Multidisciplinary institutes and initiatives
The deepening of knowledge enables us to extend the scope of its utilization and to ensure its presence in interdisciplinary research. Rather than making a distinction between a classical and disciplinary approach to research versus a contemporary and interdisciplinary one, Sorbonne University has learned that successful interdisciplinary research results in more innovative disciplinary research. Therefore, for the challenges facing today’s society that do not fall within the remit of any particular science, Sorbonne University has set up various institutes.
The Sorbonne University Alliance brings together six higher education and research institutions covering all disciplinary fields of arts, humanities, medicine, science, engineering, technology and management. The diversity of its members promotes a comprehensive approach to teaching and research. It supports access to knowledge for all and develops numerous joint programs in lifelong learning across all disciplines, in research and innovation, and in the use and dissemination of their results.
The Sorbonne University Alliance currently boasts several multidisciplinary thematic institutes and initiatives. Bringing together several institutions, they seek to make a range of disciplines work together, freeing them from traditional divisions and thus providing researchers from different backgrounds with the opportunity to compare their knowledge and experience.
The institutes are financed partly by the Idex (the French Excellence Initiative) and partly by external project funding (ANR, European Commission, industrial partners, etc.)
SCAI, the Sorbonne Center for Artificial Intelligence, brings together a strategic range of modern artificial intelligence disciplines in a unique location in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
SCAI's ambition is to make a significant contribution to the excellence of interdisciplinary research and education in artificial intelligence by promoting exchanges between researchers, academics, students and industrialists.
Its aim is to showcase the Sorbonne University Alliance's know-how in the field of artificial intelligence and to be a gateway for academic and industrial partners.
This project is supported by numerous academic researchers from the three faculties of Sorbonne University and the institutions of the Sorbonne University Alliance, who have been mobilised to ensure its success.
Director: Gérard Biau
The Collegium Musicæ is an institute that brings together musicians, researchers and academics around the creation, research, conservation and practice of music.
It provides a unifying, fertile space, conducive to innovative projects combining humanities, social sciences and exact sciences.
It enhances synergies between research, musical creation, education, heritage and musical practice and thus allows a cross-discipline approach to music.
Director: Benoît Fabre
The Institute of Computing and Data Sciences (ISCD) is a research, expertise and educational centre in scientific computing, based on high-performance computing and visualisation resources.
Dedicated to research activities in digital simulation, it is a structure hosting multidisciplinary teams of the Sorbonne University Alliance who are engaged in a collaborative project in scientific computing.
Its mission and objectives are to accompany, support, structure and stimulate projects from the community of researchers, engineers and students of the
Sorbonne University Alliance involved in scientific computing and simulation.
Director: Pascal Frey
The mission of the University Institute for Health Engineering (IUIS) is to encourage educational, scientific and technological innovation in health by providing a structure to host multidisciplinary teams grouped around three themes to be approached in an interactive way: engineering, health, humanities and social sciences.
The IUIS thus makes it possible to federate, coordinate and develop education, research and development, innovation and transfer activities on a larger scale.
Directors: Pierre Mozer - Marie-Autre Vitrani
The Sorbonne University Institute for Environmental Transition (SU-ITE) aims to create innovative education and research dynamics in major issues of the environment, sustainable development and the construction of a post-COP 21 society.
To this end, it relies on its ability to implement interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral approaches to contribute to the environmental transition of societies. It encourages interactions between research and education teams and the stakeholders of society (political, economic, social).
The Institute's work in education and research is structured around three main scientific areas: controlling climate change and its consequences, creating the conditions for responsible and sustainable use of resources and energies, and governing biodiversity and drawing inspiration from nature.
Director: Luc Abbadie
The Heritage Observatory (OPUS) promotes a broad, innovative and operational field through a synergy of scientific, pedagogical and heritage resources of the Sorbonne University Alliance. The Observatory, using different approaches and tools, links objects, specialities, temporalities, to the concept of heritage (cultural and natural).
