In 2019, IRD is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Unique both in terms of its missions and its response model, the Institute will highlight its rich variety of scientific partnerships with countries of the Global South and its latest work to support development through a range of events organised in mainland and overseas France and internationally. The “Research, development and common good: science to support a sustainable world” symposium, organised in Paris on 22 February 2019 under the high patronage of the President of France, marks the beginning of the celebrations.

IRD – the only multidisciplinary public research body dedicated exclusively to scientific cooperation with developing countries in the tropics and the Mediterranean – is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The Institute traces its roots back to 1944, when the Office for Colonial Scientific Research (ORSC) was founded, which became the Office for Overseas Scientific and Technical Research (ORSTOM) in 1953 before finally becoming the Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) in 1998. As such, 2019 also marks IRD’s 20th anniversary in its current form.

Scientific excellence in partnership with others

In around fifty countries in the tropics – in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania – and in the Mediterranean, IRD carries out long-term research as part of an equal scientific partnership with these countries’ own research bodies – the exact opposite of the ‘colonial science’ of the 1940s.

IRD’s very existence is “entirely dedicated to building partner countries’ own higher education and research (HER) capacities. It aims both to contribute to advances in universal science and to meet the needs of these countries’ populations, particularly the most vulnerable,” says Jean-Paul Moatti, CEO of IRD.

IRD co-produces high-quality scientific work to an international standard, which then informs decision-making and public policies. Global health, governance, inequality and poverty, mobility and migration, the climate and global changes, the oceans, natural risks, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, ecosystems and resources are all themes to which IRD takes a multidisciplinary approach.

Contributing to the international development agenda

IRD’s priorities include the implementation – coupled with a critical analysis – of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, with the aim of guiding development policies and addressing the major challenges linked to the global, environmental, economic, social and cultural changes that are affecting the entire planet.

“The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals has significantly boosted interest in ‘sustainability science’, both in the scientific community and beyond,” says Prof. Jean-Paul Moatti, Chief Executive Officer of IRD.

“Sustainability science is notable in particular for the fact that its goals and research topics are primarily derived from the need to tackle the problems that the world, ecosystems and communities face rather than from the specific dynamics of the scientific disciplines whose work it involves. It therefore aims to be intrinsically interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral in its approach, as it focuses on achieving a better understanding of the complex chains of causation that explain the changes and imbalances that eco-socio-systems are currently experiencing, and on producing solutions and innovations that create a pathway towards sustainable development.”

“IRD’s 75th anniversary is therefore an opportunity for our Institute to put itself at the forefront of this science as a driving force and source of momentum for French and French-language research as a whole, particularly among scientists from the South.”

Highlights of the year

A range of events will be organised throughout 2019 in mainland and overseas France and internationally, aimed at IRD staff, the Institute’s partners and the general public. The common theme of the programme is a principle on which the IRD’s missions are founded: scientific knowledge comes from inclusive construction and, in order to contribute effectively to development, it must be designed for the common good. This principle is just as evident in the IRD’s methods of scientific output (partnership research, capacity building, citizen science) as it is in the circulation of scientific information and the social ownership of its advances.

International symposium

International symposium on “Research, development and common good: science to support a sustainable world”

22 february 2019 - Paris

Under the high patronage of the President of the French Republic and under the patronage of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and Unesco, this high-level scientific event aims to demonstrate how research for development has contributed, is contributing and could contribute in the future to the common good, with the guiding theme being discussions on the SDGs between major stakeholders and speakers from the North and the South. A total of 400 participants are expected to attend the symposium, which will take place in the presence of Frédérique Vidal, the French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Annick Girardin, the French Minister of the overseas.

It will bring together academic partners (large research organisations and universities from the Global South and European players in research for development), regional and international institutions, representatives from the business world and NGOs. The debates will feature testimonies from major players in development (in scientific, economic, political and cultural domains), which will highlight some of IRD’s major advances and their impact. 

