Edito de la lettre d'information du RFIEA - n° 2


John Bowen

date de sortie


The Network of French Institutes of Advanced Study (RFIEA) occupies a unique space in the world of advanced research. By linking four separate institutes, each in a different corner of the country, it promotes intellectual diversity and international collaboration in research and training. Both are critical components of France’s future profile in the social sciences and humanities.


First, the Network supports the diversity of the four institutes. The projects – at Lyon, Marseille, Nantes and Paris – aim to provide  conditions in which social and human scientists can accomplish their research and writing. But they have adopted different  strategies of how to do so : emphasizing close ties with local research laboratories, creating internal research groups, or allowing maximum autonomy for individual research.


In a France used to rules and standards emanating from Paris, the Network serves to guarantee the autonomy and variability of the four projects. Our scientific council, composed of international researchers, who represent a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and who come from different parts of the world, will evaluate the work of the four projects in a spirit of valorizing diversity and experimentation, not imposing a one-size-fits-all notion of what an institute must be. If France presents a range of options to potential visitors – in terms of theme, length of stay, individual versus group research – then the institutes, taken together, will be more likely to attract very interesting and productive fellows to France.


One finds institutes for advanced study elsewhere in Europe and North America, of course. They typically offer some combination of two features : the chance for individual researchers to carry out their projects relieved of their usual academic duties, and the opportunity for a group of researchers to explore common interests or a structured collaborative project. In the United States, for example, Stanford’s institute invites individual researchers working on any topic, and also hosts one or two small research groups. Princeton’s institute, by contrast, invites many of its researchers to work on a broad theme, anchored by a regular seminar. The four French institutes have the prerogative of crafting their own combinations of these and other features ; the Network brings the added value of inter-institute communication and movement.


The Network can help to expand the international character of research conducted in France. The institutes invite resident fellows from around the world, and the Network can facilitate their movement among institutes, to raise the level of communication between French scholars and international colleagues. We also can promote international collaborative ventures that combine advanced research with the training and promotion of younger scholars. Currently we are developing frameworks for collaboration between such French institutions as the National Research Agency and such foreign institutions as the U.S. Social Science Research Council, and we look forward to enhancing research collaborations across Europe and beyond.


We are both challenged and encouraged by the scale of the undertaking – four new institutes; more or less at once, in four different cities within a highly centralized country. Breathtaking but decentralizing: could this be a new French model?