The complementary nature of the Sorbonne University Alliance's scientific expertise in these heritage issues, as well as the extraordinary range of expertise and technical resources available to it, is a major asset in terms of research, the dissemination of knowledge, and the management, conservation and promotion of collections.
It has identified four main areas of research: to deal with heritage objects in all their diversity; to cultivate an interdisciplinary approach, to keep an active watch on the evolution of the concept of heritage and the phenomena of the preservation of heritage; and to affirm the social usefulness of the Alliance's work.
Director: Nathalie Ginoux
An interdisciplinary institute to meet the major scientific, industrial and societal challenges of materials science.
Materials are at the heart of important sectors of the economy and ubiquitous in society. The Sorbonne University Materials Science Institute encourages innovation, an interdisciplinary approach and both basic and applied research on materials to help meet the major societal and economic challenges.
The Sorbonne University Alliance brings together major players in the field of materials. The Institute’s missions consist in strengthening their collaborations by supporting ambitious research projects, by promoting new interdisciplinary education and by developing international exchanges with academic and industrial circles, thus participating actively in the international influence of the Alliance.
The Institute's field of activity covers current and prospective research in materials science, at the interface of several disciplines: chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. In the field of energy and sustainable development, themes can include the production and storage of energy or the life cycle of materials. Bio-assisted synthesis, optimized or targeted for specific properties and the functionalization of surfaces are relevant examples for the industrial and health fields. The institute is also interested in the new fundamental properties of hybrid, functional, or reduced dimensional materials and the devices that can emerge from them. Finally, developments in materials engineering and innovative study techniques and methods naturally constitute the Institute's themes.
Director: Abhay Shukla
The Sorbonne University Alliance’s Institut de la mer (Sea Institute), in association with the French Navy and naval school, brings together marine and maritime sciences.
Challenges and impacts:
Marine and maritime sciences play an important role in a range of fronts of knowledge and economic and societal issues: sustainable development, food, energy, geostrategy...
Relying on a large number of laboratories and the Alliance’s five marine stations, the Institut de la Mer assembles a strategic set of disciplinary fields and skills, conducive to the emergence of new concepts, innovative projects and unexpected synergies.
The institute studies the sea as part of the history of the Earth, life and society. This approach is undertaken for analyses of the sea at different time scales and periods (geological, prehistoric, historical, current) and is a firmly original aspect of the institute, made possible in large part thanks to the diverse components that make up the Alliance.
The Institut de la mer also centers on the specificities of marine and coastal environments in terms of risks and adaptations to global changes. This subject is at once topical and near inescapable in many disciplines, which require a transdisciplinary approach that takes into account the oceanic and coastal specificities of impacts as well as the notion of marine biomes, maritime geopolitics and marine traffic.This will involve studying the expansion of marine and maritime traffic in all its forms—ships, people and cultures, goods, pandemics, species, etc. in the Mediterranean region— and their ecological and geopolitical implications, such as the issues of appropriation and exploitation of the oceans, which may become the source of tomorrow's conflicts.
Directors: François Lallier, Olivier Chahine, Sylvie Dufour
Missions and objectives
The Quantum Information Centre Sorbonne (QICS) is an institute gathering the knowledge and skills in the Alliance Sorbonne Université on quantum information, mainly in computer science and physics, but also in mathematics and human sciences. Its scientific scope is Quantum Information — quantum computing and quantum communications —, as well as its impact in other fields.
Born in the 1980’s, quantum information has shown that basing computers and communications on quantum physics could dramatically improve their performance or achieve result previously thought to be impossible. With many industries around the world possibly impacted by even limited quantum machines, a race has started for research results and for talents both for software and hardware.
