Five basic missions in the Academy’s remit


Ever since it was created, the Academy has being resolutely committed to the advancement of science and has advised government authorities in those matters and issues deemed within its remit. It is a double calling that has been reinforced over time, as and when our knowledge-base itself progressed. Today, the Academy’s Members discharge their missions, to the Nation and the Academy's foundations, in standing committees and working parties set up by the Academy.

  • Encouraging the scientific life

    Knowledge production - where the motivation is to see possible new applications or simply curiosity-driven- is vital to the economic and cultural dynamics of any Nation. The Academy supports research in France in the following ways, by:
    • Taking part in debates on topical science-related issues;
    • Organizing national or international scientific conferences;
    • Awarding Prizes and Medals financed through the Academy’s foundations, often with contributions by individuals sponsors, families or companies; these awards distinguish the most meritorious scientists and promising research projects;
    • Electing new Members, including Foreign Associate Members;
    • Publishing the Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des sciences, created in 1835 for the international scientific community.
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  • Promoting the teaching of science

    Learning to reason correctly and becoming educated in sciences are essential ingredients to ensuring that future citizens acquire a healthy, critical mind and that the science communities are renewed to a high level of excellence. The Academy contributes to this mission, by:
    • Organizing studiesas to how science is taught today, from primary schools to the university level;
    • Encouraging the La main à la pâte ®, from primary schools to the university level;
    • Playing its part in setting up a network of academic scientific advisors for the regional educational authorities;
    • Offering financial support to promising secondary school graduates who continue studying science.
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  • Transmitting knowledge

    Scientific communities owe it to Society to explain and share new knowledge. The Academy plays its part in dissemination scientific culture, by:
    • Organizing public sessions, where major scientific problems can be openly debated;
    • Providing a general public bilingual Internet site, a resource center for its activities and achievements;
    • Publishing a quarterly letter, a shop-window to Academy's thought and questions;
    • Taking part in a twinning operation between scientists and Parliamentarians, this activity contributing to build stronger links between science and society;
    • Conserving its archives, part of France’s scientific heritage;
    • Opening, manning and maintaining museums called the ‘Maisons des Illustres’.
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  • Fostering international collaborations

    Science per se is universal and the challenges the world faces are mostly of a global order. The Academy contributes to increased international scope for science, by:
    • Initiating and organizing bi- or multilateral co-operation activities;
    • Promoting and participating in internationalnetworks of Academies;
    • Representing France in international scientific institutions and bodies.
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  • Ensuring a dual role of expertise and advice

    Arbitrating among possible scientific and technological options comes within the remit of elected politicians, but they must be enabled to do so, on sound, reasoned bases. The Academy is called upon by public authorities to intervene as an expert, advisory body; it can likewise self-commission studies on similar questions, as it sees fit. Its conclusions are duly published:
    • in reports;
    • in advice notes and recommendations;
    • in the form of expertise, for which the Academy adopted a Charter of Expertise in 2012.
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Anniversaire de l'Académie des sciences

Jean-François BachCatherine BréchignacJean-François Bach and Catherine Bréchignac,
Secrétaires perpétuels of the Académie des Sciences

On its creation in December 1666, King Louis XIV entrusted the Académie des Sciences with the mission of establishing exchanges of discoveries with the foreign academies (entrer en commerce de découvertes avec les académies étrangères). The presence of a stranger among the first members of the Académie – the physicist, mathematician and astronomer Christian Huygens – is indeed symbolic of this.

In the middle of the 18th Century, as science was booming, most notably in Europe, the international reputation of the Académie was at its highest. King Frederic II of Prussia thus asked Académie Member Pierre Louis de Maupertuis to rejuvenate his Academy in Berlin, taking as an example the Academy France had put into place. The Académie also stood out when Maupertuis and Charles Marie de la Condamine made the prestigious expeditions to Lapland and Peru, where studied the shape of Earth and confirmed Newton’s theory on the oblateness of our planet. In 1790, it was again the Académie des Sciences that was entrusted by the Assemblée Nationale Constituante (French National Constituent Assembly) with the difficult task to unify the systems of weights and measures that coexisted in France. Under the direction of Antoine Lavoisier, the Commission des Poids et Mesures (Commission of Weights and Measures) of the Académie would achieve such unification, thus giving birth to the metrical system.

Century after century, the international influence of the Académie is still there for all to see: the Académie is now one of the five most highly regarded academies in the world. Since the first exchanges of great European scientific figures in the 17th and 18th Century, the Académie has considerably expanded its activities at the international level. It is indeed an active and influent member of the great European and global scientific networks. Through its bilateral agreements, it carries out science diplomacy initiatives, which is essential for promoting science and, also, fostering exchanges among scientists of countries whose diplomatic relations are dwindling. Lastly, the Académie has traditionally been proactive, and is ever more resolutely so, in the whole sphere of actions that aid the development of Southern countries. The present document provides a detailed account of this crucial task in international relations, carried out by the Académie as a reminder that science knows no boundary – is universal.

Bearing this in mind, the Académie des Sciences will, in autumn 2016, as a key moment in the celebration events of its 350th anniversary, gather the leaders of all the foreign academies with which it has set cooperative agreements. On this occasion, delegations of more than 50 countries will have the opportunity to deliver a message with the Académie des Sciences that will highlight the vital role of science in the progress of humanity.