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UChicago, French science agency launch partnership to tackle world problems

Researchers, faculty from many disciplines come together for global science collaboration

Four people on a stage take part in a discussion before an audience.

The University of Chicago and France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique have launched a broad and ambitious partnership to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.

The partnership, called the University of Chicago-CNRS International Research Center for Fundamental Scientific Discovery (IRC Discovery), brings together researchers and faculty from across the span of academic disciplines.

The key driver to this collaboration is the recognition that the big issues facing the world cannot be solved by any one person, institution or country.

“There is no problem that we can solve alone,” said Antoine Petit, Chairman and CEO of CNRS during a public event June 6 at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. Petit led a delegation from France of more than 20 CNRS leaders and researchers for the June 5-7 launch of IRC Discovery in Chicago. CNRS is the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.

The panel event, titled “Discovery Beyond Borders: Investments in Science and What Global Partnership Means for Chicago,” anchored the launch of IRC Discovery in the greater context of global science cooperation and in the unique ecosystem of science research in the Chicago region, which includes Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Petit was joined by Paul Alivisatos, president of the University of Chicago, Geri Richmond, undersecretary for science and innovation at the Department of Energy and moderator Juan de Pablo, executive vice president for science, innovation, national laboratories and global initiatives at the University of Chicago.

The panelists discussed the many advantages of global science collaboration. President Alivisatos said IRC Discovery is an excellent example of this collaboration and its importance, and highlighted other recent science cooperation announcements such as UChicago’s new quantum alliance with Japan’s Tohoku University.

He added that university-to-university alliances are an important step but underscored the University’s ambition to also cement alliances with industry. One example of this was the recent announcement in coordination with the G7 meetings in Japan of UChicago partnerships on quantum with Google, IBM and the University of Tokyo.

Undersecretary Richmond echoed the importance of these partnerships and noted the inherently international nature of Department of Energy research projects. She highlighted, for example, the DUNE neutrino project at Fermilab, a Department of Energy National Laboratory as “the first truly international megascience experiment hosted on U.S. soil.”

More than 30 countries and more than 1,000 scientists and engineers from over 200 research institutions are collaborating on the project. She added that at the core of these projects – DUNE, CERN in Switzerland and France as well as IRC Discovery – is shared passion.

“These projects are done together because there is an exciting idea,” she said.

In addition to the panel discussion, UChicago and CNRS researchers and administrators met for a series of planning meetings for three days on the UChicago campus and at Argonne National Laboratory. Through these intense discussions, faculty leads generated ideas for collaboration in the IRC Discovery’s three initial academic pillars: humanities and social sciences, biology, and quantum science and technology.

The coming months will see a period of intense productivity on both sides as UChicago and CNRS work to structure and kick off the proposed collaboration in both research and training that will bring a significant number of faculty, researchers and students over the coming year.

—This story originally appeared on the UChicago News website.