The event will focus on three key themes: global health, with the example of the fight against malaria; climate change and global changes, with a focus on the water cycle in tropical and Mediterranean regions; and mobility and globalisation, with migratory phenomena. 

“SAHARA connected worlds” exhibition

10 May-1 September 2019

Marseille : Museum of African, Oceanian and Native American Art. Centre de la Vieille Charité.

This exhibition is the result of a partnership between travelling artist Titouan Lamazou and IRD historian Charles Grémont. The exhibition will be held in the Marseille Museum of African, Oceanian and Native American Art, with his director, Marianne Sourrieu. Raising the question of connectedness in the Sahara allows the viewer to understand the area from an atypical viewpoint, one that is at odds with the idea of endless expanses of desert. This exhibition offers an opportunity to question and update representations of the Sahara. This relationship between connectedness and desert expanses conditions the survival of the communities of the Sahara and the people who cross it. Mobility – simultaneously a limitation and a resource, a way of life and a political strategy – is the foundation of these unique cultures.

Combining magnificent ethnographic objects from prestigious collections with everyday objects and presenting audiovisual creations and other works from contemporary artists, this exhibition aims to express these realities by following the region’s constant – and constantly reinvented – mobility. Titouan Lamazou’s work, presented throughout the exhibition, offers a personal experience of this mobility seen through the eyes of a traveller, artist and explorer.

A Musées de Marseille/IRD coproduction. With Titouan Lamazou, travelling artist.


“Open science in the South: challenges and perspectives for a new dynamic” symposium

October 2019, Dakar.

Over the last 15 years, with the Berlin Declaration on open access to knowledge from academic research, open access to scientific publications has taken two forms: submitting articles to an open archive and publishing them in open access journals financed by the ‘author pays’ model or by organisations. Since then, new ways of distributing knowledge and co-constructing research have arisen, offering new means of sharing knowledge through the open science movement (open access and open data).

These new forms of sharing are central to IRD’s activities: working with Southern countries, the Institute was an early adopter of open access to scientific publications, and it is currently implementing a policy of open research data. The context in Global South countries varies greatly, but open science can be a powerful driver of excellence in research, as well as showcasing scientific results and improving their visibility.

Aimed at science information professionals, representatives of institutions responsible for encouraging the dissemination of scientific information or for research policies, and researchers themselves, this international symposium is organized by Cheikh Anta Diop University, Cirad ans IRD. It will offer an opportunity to discuss the challenges of open science in developing countries and to present national, international and local incentive policies as well as practical case studies to initiate trends towards open science. It will focus in particular on research in French-speaking countries in the Global South.


“Innovating for sustainable development – 75 years of research in the Global South”: an IRD publication

(provisional title)

How has scientific research contributed to Southern countries’ development over the last few decades? Designed with support from a scientific committee that has worked with more than thirty researchers and the former IRD employees’ association (AIDA), this publication gives a lively, illustrated overview of one hundred major scientific advances made by the Institute and its partners over the course of its history. All of these innovations have had significant positive impacts on Southern countries in a wide range of areas, including social, economic, health, environmental, cultural and scientific fields. Publication date: late April 2019.


IRD events in mainland and overseas France and around the world

Other events on the theme of “75 years of IRD” will be organised throughout 2019 in IRD’s delegations and representations in France and internationally, including:

  • Two days of science on the topic of “A world in transition”, organised in Rabat (Morocco) in February, at the plenary session of the IRD’s decentralised scientific council.
  • Events alongside the symposium on 22 February, taking place in regional IRD delegations as well as the Institut français in Benin and Tunisia, where symposium discussions will be broadcast, and will also feature round tables, fun science events and an atmosphere of celebration.
  • Conferences for the general public on the plant world and human health, scheduled at the Institut français in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) on 1 March.
  • The IRD’s involvement in the 11th global conference of scientific journalists in Lausanne (Switzerland) in July.
  • The international forum on citizen science in Montpellier in November.
  • The symposium on science and entrepreneurship in the South, in Bondy (end of 2019).


Download the press pack.