At the CNRS, technologies have their networks

Mechanics, electronics engineers, specialists in archaeometry, scientific computing, software development, public scientific publishing or even microscopy… The 23 networks of the Mission for transversal and interdisciplinary initiatives (MITI) cover various themes and bring together nearly 16,000 professionals around a profession or a cross-functional technology at the CNRS. Spaces for dialogue and exchange, they are ” unique in the French Higher Education and Research (ESR) landscape “, explains Anne-Antonella Serra, manager of the platform that supports these networks.

Indeed, these cross-functional technological networks bring together staff from all CNRS institutes and of all statuses – researchers, engineers, technicians, students – and are open to all French research organizations, and sometimes even to industrialists. They thus bring together a majority of ESR players around each subject. ” It is the national vision of the CNRS which allows such operations “, assures the manager.

Business questions (what skills in developing microcrystals in France?), technical questions (what software for spatial data?) or technologies (how to design an on-board pressure accumulator?): by addressing the issues of support for research, networks can implement tools to resolve difficulties, improve their functioning and train their colleagues. They are even able to develop technologies, protocols, new machines, and test them within the network before distributing them to a wider audience.

Certain technological or methodological objects are also at the interface of several networks or present a common interest: the networks can then approach this same object together under several aspects, in a complementary way. Attachment to the MITI then becomes ” obvious “. For example, to deal with current health issues, the network of electronics technicians and that of mechanics stood out during the Covid-19 crisis by very quickly producing protective visors, valves and adapters for door handles, which greatly helped the hospital environment.

Productions at the service of communities

very active », the networks are « essential support for research »: they share their know-how, expertise, monitoring and best practices via various means. Each year, they organize more than 50 thematic days, reflection and discussion workshops, and numerous webinars around a topic relevant to the community (learning to use the ZEMAX optical simulation software, understanding the regulatory constraints related to the bases of data, etc). About thirty national training actions (ANF) are also set up every year. Widely open, these training and knowledge dissemination events result in proposals for action. The RTfmf network, for example, has been recognized by the CNRS for its actions which maintain experts at the highest level (see box).

Networks and inter-network workshops also give rise to collective productions at the service of communities. that are beneficial to a wide audience “, guarantees Anne-Antonella Serra. For example, a working group recently finalized the guide “Animating a network”a ” wealth of information » with techniques to energize and perpetuate networks such as those of the CNRS, but also other structures such as associations. Another guide, this time on research data managementprovides scientists in all fields with leads “ from a very operational point of view and resources. These two working groups regularly organize training.

To carry out these structuring actions for their community, these networks are accompanied by a small team from MITI, in support of this “Network Platform”. It helps them in their operation and the follow-up of their actions and their budget, and supports them financially. The platform also allows the networks to operate in a consistent and structured manner via charters and regular evaluations, with the help and analysis of a monitoring committee made up of representatives from the various CNRS institutes. Through its cross-vision of the actions and needs of the different networks, the MITI can also stimulate inter-network working groups.

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