Scientific Watch N°18 - From 28/8/2016 to 09/9/2016

Please find every other two weeks a small Scientific Watch regarding cultural and scientific activities in France. [2016-N°18 - From 28/8/2016to 09/9/2016]

From 28/8/2016 to 09/9/2016

Editors :

Gabriel BENET, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Julie METTA, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Justin MONIER, Scientific Officer - Hong Kong

Frédéric BRETAR, Attaché for Scientific & Academic Affairs - Hong Kong

Contact :




1- Energy & Environment

1.1- 3 French islands launched a new energy transition plan

Ouessant, Molène and Sein are three islands on the French west coast which are not connected to the mainland electricity network. On Tuesday September 6, 2016 they have all simultaneously released an ambitious energy transition plan targeting to supply 100 % of their energy consumption with renewable energies sources by 2030 .

Original article published on the Technique de l’Inégieur website, September 7, 2016. Source

1.2- DACCIWA : better understanding the impacts of pollution in West Africa

With an exploding population, massive urbanization and uncontrolled deforestation, West Africa is faced with major change, which could see anthropogenic pollution increase threefold between 2000 and 2030. What impact will this have on public health and ecosystems, as well as on the weather and climate? This is the issue addressed by the European DACCIWA program (Dynamics-aerosol-chemistry-cloud interactions in West Africa) which brings together 16 partners, including CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Université Paris Diderot and Université Blaise Pascal - Clermont-Ferrand 2. It will eventually make it possible to improve weather and climate forecasting in this little-studied region. With a major airborne and ground-based measurement campaign carried out in early summer, the program has delivered its first results, showing in particular that a large proportion of the pollution comes from open landfills.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, 30 august 2016. Source

1.3- Convergences World Forum 2016 : Inventing tomorrow’s sustainable cities and territories

IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, French Research Institute for Development) is a partner of the 9th Convergences World Forum "Inventing tomorrow’s sustainable cities and territories" , that will be held from 5th to 7th september 2016 in Paris.
Convergences is the first platform for thought in Europe that aims at building new convergences between public, private, and solidarity-based actors to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the development of a “Zero Exclusion, Zero Carbon, Zero Poverty” world.
More information on the following website

1.4- Characterizing, modelling and understanding the climate variability in Mediterranean Sea

Observing, modelling and understanding the climate-scale variability of the deep water formation (DWF) in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea remains today very challenging. In this study, French researchers first characterize the interannual variability of this phenomenon by a thorough reanalysis of observations in order to establish reference time series. These quantitative indicators include 31 observed years for the yearly maximum mixed layer depth over the period 1980–2013 and a detailed multi-indicator description of the period 2007–2013. In press to be published in Climate Dynamics (0930-7575) (Springer Nature).

Original article published on the Ifremer’s website, 27 august 2016. Source

1.5- Innovative markets for sustainable agriculture

How innovations in market institutions encourage sustainable agriculture in developing countries. Between 2013 and 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) undertook a survey of innovative approaches that enable markets to act as incentives in the transition towards sustainable agriculture in developing countries. Through a competitive selection process, 15 cases from around the world provide insights into how small-scale initiatives that use sustainable production practices are supported by market demand, and create innovations in the institutions that govern sustainable practices and market exchanges. The book can be consulted on the FAO website

Original article published on the Inra’s website, 22 august 2016. Source


2- Health & Society

2.1- Placenta in females, muscle mass in males : the dual heritage of a virus

It was already known that genes inherited from ancient retroviruses are essential to the placenta in mammals, a finding to which scientists in the Laboratoire Physiologie et Pathologie Moléculaires des Rétrovirus Endogènes et Infectieux (CNRS/Université Paris-Sud) contributed. Today, the same scientists2 have revealed a new chapter in this astonishing story: these genes of viral origin may also be responsible for the more developed muscle mass seen in males! Their findings are published on 2 September 2016 in PLOS Genetics.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, 02 september 2016. Source


3- Research and Education

3.1- Caffeine and its analogues revert memory deficits by normalizing stress responses in the brain

The study coordinated by Portuguese researchers from Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM Lisboa) and collaborators from Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) in Lille, France, along with teams from Germany and United States, showed that the abnormal expression of a particular receptor – the adenosine A2A, target for caffeine – in the brain of rats induces an aging-like profile namely memory impairments linked to the loss of stress controlling mechanisms. This study was published on the journal Scientific Reports from Nature on the August 11th, 2016.

