research Infrastructure

Combined with the National Research Strategy, the National Strategy for Research Infrastructures has been developed on the basis of a state of the art prepared by a group of scientists from all fields. Its purpose is to highlight the diversity of existing or proposed infrastructures and tools which meet the criteria of scientific and technological excellence and efficiency. This strategy, which generates numerous data, should also enhance the capacity of these research infrastructures to make such data accessible to the community. Published by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research, it covers 95 infrastructures, including 5 international organizations, 20 very large research infrastructures, 61 research infrastructures and 9 projects.

For further information on National Strategy for Research Infrastructures

For further information on the Research Infrastructures of the ODATIS Data Cluster 

In addition to this regulation which provides a global framework for the organization and structuring of research in France, there are more specific rules which define the status and general functioning of Operational Research Structures (SOR – Structures Opérationnelles de Recherche) and Operational Service Structures (SOS – Structures Opérationnelles de Service).

Operational Research Structures

Operational Research Structures (SORs – Structures Opérationnelles de Recherche) are governed by Decision No. 920520SOSI dated July 24, 1992, as amended, determining the organization and functioning of the Operational Research Structures. While they each have a different status, all SORs share the same purpose: pooling the financial, material and human resources which are necessary to carry out a given scientific research program. In principle, each SOR is attached to a prominent research institution (CNRS - French National Center for Scientific Research, IRD - French National Research Institute for Development, INSERM – French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, INRA - French National Institute for Agricultural Research, etc.) and to one or more institutes, depending on the scientific topics covered. The various SORs are grouped into different categories: so called “Basic” Research Units, Distributed Research Structures (SFRs – Structures Fédératives de Recherche), Research Networks (GDRs – Groupements de Recherche), and Transitional Research Groups (FREs – Formations de Recherche en Evolution).

Research Units are mostly Joint Research Units (UMRs – Unités Mixtes de Recherche). The UMR label may be granted to laboratories after a joint assessment conducted by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research and a large research body. UMRs are administrative bodies created for 4 years pursuant to the execution of an agreement and are subject to an assessment. They provide a structure where several research and higher education institutions may share technical and human resources in order to collaborate on a common scientific project. In 2002, the UMR label was supplemented by the International Joint Unit label (UMI – Unité Mixte Internationale). UMRs and UMIs are similarly structured and operated, except that in an UMI one of the partners signing the agreement is a foreign institution. There are other types of research units, such as Contract Units (USCs – Unités Sous Contrat), Associated Research Units (URAs – Unités de Recherche Associées), Service and Research Units (USRs – Unités de Service et de Recherche) or Internal Research Units (UPRs – Unités Propres de Recherche). Each has its own specific features, but they are all governed by the same Decision dated July 24, 1992.

For further information on the UMRs of the ODATIS Pole

Distributed Research Structures (SFRs – Structures Fédératives de Recherche) allow for the coordination of scientific activities and the sharing of all or part of the resources of their various participating scientific bodies (Research Units, Research Groups, etc.) which remain independent. There are 3 types of Distributed Research Structures which are all subject to ministerial approval: “FEDs” which are research federations labelled by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research; “FRs” which are research federations jointly labelled by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research and the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research); and the “IFRs” or Distributed Research Institutes (Instituts Fédératifs de Recherche) which are jointly labelled by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research and INSERM (French National Institute for Health and Medical Research).

For further information on the FRs of the ODATIS Data Cluster

Research Networks (GDRs – Groupements de Recherche) are specific to the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) and bring together all or part of the Research Units, Transitional Research Groups and/or Research Teams, so as to pool resources for the purposes of a single research topic. GDRs may be attached exclusively to the CNRS or jointly created with one or more institutions or industrial partners.

The status of the Transitional Research Groups (FREs – Formations de Recherche en Evolution) is only transitory so as to facilitate the creation, transformation and closure of a Research Unit. This label is jointly granted by the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research and the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) following an assessment. 

