Australia-France relations #ST3 [fr]

Read more about this very dynamic relation since few years

CNRS a key player in international collaborative research

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Australia-France scientific collaborations

Scientific collaboration between France and Australia has been very dynamic in recent years, with a growing number of joint publications.


With 4,986 joint publications in 2019, Australia remains the 4th country outside Europe for the volume of joint publications with France, after the USA, Canada and China. Among the most active organizations in this bilateral collaboration, we find on the French side, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in the lead, with 40% of joint publications, the Paris Saclay Community of higher education and research (ComUE) (17%), the French National Institute for health and medical research (INSERM) (17%, up 2% since 2018), the Sorbonne (16%), Paris Hospitals Public Care (13%), and the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) (10%). The French Institute for Research for Development (IRD) (7%) and the French National Institute for Agrofood and Environment Research (INRAE) (5.5%) are also present to a lesser extent, although the IRD increased by 2% compared to 2018. These percentages are not cumulative, since, for example, half of the academic authors also belong to the CNRS. On the Australian side, the organizations most involved in bilateral scientific collaboration are the University of Sydney (17% of joint publications), the University of Melbourne (16%), the University of Monash (13%), and the University of Queensland (9.5%). The CSIRO is progressing slowly, with 6% of the volume of co-publications with France, compared to 5% in 2018.

The CNRS plays a very important role since 2012 in structuring this bilateral collaboration, thanks to its collaborative tools such as the International Research Networks (IRP), the International Research Networks (IRN) and the International Research Laboratories (IRL). The international projects offer research teams from the different countries the opportunity to meet and work together through short- and medium-term scientific exchange by supporting missions, but also the organization of conferences or the joint supervision of a student. International networks aim to structure an international community of scientists around a theme. They can include several teams of several laboratories in France or abroad, and also support the organization of conferences or thematic schools over a period of 5 years. Finally, international laboratories allow international teams to work on a common theme and ensure the long-term presence of French and foreign researchers in a localized laboratory.

Australia is a partner of 6 IRP in a variety of fields, from basic sciences (mathematics, chemistry, health, environment) to advanced technologies (photonics, signal processing). Since 2019, an energy research network (IRN FACES) and an international laboratory (IRL) on human-machine interactions and autonomous systems have strengthened the France-Australia collaboration.

In 2019, 548 missions by CNRS researchers headed to Australia. These missions are very important because they are the first step in the initiation of new collaborations, or the strengthening of existing young collaborations, before their structuring into international projects, networks or laboratories. With the health crisis of Covid-19, and the restrictions it imposes on scientific missions, research organizations will have to find alternatives, in order to stimulate collaborations and allow new encounters between researchers.

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Senate inquiry on French-Australian relations

The Australian Academy of Sciences participated in a survey conducted by the Senate regarding opportunities for strengthening Franco-Australian relations. The Academy’s contribution covers the themes of bilateral relations in science and research, as well as the role of science as a diplomatic tool.

This contribution from the Academy of Sciences highlights the importance of establishing international scientific links in order to promote the emergence of solutions to global and multinational challenges, but also to benefit from the soft power that science allows as a diplomatic tool and a tool for regional or international influence.

Both Australia and France recognize the importance of contributing to the international research agenda and science policy development activities in order to provide science-based advice, and to improve international relations and cooperation.

This report recalls the dynamic of French-Australian scientific collaboration, with the visits of the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mrs Frédérique Vidal, in February 2019, and that of the President of the Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, in May 2018, which both had a strong science and education component, but also the many agreements signed between research and teaching organisations, and the drafting of a roadmap for science and innovation between the two countries.

The France-Australia partnerships in research and higher education are very strong, and often involve an industrial partner, such as the international research laboratory of the CNRS involving the universities of South Australia and the French Naval Group, or the Nicolas Baudin internship program involving Thales, Naval Group, Airbus or Dassault Systems. The structuring of collaboration is also progressing at the university level with partnerships between universities around specific themes, reinforced by the joint theses system of cotutelle.

The Australian Academy of Science emphasizes the importance of exchange and scientific mobility programs set up by the French Embassy (FASIC) and by itself (Bede Morris Fellowship). These programs enable meetings and the access to the technology and scientific culture of the other country, and foster creativity in research approaches, and the development of lasting collaborations, professional relations and friendships.

Finally, both countries are recognized for their research excellence and are leaders in areas such as health and medical research, food and agriculture, or marine sciences and the environment. The Australian Academy of Science encourages Australia to strengthen the long-standing good relationship between the two countries by exploring new opportunities and new areas of research.

It recommends that the Australian government consider the establishment of a bilateral Research Fund with France, to support student exchanges, and collaborative activities in science, technology and innovation between France and Australia.


Dernière modification : 08/07/2020

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