France, a fertile ground for mathematics: 12 Fields Medals, internationally-recognized Residences for Researchers, a series of Masters and PhD programmes, Chairs, Mathematical Foundations and Societies, and fruitful interactions with society, economy and industry.
Mathematical research has a long-established history in France. From Pascal and Descartes to the Bourbaki group, France has always been a fertile ground for mathematics. Nowadays, French mathematical research is characterised by a wide variety of research topics, from more theoretical research to a large variety of applications interacting with other sciences, as well as with society, industry and the economy.
French mathematics enjoys international recognition: members of the French maths community have been granted prestigious prizes, including the mathematicians whose photos illustrate this page, all of whom being receivers of prizes within the last ten years. In addition, French mathematical academic journals are classed among the highest publications in terms of international ranking and recognition.
France boasts a wide variety of research facilities that complement each other:
- laboratories within French universities or « grandes écoles »
(such as the Écoles Normales Supérieures or the École polytechnique), which are labelled CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, the publicly-funded national research organization);
- international research centres set up specifically to host programmes and conferences (Institut Henri Poincaré, Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques, Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques);
- international networks and jointly-managed research units in other countries (such as the CNRS Unités Mixtes Internationales),
- international programmes and research schools in developing countries (through CIMPA – the Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées, the International Center for Pure and Applied Mathematics), a centre associated with UNESCO.
The coordination of French mathematical research is piloted by the National Institute for Mathematics and their Interactions (INSMI) of the CNRS. INSMI contributes to structuring the French mathematical community and looks after its integration within the international community.
Laboratories receive financial support from both universities and the CNRS. In several places, there exist intensive collaborations on subjects at the interface between mathematics and other sciences (physics, biology, medicine…) with other French institutions enjoying an international reputation, such as Institut national de recherche en informatique et automatique (Inria), Institut national de la recherche agronomique (Inra), Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm), etc. In addition, the National Research Agency (ANR) offers support for research ranging from scientific projects involving small groups of researchers to larger-scale structured projects. The French government promotes research through LabEx (Laboratory of Excellence award), which funds laboratories in the same geographical area on various themes. In all, French Mathematics is involved in 11 such LabEx awards. Two foundations, the FSMP (Fondation Sciences Mathématiques de Paris) and the FMJH (Fondation Mathématique Jacques Hadamard), also award grants collected from public and private donations; both of them host a LabEx.
Three mathematical societies look after the interests of French mathematics: the SFdS (Société Française de Statistique), the SMAI (Société Mathématiques Appliquées et Industrielles) and the SMF (Société Mathématique de France). They are involved in activities related to society (teaching, dissemination, etc.). A CNRS unit named AMIES, the Agency for Mathematics in Interaction with Business and Society, strives to develop relations between academic research teams in mathematics, industry and business, especially SMEs. In 2015, AMIES ordered a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Mathematics (EISEM), conducted by the strategy consulting firm CMI (on a similar model as the Deloitte reports conducted in the UK and in the Netherlands). It revealed that 15% of the French GNP and 9% of all jobs in France are impacted by mathematics.
Finally, France plays an important part in the dissemination of mathematical knowledge through over 40 research journals. The mathematical societies have an editorial role in a number of them. The CNRS offers technical support through national tools, notably the Centre Mersenne for digitalisation and open access publishing platform, thus contributing to develop general access to knowledge.