The QICS, opening in 2020, builds on the unique set of knowledge and skills from fundamental computer science to quantum physics, experimental demonstrations of quantum advantage, social, economic and philosophical studies of digital technologies present within the Alliance Sorbonne Université. The QICS is dedicated to intensifying experimental – theoretical research and engineering interactions along with exploring societal implications of this new way to treat information. This includes increased teaching efforts in this field and raise of awareness and collaboration within the innovation and industrial ecosystems.
General objectives of the Centre can be summarized as:
- Trigger research excellence and collaborative works among Alliance Sorbonne Université
- Develop a consistent teaching curriculum, from undergraduate to doctoral studies and continuing education.
- Outreach toward the general public, other scientific areas, and industries.
To do so, QICS identified 3 main actions:
Animate the QI community
- hosting two doctoral contract per year
- organizing predoctoral schools, seminars, workshop
- inviting professors
- answering to calls/hosting grants
To be involved in the teaching programs
- constituting a teaching commission
- creating a Quantum information PhD student community
- integrating QI related teaching everywhere in SU
To build bridges between academia, the general public and the business world
- supporting technology transfer and link with industry
- developing continuing education
- and any other action that would be relevant for our community
- hardware and software development of quantum computing and simulation
- hardware and software development of quantum communications
- theoretical investigation of the foundations of the quantum advantage
- impact of Quantum Information in other fields, from classical cryptography to humanities and economic implications.
Directors : Nicolas Treps & Fréderic Grosshans
Initiative for Biology: i-Bio, for interdisciplinary research in Biology
Biological research has evolved considerably over the past decade in its practices, discoveries and implications in and for society. Research now covers all scales of time and space, and aims to understand living things in their entirety and history. Biology is becoming nanometric, quantitative but also integrative. It is now a question of covering the changes in scale, and of understanding the emerging properties of the constituent elements of living organisms via their interactions with each other and the environment. The stakes are particularly high in the fields of evolution and biodiversity of organisms, the stochasticity and robustness of biological processes, the phenomena of adaptation and plasticity in the face of a changing environment, and the emergence and dynamics of biological networks. To meet these challenges, biology requires input from other disciplines.
The i-Bio initiative is part of this research dynamic. It aims to promote the exploration of fundamental biological questions through the application of approaches and/or concepts from other disciplines, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering and computer science. Teams from the fundamental biology group within the Paris-Seine Biology Institute and the Fer à Moulin Institute are leading this initiative.
Its four-year program includes doctoral contracts, support for transdisciplinary research projects, the recruitment of new teams and active scientific animation through seminars, colloquia and summer school programs. By promoting new collaborations and attracting new talents, i-Bio will help make the fundamental biology center of the Pierre-et-Marie Curie campus of Sorbonne University a leading site for the study of biological systems.
The Biodiversity, Evolution, Ecology and Society Initiative (IBEES) aims to stimulate and strengthen the organization of fundamental research activities and academic programs for the scientific community.
Highly interdisciplinary, IBEES is made up of a thousand scientists working in approximately twenty research units in the fields of evolutionary science, ecology, earth sciences and human-environment relations, all considerably diverse and diachronic.
IBEES contributes to a truly interdisciplinary spirit by using their unique research approach to connect natural sciences with humanities and social sciences.
Through the reinforcement of the Bachelor's and Master's minors it already offers, and by relying on doctoral and postdoctoral programs, IBEES wishes to illuminate the blind spots of current research, at the multiscale interfaces between various units and disciplines. In order to do so, it relies on help from existing foundations such as the CNRS Ecology and Environment Partnership Schemes of the *MNHN and Sorbonne University (DIPEE) and from the experience of the BCDiv *LabEx, until recently restricted to the MNHN site but now open to all interested teams in the Sorbonne University Alliance.
Director: Anthony Herrel
*MNHN: the French National Museum of Natural History
*Laboratoire d’Excellence, a prestigious status that indicates selection in the French Government’s Future Investments program
Overview and objectives:
The Theater Initiative is a transdisciplinary initiative that arranges and links together activities related to theater and live performance within the Sorbonne University Alliance.
