. . .as changes at the top suggest action ahead

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Mégie: 'will implement recently approved reforms'. Credit: AFP

The French government announced last week the appointment of climatologist Gérard Mégie as president of the country's main research agency, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

Research minister Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg says that the choice of Mégie, currently director of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace des Sciences de l'Environnement Global, based in Paris and Versailles, reflects the government's desire “to bring science and environment closer together”.

It also reflects a drive to develop multidisciplinarity at the CNRS. Mégie, a physicist turned environmental scientist who specializes in atmospheric research, joins Geneviève Berger, a physicist turned biologist, who was named CNRS director-general in August (see Nature 407, 435–436; 2000).

Schwartzenberg says the pair will give “a new boost of life to a CNRS that is keeping up with the times”. They will implement reforms to the organization approved two weeks ago by the Conseil d'Etat, France's top legislative body, after a lengthy national debate (see Nature 404, 426; 2000).

These reforms give the agency greater independence from the research ministry and a clearer division of responsibilities at the top. The president of the agency, together with its administrative council, will focus on overall policy and manage the CNRS's relationship with external partners, including universities and international organizations.

In contrast, the director-general will be responsible mainly for the scientific, administrative and financial management of the agency, and will have the authority to create new scientific departments and institutes without waiting for the research ministry's approval.

A new external evaluation committee will be formed, made up of French and foreign scientists and industry representatives, to evaluate the activities of the CNRS at least every four years. The main scientific and departmental advisory councils will be broadened to include more foreign members, and a new ethics committee will be created.

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