Every year since 2009, Inserm launches in partnership with the CNRS a call for proposals aimed at enabling young researchers to create and lead a team within an Inserm or CNRS research center, making the ATIP-Avenir Program a veritable springboard for their careers.
With Christian Boitard, Program Scientific Manager and Director of the Physiopathology, Metabolism, Nutrition Thematic Institute, we take a look back over the previous decade.
Ten years after its creation, what can you say about the ATIP-Avenir Program?
Christian Boitard: Every year, we receive applications from 150 young researchers, 30 to 40% of whom are women. From these we select twenty. Reserved for holders of PhDs obtained 2 to 10 years ago, the program requires mobility: the project must be developed in a laboratory other than that of the PhD or postdoctorate. It is one of the rare initiatives funding exploratory research in France, a veritable springboard for recruitment to a researcher post and for obtaining prestigious funding. Where this joint Inserm and CNRS Institute of Biological Sciences program differs is that evaluations are performed by an external jury, for the most part comprised of foreign scientists and whose panels are along the lines of those of the European Research Council (ERC) program, created in 2007. It therefore broadens the fields of recruitment in relation to those who generally perform specialized commissions. Finally, it is an open program, with 30 to 50% of the recruited candidates being from outside France.
What are the benefits for the researchers?
C. B.: In addition to the resources for starting their research, they also receive follow-up – from the evaluation panel through to the establishment of their contracts and of their team – thanks to Christiane Durieux, ATIP-Avenir Program Coordination Officer. And just one figure suffices to define the caliber of these researchers: this program produces over half of the Inserm researchers who go on to obtain an ERC Starting or Consolidator Grant.
And how do you see the future?
C. B.: The ATIP-Avenir Program is currently in its 10th year. It needs to evolve if it is to continue, because research has changed in the meantime. In terms of the costs involved, there is no comparison with what they were 10 years ago, and the same principle applies to research timelines. The program needs to adapt its funding, possibly in favor of partnerships, and the duration it assigns to the selected research projects.