Challenges and impacts:
The Initiative promotes actions and events that help people to think about theater and stagecraft and their place in society. The Theater Initiative’s role is to develop and maintain partnerships with academic and theatrical institutions dedicated to the performing arts, and to organize the cultural dissemination of the project's themes in the form of symposiums, conferences, exhibitions, installations, performances, and publications.
Coordinated by Elisabeth Angel-Perez, professor of English literature (theater), and Andrea Fabiano, professor of Italian literature and culture, this initiative, in partnership with the Interdisciplinary Research Program on Theater and Staging Practices (PRITEPS), brings together researchers specializing in theater and the performing arts (literature experts, linguists, comparatists, musicologists and historians). The initiative is interested in both contemporary theatrical innovations and the exploration of ancient dramaturgy.
The Theater Initiative will develop structured methods of reflection around theater and stagecraft and the professions associated with them (acting, staging, lighting, musical composition, translation, etc.)
Central to the scientific project is research on reflections about theater and the city, which is divided into three focal points:
- Theater and memory (heritage, transmission, translation.)
- Performing arts and political engagement (theater and community, actors/actresses and representativeness, theater venues.)
- Theater and music (rituals, entertainment, musicals, opera.)
Directors: Elisabeth Angel-Perez and Andrea Fabiano
Overview and objectives:
The Health Economics initiative will develop synergies between several Sorbonne University communities, in particular the Faculty of Medicine, the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health (iPLESP), the Compiègne University of Technology (UTC) and the European Business Institute (INSEAD).
Challenges and impacts:
The study of the intersections between economic and medical sciences can address major societal challenges. For example, it can contribute to the establishment of a sustainable health system by studying the mechanisms around drug pricing regulations (price adjustments when a new therapeutic use is identified for treatments already on the market, for example.) It can also lead to the improvement of treatments via the integration of new approaches, notably from behavioral economics (for example, by integrating neurobiology and behavioral economics models to better understand mechanisms of self-control and improve the effectiveness of weight loss operations.)
This initiative will make it possible to structure research around health-related issues (pathologies, treatments, prevention) that have an economic, financial or managerial aspect. For example, the initiative could facilitate collaboration between iPLESP and INSEAD on drug pricing or between the Brain Institute and INSEAD on dietary behavior.
One of the objectives of the initiative is to create new fields of knowledge out of collaborations between disciplines that until now have remained compartmentalized despite shared topics.
Director: Alexandra Roulet
Overview and objectives:
The Gender Initiative, backed by PHILOMEL—an interdisciplinary program on gender, will contribute, from within Sorbonne University to the development of educational and scientific initiatives related to gender issues. The objectives of the Gender Initiative center on communication, education and research.
The Gender Initiative contributes to ensuring links between its members and highlighting the various initiatives related to gender (available courses, research programs, research teams, potential directors, seminars, cultural events, conferences, etc.).
Its goal is to promote, transdisciplinary ‘gender’ courses across all three faculties starting from the second year of the bachelor’s, transdisciplinary exchanges between master’s students, and an environment for transdisciplinary doctoral research on gender by establishing, among others, a Doctoral Program on gender and other specific doctoral contracts.
The Gender Initiative is also designed to develop an interdisciplinary dynamic around gender issues by supporting and encouraging the emergence of transdisciplinary research projects on gender at the Sorbonne University level.
Several transdisciplinary projects are already in operation, with others under development. These include:
- ‘A sociological approach to the place of female students in physics and biology studies’ (transdisciplinary science and humanities.)
- ‘Gender and authority’ (transdisciplinary both within the humanities and between the humanities and medicine.)
- ‘Trans identities in the Middle Ages’ (transdisciplinary in litterature, history and the arts.)
- ‘Heritage and transmission’ (developed, among others, by ‘Les Jaseuses,’ a multidisciplinary group of doctoral students and young researchers.)
