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Chaire 2020-2021 "Changements sociétaux majeurs": Transition environnementale / IA

2020-2021 Chair “Major Societal Changes”. Environmental transition / AI

Sorbonne University – Paris IAS research Chair on “Major Societal Changes”.

Impacts and ethical dimensions of environmental transition and artificial intelligence

In partnership with Sorbonne University, the Paris Institute for Advanced Study is offering a 10-month chair or two 5-month chairs for high level international researchers in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) during the academic year 2020-2021.

The Sorbonne University – Paris IAS Chair gives a researcher the possibility to work on an innovative project advancing knowledge on the societal impacts and ethical dimensions of major, global changes, more specifically environmental transition or artificial intelligence. S/he will benefit from the outstanding work conditions and the scientific environment of the Paris IAS, and will collaborate chiefly with Sorbonne University’s research teams and Interdisciplinary Institutes

Deadline for applications: Wednesday, June 12th, 2019, 3:00 pm (Paris, CEU time)

Applicants may request either

- a 10-month fellowship from September 1st 2020 to June 30th 2021;

- or a 5-month fellowship from September 1st 2020 to January 31st 2021;

- or a 5-month fellowship from February 1st to June 31st 2021.


Societies facing major changes:

impacts and ethical dimensions of environmental transition

and artificial intelligence

This research chair focused on the humanities and social sciences (HSS) but with an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral dimension, aims to address two major societal challenges: the environmental transition and the growing importance of digital technologies and artificial intelligence. These challenges will be studied through their impacts (social, economic, political, health...) and the ethical issues they raise.

The notion of environmental transition, beyond environmental changes as such, refers to how societies will be able to position themselves to anticipate these changes, and adapt to them instead of merely undergoing them. The upheavals concern the urban territories, where environmental issues and issues of social justice and governance are closely linked, as much as the rural areas, which participate fully in the overall socio-economic ecosystem of societies. They also strongly affect extreme or “critical” environments, which are very vulnerable, with major consequences for plant or animal species, the economic and cultural pillars of local societies and the “sentinels” of ecosystems, as well as the human activities that take place there.

In this area, the program welcomes all projects with a strong HSS component aiming at improving the understanding of the varied and systemic impacts of environmental changes (on resources, biodiversity, social cohesion, public health, etc.), developing prospective scenarios on the short- and long-term resilience capacities of societies, as well as measuring the ethical issues of human practices and policies (development of evaluation grids and indicators) to reduce the magnitude of the upheavals or allow us to adapt.

Digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) are products of a political, social and economic context that favored their emergence and the strong acceleration of their development. In return, they have a major effect on this context: they deeply modify social practices, lifestyles, inter-individual and institutional relations (citizenship and democracy) and have the potential to radically upset the economic organization (forms of work, business models). It has become imperative and urgent to analyze and anticipate the multiple impacts of AI and to think about the conditions that are necessary for its regulation, taking into account the ethical dimensions of innovative practices and ideas, as well as those of mechanisms of management and support of innovation, beyond mere technological opportunities.

These questions call for transdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches, better able to grasp the entanglement of the social, legal, economic, political, technical and philosophical logics involved in this technological upheaval. Proposed projects should take into account the complexity and systemic nature of the phenomena studied and aim at both building new knowledge on AI and providing society with instruments to control the rapid changes it produces.

On each of the two main themes mentioned above, the goal of the Sorbonne University – Paris IAS Chair on "Major Societal Changes" is to provide society with knowledge and solutions that are useful for taking action, while questioning the boundary between basic and applied research. It promotes participatory approaches in which social actors (ordinary citizens, public institutions, economic actors, NGOs) are considered as partners in research, because of the relevance of their knowledge -be it traditional, hybrid or technical- for the construction of research objects and methodologies, but also with a view to empower citizens to better understand the challenges and act upon them.

Research on the societal impacts of major changes should therefore also be an opportunity to reflect on the impacts of research itself, including the acceptability of change by citizens and the implementation of accompanying and regulatory policies (nudges and legislations) by territorial, state or transnational institutions.

The Chair offers international researchers in HSS a 10-month research fellowship at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study, in order to develop innovative research in conjunction with the Sorbonne University laboratories and more generally with the scientific and economic fabric of the Paris area, one of the densest in Europe. The stay at the IEA guarantees the constitution of scientific collaborations of excellence and academic visibility of the results obtained.


During the stay, the holder of the Chair is expected to give lectures as well as to organize an international interdisciplinary conference in Paris on themes related to the research project, in collaboration with the research teams and Interdisciplinary Institutes at Sorbonne Université.

S/he will will benefit from the help of the institute to set up innovative mechanisms to enable citizens to participate in research and to disseminate the results.

