The competitive application process for CNRS jobs has opened this week, and part of the required documents are a report on past work, as well as a project for future work (together with a list of CNRS labs where this work could be done). There is not much information about what these are expected to contain; the instructions only specify "Report on research completed" and "Proposed research program".

More specifically, for a "chargé de recherche" (junior scientist, a permanent research position with no teaching), how much detail should be given in these two documents? How long should they be? Is there a typical structure that one should follow for them?

It is my understanding that the national committee members may not (and in my case are not, I checked) experts in the specific domain of the applicants, there is e.g. a committee for all of sociology, another for "brain, cognition, behavior" and so on. If this makes any difference, I'm looking for answers that deal with an application in a STEM field, not social science.


CNRS is a national research agency, more-or-less the equivalent of the American NSF. With a budget of 3 billion euros, it employs 11,137 tenured researchers (equivalent to associate and full professors but with no teaching service), in addition to 13,415 engineers and technical staff, and 7,085 contractual staff (postdocs etc). It fully runs 32 "proper" research units, but most of the employees work in one of the 952 "mixed" research units that are half part of CNRS, half part of an university, which can be anywhere in the country and whose members are either employed by the CNRS or by the university.
There also exists 36 international mixed research units and 121 "private-public" research structures. Viewing it as a "single institute" is quite reductive.
(For more info, read the 2016 activity report, in French.)

The competitive application process sees several hundreds people all over the country applying each year, so my question is applicable to a broad audience. A national committee evaluates application in a given discipline, and the committee is rather stable year after year, so "codes" and expectations about the application are bound to have developed over the years. Thus my question is about what in particular is expected in the reports on past and projected works.

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It may be dependent on the field and even on who is in the jury. In particular, the jury changes every few years and they decide by themselves what procedure they will follow to judge the applications.

Two of my colleagues who have been on the CNRS jury in different STEM sections in different years told me the following:

Your file will probably be assigned to one or two of the jury members who know most about the subject of your proposal. They will have an in-depth look at it and initially defend it on your behalf if they think it is worth it. These assigned jury members are the only ones that have to read your file. The others can choose to do so if they wish.

Besides this I can tell you the following from applying for a CR2 position myself (several years ago):

  • I described my past research, point-wise per university where I worked. This was 2 pages in total.
  • I described my research proposal in 11 pages. It included figures, preliminary data and references (much like a research paper). I described a short-term (5 years) research goal as well the many possibilities to expand the research later on.

This must have been reasonable because I was invited for an interview. Of course there are surely many other ways to do it that may be equally good or better, but all I can say is what I know, and wish you good luck (you will need it. It is well known in France that the jury often wants to fund around 20 equally good proposals out of ~200 applications, but they only have the money to fund a couple).

  • 1
    Thanks, this is very helpful. In particular I didn't expect the research proposal to be so long. – Young Postdoc Dec 13 '17 at 8:46
  • I do think it is best to keep it as short as possible, but to make a convincing case with an introduction of the subject, description of planned research, preliminary data, figures, references, and maybe a short section about the laboratory, its equipment and your own background it will become long rather quickly. – louic Dec 13 '17 at 10:50

protected by StrongBad Dec 11 '17 at 15:57

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