Directors: Anne Tomiche, Frédéric Regard
The Biomedical Humanities Initiative offers an interdisciplinary approach to issues related to medicine and health. It forms part of a long tradition of exchange between, on the one hand, disciplines relating to the humanities (philosophy, literature, sociology, cultural anthropology, history and art history) and, on the other, medicine, understood here as "art at the crossroads of several sciences" (G. Canguilhem)— anatomy, physiology, biology, or even chemistry. The initiative intends to strengthen this dialogue through work that balances both historical and critical perspectives:
- By integrating the contributions of disciplines such as law, economics, information and communication sciences.
- By mobilizing Sorbonne University’s heritage resources (Dupuytren collection, Charcot Archives etc.)
- By prioritizing interdisciplinary research at the national and international levels (via partnerships with Stanford University and their Medicine and the Muse center, the University of Montreal, and the University of Geneva.)
Four areas of research are currently in development:
- On the history of representations of the body, health, illness, and physician and patient relationships using resources from history, literature, philosophy and art history. The aim here is to question the evolution of care practices, and to develop projects dedicated to observing practices (sociology, anthropology.)
- On the evolution of tools and techniques, such as questioning the conservation techniques for anatomical remains or data collection related to health and the body (biomarkers, databases,) and researching the challenges of introducing artificial intelligence and digital technologies in the health sector.
- On the ethics of biomedical research, including doctor-patient ethics, the challenges of conducting surveys on the quality of life of patients, the issue of access to care, the relationships between different social environments, the state of health (physical and mental) of individuals and populations in the workplace, and justice theories as applied to health.
- On new methods of disseminating and communicating information on diseases and health, their role in the prevention of diseases and in ‘therapeutic education’ of patients (such as the ‘expert patient’) and the growing feeling of mistrust of medicine.
Directors: Claire Crignon, Renaud Debailly, Alexandre Ecargueil, Emmanuel Fournier
Read our interview with Claire Crignon
Overview and objectives:
The principal pillars of this initiative have been explored over a long period time that is neither limited to the contemporary period nor European construction. The initiative will highlight foundational concepts on interculturality, in particular everything related to circulation, networks and transfers.
This initiative was established in close collaboration with the Encyclopedia of Digital History of Europe (EHNE), which is part of the LabEx of the same name. A bilingual French/English encyclopedia, EHNE attracts more than 1,500 visitors every day and brings together 70 international researcher-authors who have written more than 400 pieces on the following themes: Material Civilization, Epistemology of Politics, European Humanism, Europe, Europeans and the World, Wars and Traces of War, Gender and Europe, Art in Europe, Education, Teaching and Training, Ecology and the Environment, and Migration in Europe.
Director: Olivier Dard
Overview and objectives:
The initiative on ‘Mastering safe and sustainable technology systems' is designed to build and animate a community around research on systems created by humans and intended for our own use. Its scientific objectives center on the understanding of the functioning of technological systems, considered in all their complexity, but also their production systems, their designs, controls, diagnostics and lifespans.
Challenges and impacts:
The goal of this research is to contribute to the improvement or creation of economically and socially acceptable technology systems, capable of protecting against voluntary acts that seek to harm them and respectful of the environment and of people. This is in terms of their design, realization, use and end of life. For this, it requires the development of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches based on the hybridization of knowledge and practices.
The concepts of safety and sustainability will be central to the work of the initiative, and must be understood in a broad sense, with interdisciplinary integration. For example, safety can identify and address the need for a technology system to be reliable, maintainable, available and secure, as well as the need to ensure that it cannot adversely affect humans. For its part, sustainability can refer to the maintenance, over time, of the functional character of the technology system, as well as to the minimization of human and environmental costs over its entire life cycle, with particular concern for the preservation of natural resources.
Director: Jérôme Favergeon
Overview and objectives:
The Physics of the infinite initiative has the goal to organise and promote top educational programs for Sorbonne University students at the intersection between two flagship fields bringing together ten laboratories: high-energy physics (particle physics, cosmology) and plasma physics.