At the end of the fellowship, the holder of the Chair must write at least one research report which will be made public.


Researchers from all countries are eligible.

Applicants who have spent more than a total of 12 months in France during the 3 years prior to the application are not eligible.

This call for applications is open to:

- Senior university professors or researchers holding a position in a university or research institution or emeritus and having a minimum of 10 years of full time research experience after their PhD (at the time of the application). To be considered a senior, the applicant must have received her/his PhD before April 1st 2009.

- Junior scholars having the status of postdoctoral researcher or holding a position in a university or research institution, and having a minimum of 2 and maximum of 9 years of research experience after the PhD. To be eligible and considered a junior, the applicant must have received her/his PhD between April 1st 2009 and April 1st 2017.

The institute is bilingual. Knowledge of English is required. The applicants are also expected to understand written and spoken French, as scientific and social activities are held in French and English.


The main criteria of selection are:

  • the scientific excellence of the project and its innovative character;
  • the transdisciplinary and intersectoral potential of the research;
  • the career path of the applicant;
  • the quality of the scientific contacts of the applicant in France, and the applicant’s capacity to collaborate with colleagues from Sorbonne University.

We advise the applicants to state explicitly why their project is innovative, and what its potential impacts in other disciplines and sectors are.


The application, in English, must be submitted via an online application system (https://paris-iea.fr/, see the guide "How to apply"). Paper or e-mail applications are not accepted.

The application consists of the following items:

  • the completed application form;
  • a curriculum vitae (10 pages maximum) including a list of publications and a list of the 5 publications considered as most important by the applicant;
  • a detailed research proposal (25 000 characters maximum, spaces included. This count does not include the bibliography). The proposal should include :
    • theme
    • state of the art in the field, innovative character of the proposal
    • theoretical  framework and methodology
    • expected outcomes and impact
    • work planning, timescales
    • existing or planned scientific cooperation and contacts in Sorbonne University and in France
    • bibliography (books and articles cited);
  • two summaries of the research project (1500 characters maximum for each, spaces included): one for an audience of specialists of the field of research, and one for the general public;
  • a letter of cooperation with one or more research teams of Sorbonne University, signed by a member of the team. The letter must state the nature of the planned collaboration;
  • a list of four topics (two of them at least related to the theme of the research proposal) on which the applicant could give a lecture during the fellowship;
  • in the case of Junior Fellows (2 to 9 years after the PhD at the time of the application), two letters of recommendation;


Application deadline: Wednesday, June 12th, 2019, 3:00 pm (Paris, France time)

Preselection: June 2019

Final selection and notification of results: December 2019

Starting dates of the chair:

            - September 1st 2020 for a 10-month chair

            - September 1st 2020 or February 1st 2021 for a 5-month chair


The holder of the Sorbonne University - Paris IAS Chair on “Major Societal Changes” benefits from all the advantages the Paris IAS provides its fellows, among which housing in Paris, a monthly remuneration (or complement of remuneration) and the payment of the round-trip ticket to Paris.


The Paris IAS provides apartments in the Pavillon Victor Lyon at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris. This building, locate in a park and entirely refurbished, offers 2- to 5-room apartments, a conference room and other services. Depending on the availability of the apartments at the pavillon, other housing options might be offered to the successful applicants.

Status and remuneration

The holder of the Chair who maintains a status in her/his home institution benefits from a stipend. When it is not the case, the Paris IAS proposes a short term research contract with salary. In all cases, the remuneration depends on the researcher’s personal and professional situation and on whether s/he continues to receive pay from her/his home institution. The benchmark pay scale corresponds to prevailing standards in French academia.


Travel costs from the fellow’s home to Paris and back are covered by the IAS (economy class).

Support for research

During their stay, the chairholders will have an office with a computer, Internet access, and printer in the premises of the Paris IAS, in the 17th Century historical monument Hôtel de Lauzun. The IAS also provides meeting and conference rooms.

The researcher may receive financial support for her/his work and scientific activities. This includes the organization of events (colloquia, seminars, lectures, etc.), doctoral training, intersectoral workshop and short term invitations of researchers to the IAS. Help for the translation and publication of their research texts can also be proposed.

The Paris IAS and its partner institutions have signed agreements enabling the researcher to enjoy special access and borrowing privileges in the main Paris university-based research libraries. In addition, s/he can have most books and documents delivered directly from the libraries to the institute. 

For additional information:

About the Paris IAS: https://www.paris-iea.fr

About Sorbonne University: http://www.sorbonne-universite.fr/

Contact address for this call: candidature@paris-iea.fr

Simon Luck : candidature@paris-iea.fr
12/06/2019 15:00