Original article published on the Inserm’s website, August 30 2016. Source

3.2- A new gene responsible for acute epilepsy

A laboratory team from the “Laboratoire Biologie neurovasculaire et mitochondriale intégrée (University of Angers / Inserm / CNRS) has discovered a new gene (UBA5) responsible for a severe form of epilepsy with intellectual disability among children. This study has been just published in the American Journal of HumanGenetics.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, August 31 2016. Source

3.3- Alzheimer’s: nicotinic receptors as a new therapeutic target

Several scientific studies have indicated that nicotine may be beneficial for memory function. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS set out to shed further light on the properties attributed to nicotine – which is known to have an adverse effect on health – by determining the precise structure of the nicotinic receptors in the hippocampus region of the brain. Using mouse models for Alzheimer’s disease, they identified the β2 subunit of the nicotinic receptor as a target that, if blocked, prevents the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s. These results were published in Neurobiology of Aging on August 12, 2016.

Original article published on the Institut Pasteur website, August 29 2016. Source

3.4- A new approach for deciphering complex immune responses

The response to infection is highly variable from one individual to another. The Milieu Intérieur consortium, coordinated by Prof. Matthew Albert (Immunobiology of dendritic cells Unit, Institut Pasteur / Inserm) and Dr Lluis Quintana-Murci (Human Evolutionary Genetics Unit, Institut Pasteur / CNRS) seeks to establish the parameters that characterize the immune system of healthy individuals and its natural variability. In a study just published (August 25th) in Cell Reports, the researchers describe a new approach for analyzing the inflammatory response at the gene expression level in blood samples from healthy individuals, which reproduces the conditions of in vivo stimulation.

Original article published on the Institut Pasteur website, August 26 2016. Source

3.5- France Education System downgraded by the QS ranking 2016 - 2017

France is stepping back one place in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings moving down from the 5th place to the 6th. Among the French leader universities, the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) is dropping 10 places from the 23rd place last year to the 33rd place in 2016 and follow the same trend as the “École polytechnique” (40th to the 53rd) and the University Pierre-et-Marie-Curie (137th to 141st). Overall, France is losing 3 institutions reducing from 20 to 17 (University Paul-Sabatier Toulouse-III, University Aix-Marseille and the “Institut national des sciences appliquées de Lyon (INSA)”) the number of institutions ranked in the top 400 worldwide.
QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2016 - 2017

Original article published on, September 2016. Source

3.6- Neutrons useful to understand the secret of extremophile bacteria

Halomonas organisms are able to survive in very hostile and salty environments. To do so, they are able to accumulate ectoine molecule to compensate fluctuations of salt concentrations. Neutron scattering experiments have helped to explain how ectoin allows these bacteria to survive. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, this study have been made possible by a collaboration of researchers mainly from the Laue-Langevin Institute, CNRS, CEA, UGA, the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and the biotechnology company Bitop.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, September 05 2016. Source

3.7- Experimental characterization of extreme events of inertial dissipation in a turbulent swirling flow

Researchers from the CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) and CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) have developed a new experimental approach to study the energy dissipation in the turbulent motions in a viscous liquid. In their experiment, described in the journal Nature Communications published on August 31, the team has showed the presence of several types of rare intense energy dissipation events independent of the viscosity.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, 31 August 2016. Source

3.8- Oldest galaxies of the universe

Through a unique combination of observations made by the largest telescopes in the world, an international collaboration led by researchers from the CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) has detected the most distant galaxy cluster ever discovered in the Universe. Back 11.5 billion years in the past of the Universe, the picture of this cluster shows 17 galaxies growing. These achievements are the result of a successful collaboration between the CEA, the Institute of Millimeter Radio Astronomy (IRAM), the CNRS and the Paris Diderot university. Their work is published in the journal The Astrophysical.

Original article published on the CNRS’ website, August 30, 2016. Source


4- Technology & Transport

4.1- World’s first driverless bus service begins carrying passengers in French city of Lyon

The world’s first driverless bus service began carrying passengers in the French city of Lyon this weekend, attracting curious onlookers keen to photograph the vehicles.Two electric minibuses with a capacity of 15 passengers each are now operating a 10-minute route with five stops in the city centre at an average speed of 6 miles (10 km) per hour.

Original article published on the Telegraph’s website, September 03, 2016. Source

4.2- A new factory for PSA in China

The French car manufacturer PSA Peugeot-Citroën has inaugurated on September 7, 2016, a new factory in Chengdu (China) with its local partner DongFeng. With a final production capacity of 300,000 vehicles, including the new 4008, PSA hope to set up in new market shares, especially in the SUV (Sport utility vehicle) segment.

Original article published on the Usine Nouvelle’s website, Septembre 07, 2016. Source

publié le 12/09/2016

top of the page