  • Circular No. 00-0008 DCAJ dated January 10, 2000 relating to Transitional Research Groups (FREs)

Operational Service Structures

Operational Service Structures (SOSs – Structures Opérationnelles de Service) are regulated by Decision N° 159-87 dated December 2, 1987 determining the organization and functioning of the Operational Service Structures. The purpose of SOSs is to provide all Operational Research Structures (SORs – Structures Opérationnelles de Recherche) with the necessary resources and support for their scientific activities. Like SORs, SOSs are attached to a large research body or to one or more institutes, depending on their needs. They are divided into service units or service networks.

  • Decision No. 159-87 dated December 2, 1987 determining the organization and functioning of the Operational Service Structures (SOSs)

Service Units fall into 2 categories: Internal Service Units (UPSs – Unités Propres de Service) which are specific to the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), and Joint Service Units (UMSs – Unités Mixtes de Service). Subject to ministerial approval, UMSs are placed under the joint supervision of the CNRS and one or more research institutions. Such units are designed to host the administrative and technical personnel required to support a scientific activity (e.g. the Earth Science and Astronomy Observatories or OSUs – Observatoires des Sciences de l’Univers).

Like Research Networks, Service Networks (GDSs – Groupements de Service) are specific to the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) and bring together all or part of the Research Units and Service Units dedicated to a single research-oriented service goal. 

These research bodies are associated with structures which conduct studies aiming at collecting the necessary data for the advancement of research. Many observatories and networks have been formed to gather information on specific topics through various processes (field studies, satellite observations, comparative photographs, on-site measurements, etc.).

Earth Science and Astronomy Observatories 

Earth Science and Astronomy Observatories (OSUs – Observatoires des Sciences de l’Univers) consist of laboratories joining forces to carry out long-term observations in the field of Earth sciences. A decree of the Ministry responsible for Higher Education and Research has identified 27 OSUs, covering several topics (astronomy, Earth physics, oceanography and environment). Their organization is governed by the Education Code and their task is to provide the national and international community with services related to their research activities; to support the training of students and research personnel; to participate in the dissemination of knowledge; and to set up activities promoting international cooperation. As regards oceanography, these common tasks are complemented by an additional objective: the protection of the ocean environment through the advancement of knowledge and the development of dedicated research programs. 

For further information on the OSUs of the ODATIS Data Cluster

National Monitoring Services

National Monitoring Services (SNOs – Services Nationaux d’Observation) are labelled by the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) and provide a set of resources dedicated to the monitoring of the Earth system and the astronomical systems, with a view to documenting in the long term the formation, evolution and variability of such systems, as well as enhancing the knowledge and understanding thereof. The 182 SNOs of INSU (French National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy), a CNRS institute, are combined into 4 national monitoring initiatives (AA – Astronomy & Astrophysics; OA – Oceans & Atmosphere; SIC – Surfaces & Continental Interfaces; and TS – Solid Earth) and are intended to provide support to the scientific community for the production of and access to observation data.

For further information on the SNOs of CNRS for all topics

For further information on the SNOs of the ODATIS Data Cluster 

Long Term Environmental Research Monitoring and Testing Systems 

Environmental Research Monitoring and Testing Systems (SOEREs – Systèmes d’Observation et d’Expérimentation pour la Recherche en Environnement) are labelled by AllEnvi (French National Alliance for Environmental Research) and their purpose is to create a network among the various Environmental Observatories spread over different sites. Each SOERE constitutes a network of basic testing and/or monitoring services sharing common observation and measurement features, whose data are processed and stored in a lasting and continuing manner. Labelling these networks facilitates the national and European recognition by the scientific community and the access to certain sources of funding. 

Call for candidates for the 2016 SOERE labelling campaign

For further information on the SOEREs of AllEnvi for all topics

For further information on the SOEREs of the ODATIS Data Cluster

Research Alliances

Research Alliances aim at strengthening the coordination of large scientific programs so as to develop closer relationships among research stakeholders working on close topics. The creation of these alliances forms part of an effort to promote French research by enhancing the performance, visibility and outreach of the main research institutions and structures, at both national and international level, through the coordination of thematic programs that are consistent with the National Research Strategy (SNR – Stratégie Nationale de Recherche). Between 2009 and 2010, 5 alliances were created and defined according to the research priorities identified in the SNR. 

