Co-ordinating research in Earth Sciences and Astronomy

The INSU drives French research in Astronomy and the Earth's system, and together with its partners' designs national strategy. To carry out their research, which is most frequently in the context of national or international programmes, researchers depend on observation, analysis and modelling through large research infrastructures created or managed by the Institute.

Defining a national strategy

Universal issues

The INSU activates and co-ordinates research concerning the origin and evolution of the Universe, the exploration of the solar system, the planet Earth, and the environment, and is interested in planetary issues such as the evolution of the Earth, climate change, the evolution of resources or natural risks.

Numerous partnerships

Along with its partners – Universities, other public organisms, industries –, the INSU contributes to the structuring of national research in Earth Sciences and Astronomy by identifying emerging research areas that are of priority for support.
Together, they finance projects in the context of inter-organism programmes, and co-ordinate the implementation of national or international research equipments. Also, they steer the OSU network.

8 000 people are involved, in approximately a hundred units

With researchers, academics, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, engineers, and technicians, the INSU comprises approximately a hundred research and service units in France and abroad, within which some 8000 people employed by the CNRS and its partners.

3227 researchers and academics (of whom 965 are CNRS)
3 037 engineers and technicians (of whom 1 467 are CNRS)
1 657 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows

Steering and managing infrastructures

Steering national observation services

To understand the structure and evolution of the Universe and the planets, or long-term changes in the atmosphere, oceans, and continents, the INSU needs data covering long periods of time. This role falls to the national observation services (SNOs) that the institute labels and steers.

Design and management of research infrastructures

The INSU also participates in the definition, setting up and management of national, European, and international infrastructures that form the major means of observation for the study of the Universe, the planets, the atmosphere, the Oceans, the surfaces and interior of the Earth. These include: oceanographic vessels and floats, planes, large geophysical observation networks, telescopes, geochemistry platforms, data portals and services.

Design of space missions

The INSU is a major actor in space sciences developed in close partnership with the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES): its researchers design missions or instruments embedded in probes and satellites and use observations to answer scientific questions.

Internationally recognized expertise

A key participant of international programmes

The INSU is one of the pilots of the European Astronomy prospective within Astronet. The INSU takes part in the development of large international programmes (MISTRALS, GEOTRACES, Research Data Alliance, etc.).
Again within Europe, the INSU is heavily involved in forecasting services such as Mercator (oceanography) and Prev’air (for air quality). It contributes to the construction of Copernicus, the European observation system for the environment.

A central role within IPCC

The INSU researchers also play a central role within the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), thus helping French research attain world-wide recognition.


The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) is an international organism, which is open to all member countries of the United Nations (ONU). This group "has as its mission to evaluate, without bias and in a methodical, clear and objective fashion, information of a scientific, technical and socio-economical nature, which we need to better understand the risks of human origin linked to global warming, to identify more precisely the possible consequences of this change, and to envisage potential strategies of adaptation and attenuation."