The humanities, social sciences and archaeology have an important role to play in France’s cooperation network, as an effective instrument of scientific diplomacy. The 27 French research institutes abroad (IFRE), under the joint authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) and the national centre for scientific research (CNRS), along with the 125 French archaeological missions abroad, are concrete evidence of France’s commitment to international research.
As centres of excellence in cooperation, these facilities make their valuable expertise available to France and her partners on a range of social and economic issues in a globalised world. Their innovative approach, focused on research, scientific publication and training programmes, goes to the very heart of the challenges posed both by contemporary issues, such as those raised by countries in crisis, and by the history of past civilisations that archaeological research seeks to explore.
Against a background of shifting national and regional political realities, unpredictable economic changes and globalisation, their aim is to promote high-level scientific cooperation in these fields of knowledge, internationally recognised for their prestige and quality. This innovative and dynamic strategy is designed to meet a threefold challenge:
making integration of research programmes into the local scientific context a priority, in partnership with regional research institutions and organisations, in order to create a community of scientific excellence;
- combining the highest scientific standards with the open-mindedness and adaptability needed to establish a network between French establishments and institutions and their counterparts abroad;
- offering real expertise in tackling new problems such as social and political transitions, mobility and migration, digital communications, new democratic processes, national and regional crises and religious developments. Here is where these cooperation mechanisms prove to be invaluable to an understanding of other cultures in a geographic space that is both single and multiple.
Knowledge transfer and local development
In over 65 countries, this network of excellence not only helps to strengthen France’s position as a premier partner and contact, but also serves to transfer French knowhow, expertise and ways of thinking. Over and above its scientific aim, the network helps to extend France’s influence, serving the cause of development in the regions where IFRE and the archaeological missions operate and highlighting the shared potential for research.
As a result, the network plays an important role in local development, thanks to the expertise it brings to bear and the transfer of knowledge it promotes, implemented as follows:
creation of training programmes for French students and researchers as well as for students and research centres in the partner country and region;
- contribution to the exchange of ideas, through colloquia, seminars and conferences bringing national and international researchers together in forums designed to encourage freedom of expression and dialogue between the different nations;
- publication of research work, to ensure that knowledge acquired is disseminated so that it can contribute to further research. This process is crucial, since it also helps young researchers, trained via the network, to gain their first foothold in regional and international networks.
This conception of research, which focuses on spaces rather than borders, is able to take into consideration overall movements, be they demographic or economic, of crucial importance to an understanding of the world of today. The system forms part of a process of regionalisation of knowledge, using decentralised outposts and addressing crosscutting scientific issues. It also implies responding to crisis situations that may force us to adapt our network, either by relocating resources to another country in the region, or by preparing the ground for a rapid response once the political situation allows.
The constant flow and movement of researchers reflects the vibrancy of our network of excellence. Above all, it is the insistence on continuity of presence and of scientific effort that makes the network so attractive for our research and so necessary to our knowledge of 21st century issues.
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