AllENVI

The purpose of AllEnvi, the French National Alliance for Environmental Research (Alliance Nationale de Recherche pour l’Environnement), is to coordinate French research in the environmental field in order to facilitate the ecological transition and respond to the major associated societal challenges (resource management, adaptation to global warming, development of renewable energies, etc.). To achieve these goals, AllEnvi is structured around 4 tasks: developing and orienting research programs (submission of research priorities to the financing agencies, preparing the future SNR, etc.); supporting the development of research infrastructures (involvement in the preparation of a roadmap for research infrastructures); coordinating the innovation and promotion policies (strengthening partnerships among public operators, businesses and industries, meetings involving the founding members, etc.); promoting international programs (organization of conferences, coordination of the French delegations, etc.).

Founding Members: Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières - BRGM, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives - CEA, Centre de recherche agronomique pour le développement - CIRAD, Centre national de la recherche scientifique - CNRS, Conférence des présidents d'université - CPU, Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer - IFREMER, Institut français des sciences et technologies des transports, de l'aménagement et des réseaux - IFSTTAR, Institut national de recherche agronomique - INRA, Institut de recherche pour le développement - IRD, Institut national de recherche   en sciences et technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture - IRSTEA, Météo-France, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle   - MNHN.

ANCRE, the French National Alliance for the Coordination of Energy Research (Alliance Nationale de Coordination de la Recherche pour l’Energie) seeks to improve the efficiency of research in the energy sector by coordinating the activities of the French public institutions. ANCRE, in close cooperation with the industrial actors of the energy sector, is also involved in implementing the French research and development strategy in this field.

Founding Members: Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives - CEA, Centre national de la recherche scientifique - CNRS, Conférence des présidents d'université - CPU, Institut français du pétrole et des énergies nouvelles - IFPEN.

AVISEAN

The purpose of AVIESAN, the French National Alliance for Life Sciences and Health (Alliance Nationale pour les Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé), is to improve the performance of French research in the field of life sciences and health by enhancing its excellence and consistency. AVIESAN’s task is to improve the scientific and operational coordination of projects and resources (whether financial, human or material) by meeting several broad objectives (promoting transdisciplinarity, coordinating scientific programming, encouraging French and European partnerships, etc.). 

Founding Members: Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives - CEA, Centres hospitaliers régionaux et universitaires - CHRU, Centre national de la recherche scientifique - CNRS, Conférence des présidents d'université - CPU, Institut pasteur, Institut national de recherche agronomique - INRA, Institut de recherche pour le développement - IRD,  Institut national de recherche dédié au numérique - INRIA, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale - INSERM.

The purpose of ATHENA, the French National Thematic Alliance for Human and Social Sciences (Alliance Thématique Nationale pour les Sciences Humaines et Sociales), is to boost the research dynamics in the field of human and social sciences by creating consultation, mediation and cooperation forums among the various institutions, at French and European levels. The objective is to engage in a long-term reflection and to identify strengths and resources in order to generate the information crucial for making decisions.

Founding Members: Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives - CEA , Conférence des grandes écoles - CGE, Centre national de la recherche scientifique - CNRS, Conférence des présidents d'université - CPU, Institut national d'études démographiques - INED, Institut national de la recherche agronomique - INRA, Institut de recherche pour le développement - IRD.

ALLISTENE

The purpose of ALLISTENE, the French National Alliance for Digital Sciences and Technologies (Alliance pour les Sciences et Technologies du Numérique) which was created in 2009, is to promote research and innovation in the digital sector while accompanying the economic and social changes associated with the dissemination of digital technologies. ALLISTENE reinforces the partnerships already existing among public operators and businesses in order to coordinate scientific and technological priorities. 

Founding Members: Conférence des directeurs des écoles françaises d'ingénieurs - CDEFI, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives - CEA, Centre national de la recherche scientifique - CNRS, Conférence des présidents d'université -  CPU, Institut Mines-Télécom, Institut national de recherche dédié au numérique - INRIA.