According to the French newspaper Le Monde, France’s prestigious National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) might soon have chemist Alain Fuchs as its new director general-president. Neither the CNRS communications office nor the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research are confirming the Fuchs appointment, stating that they will make an official announcement next Wednesday. Fuchs is also declining to speak to the media at the moment.
Fuchs is a physical chemist who leads a molecular simulation group at Chimie Paris Tech, and is also the university’s director. Chimie Paris Tech is part of a distinguished and influential group of higher learning institutions in France called “écoles nationales supérieures.” According to Le Monde, a mathematician named Antoine Petit and a cryptologist named Jacques Stern were also considered for the CNRS position.
Whoever gets the job will be responsible for 26,000 permanent CNRS staff and a budget of 3 billion Euros ($4.3 billion). That person will also be at the helm of an organization in transition: The French government is splitting the CNRS into 10 institutes by subject. For example the institute of chemistry will be separate from the institutes of physics and biological sciences.
The new CNRS director general-president will be kept busy: The relationship between President Nicholas Sarkozy’s government and French scientists (including those from CNRS) has been rocky. Some of the government's proposed reforms to the CNRS and to universities have brought thousands of scientists out of their labs and into the streets in protest.