French Network of Institutes for Advanced Study — Missions
Head : 15 parvis René-Descartes, 69007 Lyon - FRANCE
Office : 190 avenue de France, 75013 Paris - FRANCE
The RFIEA is a foundation for scientific cooperation founded in 2007 by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It works to enhance the attractiveness of French research in the social sciences and humanities (SSH) by supporting the development of institutes for advanced study in France.
The foundation’s mission since 2007 has been to integrate the French institutes for advanced study (IAS) into the French, European and international arenas of research in the humanities and social sciences (SSH). It supports the quality and complementarity of the four member institutes and helps to enhance their visibility at the national, European and international levels. Its networked approach is based on a dynamic balance between subsidiarity and pooling of resources, which enables it to generate synergies and undertake large-scale actions. It is developing a database on the fellows invited by the entire network of IAS in order to put their collective knowledge and international expertise to use in France.
The foundation serves as the institutional interface between the RFIEA and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Athéna Alliance (National Thematic Alliance for SSH – Alliance thématique nationale pour les sciences humaines et sociales), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Consortium of University Presidents (CPU) and the National Network of Humanities Institutes (Réseau national des maisons des sciences de l’homme – RnMSH). It promotes the specific value added of the IAS within the French academic world and facilitates synergies with university communities (Communautés d’universités et d’établissements – COMUE), with their member institutions and with research bodies.
This approach has also led the foundation to discussions with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research about the development of a platform devoted to the internationalisation of SSH as well with the Athéna Alliance on how best include the institutes for advanced study in the national research strategy.
The foundation places its expertise in coordination and internationalisation at the disposal of major initiatives at the national, European and international levels. Its management team is involved among other things in building the Web portal fundit.fr, in developing the international activities of the Athéna Alliance and in building the European Alliance for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (EASSH). In a radically changing institutional context in France and in Europe, this action helps to promote recognition of the individual institutes and the French IAS network as a whole in the eyes of supervisory ministries, french and international partners and potential financial backers.
INTEGRATION IN EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL NETWORKS
The foundation helps to increase the visibility of the institutes at the European and international levels by undertaking initiatives with prominent international partners. It leverages the quality of the resident fellowships offered by the French institutes to join the major international consortia of IAS. Since 2009, it has served as general secretariat of the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Study (NetIAS), which comprises 22 of the most prestigious European institutes for advanced study. It designed and has coordinated since 2010 an international mobility programme – the EURIAS Fellowship Programme – cofinanced by an €8 million contribution from the European Commission. It is the permanent representative of the French IAS in the network of University-based Institutes for Advanced Study (UBIAS), which comprises 45 institutes located on all five continents.
Participation in these networks places the French IAS at the centre of a stream of international mobility involving some 750 high-level researchers per year and gives them access to multi-year funding of their invitation policies.
The foundation contributes substantially to the funding of the member institutes of the network. These annual funding packages, which have gradually increased since 2008, reached €2.5 million in 2016. The foundation enabled the institutes to grow rapidly by providing the budget resources needed for their development. To accomplish this, it drew on the initial endowment of €14.15 million received in 2007 from its founding members and from the government, as well as the €8.50 million contribution obtained under the national investment programme Investissements d’avenir in 2012 for its recognition as a laboratory of excellence.
The foundation administers the resources placed at its disposal on the basis of a multi-year strategy. This strategy ensures a revenue stream that places the institutes’ funding on a secure basis and covers the foundation’s own operating costs. It brings some flexibility to the way the funds are used, creating the conditions for optimisation of the resources provided (particularly as regards the financing obtained for the Labex RFIEA+). The endowment investment policy – which has brought an average annual net return of more than 6.5% since 2008 – has contributed to the stability of the foundation and enabled it to plan for the long term.
The foundation, through its international Scientific Advisory Board, conducts periodic evaluations of the institutes, using an approach that meets the highest international standards. The evaluation grid comprises both quantitative indicators and qualitative aspects that have been validated by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. Evaluation visits are made to the IAS sites, allowing for exchanges and discussions with the institutes’ directors, fellows and main partners. The Scientific Advisory Board concentrates its analysis on:
1. the constitution of a scientific community specific to each IAS, and particularly the alignment between the IAS’ scientific ambitions and their fellows invitation policies;
2. the impact of the IAS in terms of developing new avenues of research and scientific innovation, taking into consideration the scientific progress made possible by the fellowships;
3. the impact of the IAS on their local, national and international scientific partners through the development of long-term European and international academic collaborative arrangements.
At the end of the institutes’ incubation period (2007-2011), a first report of the Scientific Advisory Board was submitted in December 2011. This report was a valuable reference point for the Board of Trustees during the preparation of the multi-year funding conventions for the institutes. A second report, submitted in December 2013 to the Board of Trustees, was devoted to the three Institutes that were finalising their development phase. A third evaluation has been conducted in 2015. The results of this exercise, as well as the amount of cofinancing raised by the institutes, served as the basis for the Board of Trustees’ decision on renewal of the IAS’ funding agreements for the 2016-2019 period. When the system reaches steady state, the evaluations of the institutes will be conducted every four years, in line with the best international practice in such matters.