Challenges and impacts:
From understanding elementary physical processes to the laws governing how complex systems function; from fundamental research (such as astrophysical objects or interactions between particles) to applied research with a strong societal impact (for example the environment or medicine), the initiative will provide a better understanding of phenomena whose properties range from the infinitely small (particle physics) to the infinitely large (physics of the Universe.)
The initiative will capitalize on the diversity of approaches of the laboratories involved (such as theory, modeling, development of nanosatellites, experiments on large instruments including terrestrial and astronomical observatories, particle accelerators, high-intensity or electron lasers and ion beams) to provide research programs ranging from master's to the post-doctoral level. In particular, the initiative will rely on scientific excellence and on the interdisciplinary appraoch of its research laboratories to develop a unifying and ambitious doctoral and post-doctoral program, in conjunction with doctoral schools. It will also carry out scientific dissemination actions (the development of MOOCs) and communication aimed at the general public (conference cycles).
Directors: Christophe Balland, Thierry Dufour
Visit the initiative’s website
Overview and objectives:
This initiative assembles research and education strengths within the Sorbonne University Alliance that pertain to Sciences of Antiquity.
It aims to provide students with the opportunity, given the richness of the pedagogical program, to follow a path that corresponds to their interests and professional projects. Innovative educational methods will introduce them to digital humanities and modern sciences as applied to archaeology and the study of ancient documents, while providing them with a solid foundation of knowledge in source languages, history, literature, philosophy and the history of art. In a university where teachers and researchers are geographically dispersed, it is fundamental to create an intellectual community by establishing bridges between research structures, doctoral schools and university departments. The initiative therefore also aims to bring together strengths dedicated to the study of Antiquity with a view to opening up transdisciplinary approaches. This will enable them to access funding for education or research projects; for invitations to foreign colleagues, for doctoral and post-doctoral contracts, and for new forms of publication.
The objective of the initiative is also to increase the employability of our students, by providing them with training that better corresponds to today's needs in terms of research and preservation of knowledge and heritage, both intangible and tangible.
Knowledge of the works of antiquity to which we have access and of the people who created them requires us to take into account a series of insights and discoveries that have developed over the last few decades, developing into disciplines in their own right. Anyone working in the science of antiquity must possess a certain familiarity with a large number of methodological and analytical tools in order to reconcile the specialization that is required for high-level research with an understanding of ancient societies as a whole.
This necessary openness is based on an obvious transdisciplinary approach: despite the separations imposed by university structures and curricula, the study of Antiquity extends through history, literature, art history, history of science, archaeology and philosophy as well as epigraphy, papyrology, paleography or numismatics, which are often considered as auxiliary sciences, ignored by non-specialists. Only an inclusive approach will be able to show the whole of our student population, and more generally our contemporary society, what we can still learn from Antiquity.
Director: Alessandro Garcea
The molecular scale finds itself at the center of many disciplines: chemistry, physics, biology, medicine, geosciences and others. Our goal is to strengthen the impact of Sorbonne University Alliance research by strengthening resources across a selection of projects that involve multiple molecular science and engineering skills.
Challenges and impacts:
The molecule corresponds to the elementary and organisational scale of matter, from the atom to the nano-object, and is therefore at the crossroads of many scientific concerns and primordial societal issues such as health, energy, the environment, information, all in the context of a circular economy. Indeed, all major experimental scientific disciplines rely heavily on molecular properties to analyze, understand, reproduce and manipulate the complexity of matter.
A multidisciplinary approach at the molecular level is essential to meeting major scientific challenges around fundamental or applied questions such as biomimicry, artificial photosynthesis, the cosmic origins of the molecular bricks of life; artificial life, storage and transmission, molecular and supramolecular information, catalysis, theoretical modelling of complex molecular assemblies, molecular machines and more.
Director: Matthieu Sollogoubz
Read our interview with Mattieu Sollogoubz