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Junior professor chairs are slowly rolling out



“Ability to produce research of excellence”, “maintain emblematic scientific projects”,“bringing a disciplinary richness with a desire for openness and decompartmentalization”… Since the spring, job offers have been springing up in universities and research centres: it is a question of finding the rare pearl for junior professorships, the CPJs.

→ IN BRIEF. What the law changes for research

This system, inspired by American “tenure tracks”, was introduced by the 2020 research programming law. end of 2021 and is still ongoing. To these 92 places currently being allocated, the Ministry of Higher Education has just added 135 more, after reviewing requests from establishments.

Positions with a large staffing

The idea? Recruit promising young people, after their doctorate, with a better salary and above all a much better financial endowment for their research (at least €200,000). But instead of tenure in the civil service, these CPJs are for a fixed term, between three and six years.

“It’s a chair, so not just a job, but a whole environment to support a project”, summarizes Olivier Cachard, director of a scientific center at the University of Lorraine. One of the chairs offered by this university concerns the regulation of digital platforms and sovereignty.

“We wanted it, because we want to develop this interdisciplinary line of researchexplains the manager. It is not a matter to mark a position for a pre-identified person. » And, immediately, he shows himselfvery enthusiastic, with very high-level candidates”.

At the end of their contract and after evaluation, CPJ recruits will normally be established as university professors or research directors. The tenure is a little deferred, but it is done directly at the rank of professor”, recalls Olivier Cachard.

Junior teachers… rather senior

For the moment, the evaluation criteria before this changeover remain rather vague. “Undoubtedly the level of articles published, the ability to raise funds and the supervision of young researchers?», assumes Leslie Caron, who applied for a chair in biology. With nearly twenty years of career behind her, the competition for research fellow seemed to her intended for younger candidates. “And it would have been difficult to claim a direct position as a research director, coming from outsidebelieves the specialist, who has spent the last sixteen years abroad. There, it is a good compromise which corresponds to my level. »

In his image, a large part of the candidates seems far from being “juniors”. “The applicants are experienced and have done many postdocs, often with experience abroad”, confirms Olivier Sandre, President of the Scientific Council of the CNRS Institute of Chemistry. Irene Teixidor-Toneu, ethnobotanist at the Natural History Museum of Norway, is one of them. “This kind of very interdisciplinary position is quite rare, with significant funding? and both research and teaching”, she justifies.

“Go ahead” of other recruits

These new recruits will have to provide between 28 and 64 hours of lessons per year, depending on the position and the establishment. Clearly less than lecturers, but more than CNRS research fellows, for whom teaching is not compulsory. The flagship of French research opened 25 chairs this spring. “CPJs will not affect the employment cap, said human resources director Hugues de La Giraudière. In 2022, the CNRS will recruit 250 researchers as every year since 2019, and will also offer these 25 chairs. »

“We are taking these additional positions, of course, but we are still wondering about the futurereplies Olivier Sander. Will this new way of recruitment develop to the detriment of traditional career paths? Will there be fewer research positions open in the coming years to absorb these chairs? » Like him, many lecturers are worried about seeing their careers hampered by these appointments that will pass under their noses.

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Two lanes, five bodies

Teacher-researcher sidethere are two bodies of civil servants: lecturer, then university professor.

Research sidethe two bodies are in charge of research, then director of research.

Junior Professor Chairs, introduced by the 2020 research programming law, exist in both ways. These are fixed-term contracts of three to six years, which should then lead to tenure at the ranks of university professor or research director.

In 2022, 135 junior professorships are open. In 2021, 92 places had been.

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