Illinois, French National Research Agency Form Collaboration

September 08, 1997

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the National Center for Scientific Research in France signed an agreement in Paris today (Sept. 8) that will facilitate an exchange of researchers between the two institutions during the next four years and strengthen their scientific and scholarly links.

As a result of the agreement, signed at 9 a.m. in Paris by U. of I. Chancellor Michael Aiken and Catherine Brechignac, the director-general of the center, the two parties will undertake joint research projects on subjects of mutual interest. The agreement is the most comprehensive the French agency has ever entered into with a U.S. university.

"We are very excited to enter into partnership with one of the most prestigious research centers in Europe," Aiken said. "This endeavor will allow collaboration on a major scale, reaping rewards for both institutions as well as the people they serve."

The center, also known as CNRS (standing for its name in French, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), is a public basic-research organization that defines its mission as producing knowledge and making it available to society.

CNRS employs 25,800 people, including 11,600 research scientists and 14,200 professional engineers and support staff. Its annual budget totals $2.4 billion (U.S.). The agency maintains facilities throughout France. Drawing on the strength of more than 1,400 laboratories, CNRS engages in research activities in all areas of knowledge.

The U. of I. long has ranked among the nation's most distinguished teaching and research institutions. More than 85 centers, laboratories and institutes perform research for federal and state agencies, private industry and other campus units. A world leader in research and development activities in supercomputing and its applications, the university is home to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

NCSA is dedicated to advancing pioneering technologies in information and high-performance computing and communications in academia and industry. As of Oct. 1, NCSA will become the leading site for the National Computational Science Alliance, a collaborative effort with other institutions nationwide to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century.

Students and scholars find the U. of I. an ideal place to conduct cross-disciplinary research. The most visible example of the university's commitment to such study is the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, where nearly 600 researchers from 16 university departments are examining living and nonliving systems - from microscopic organisms to the complex computing technologies integral to the understanding of artificial intelligence.

As for CNRS, it has played a part in many of the scientific discoveries and breakthroughs made in France and in major international programs. Noteworthy examples include the analysis of the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere by French astrophysicists during the international program observing the collision between the Shoemaker-Levy comet and Jupiter; the development of an in-vitro technique to fertilize corn - a first in plant biology; and the identification of the AIDS virus. Additional information about CNRS can be obtained from its Web page, distributed in North America by NCSA. The center's home page is

Under terms of the U. of I. - CNRS agreement, both parties will foster the exchange of researchers, including faculty members, postdoctoral students and advanced graduate students; organize joint-research projects; organize bilateral conferences, seminars and symposia to define projects of common interest and review the ongoing joint projects; and exchange publications, which will inform researchers and students of the work undertaken by each group. Among the areas of special interest are chemistry, engineering, humanities, life sciences, mathematics and physics.

The agreement had been under discussion for many months, during which extensive conversations and meetings were held among representatives from both organizations. In spring, for example, Robert Chabbal, the former director-general of CNRS, and Dominique Martin-Rovet, the CNRS representative at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., visited the U. of I. to discuss prospects for collaboration; and Daniel Cadet, head of the CNRS international office visited the campus in July. Another spring visit by a delegation of CNRS representatives resulted in an agreement for a workshop to be held in Paris Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 9-10). Scholars will discuss several specific areas of collaboration at the workshop.

U. of I. representatives also visited CNRS offices as part of the planning that led to the agreement.

The agreement, which builds upon the many informal and primarily personal relationships that exist between U. of I. researchers and CNRS researchers, is meant to ensure expanded collaborative possibilities among scientists from the two groups and to ensure a greater benefit from the collaborative relationship.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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