Disruptive Science to meet global challenges

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: 6 JUNE 2023, 6:00 pm CEST (Paris, France Time)

The present call for applications launched by the Montpellier Advanced Knowledge Institute on Transitions (MAK’IT) aims to set up in Montpellier, over a period of 6 months (January – June 2024), a group of internationally renowned researchers from various geographical and disciplinary backgrounds, covering both life and engineering sciences as well as social sciences and humanities, to apprehend together, through innovative and creative approaches, the research theme:

Disruptive Science to meet global challenges

Each member of the cohort thus formed will approach this theme from the perspective of his/her own scientific background and discipline, while comparing his/her own results with those of the other members of the group and enriching them in an inter- and trans-disciplinary manner.

Group dynamics and interactions will build upon an original methodological approach focused on addressing the controversies associated with the proposed research theme, and how harnessing them and generating constructive discussions around them can help overcome the blockages they create to open new perspectives for change and foster positive societal impacts. The fellows will for instance be encouraged to identify actors involved in those controversies and arenas where they take place, stakes and arguments put forward, disciplinary contributions, etc.

The aim will be to decipher together, as a group, ways of utilizing scientific knowledge and evidence to strengthen collective intelligence in addressing interconnected challenges related to food, biodiversity, environment, and health. This analysis will help identify priority lines of action in terms of research programming, teaching, foresight exercises, capacity building of scientific communities and their participation in public debate, international collaborations, etc.

The expected deliverables include at least a joint publication covering the different dimensions, implications and possible applications of the research theme and any other joint outputs that the group would have decided to pursue.

MAK’IT offers its fellows a privileged working environment to develop their ideas in a decompartmentalized way, within a world-renowned scientific community in the Institute’s three fields of action: agriculture & food, environment, and health. MAK’IT’s fellows are strongly encouraged and actively supported in their efforts to create new connections and develop new collaborations with Montpellier’s scientific community.

Disruptive Science to meet global challenges

The question of whether science should be disruptive is a pressing issue in both scientific and political realms. The Science 20 (S20) group of the G20 held an inception meeting in India in February 2023, under the theme ‘Disruptive Science for Innovative and Sustainable Development’, with the aim of providing policy recommendations at their conclusive meeting in July 2023. Science was portrayed there as ‘the driving force behind economic expansion and human progress’, responsible for major innovation and technology breakthroughs. However, a recent study published in Nature showed that science might be becoming less disruptive, limiting the potential for new ideas and questions. This has caused concern among scientists and non-scientists alike, particularly in relation to food systems, health, and environmental/global change.

Multifaceted cascading crises faced by our societies, such as pandemics, global food insecurity, biodiversity collapse, and climate change, are indeed increasingly disruptive themselves, causing (or about to cause) radical changes in our existence. Dealing with such challenges and disruptions requires creativity and sustainability-driven mindsets that transcend disciplinary perspectives and sectoral silos, and break knowledge barriers. Major transformations underway actually question what makes science truly ‘disruptive’: its capacity to ask new questions or its propensity to help solve problems? Should then not science, in addition to being disruptive, be also or rather ‘disrupting’, i.e. geared towards action or activism as its main deliverable, beyond scientific expertise stricto sensu?

The upcoming cohort will explore ways to utilize scientific knowledge and evidence to enhance collective intelligence in tackling interconnected challenges related to food, environment, and health. The cohort will discuss the role of science, power dynamics, and redefining the science-policy-society interface for a better understanding of controversies arising from ongoing crises and global challenges. The cohort will also question the model of knowledge creation and explore how it can be locally and globally leveraged, brokered, and ‘bricolaged’ to create inclusive solutions with lasting impacts.

This collaborative exercise will build on the work undertaken by previous cohorts regarding the importance of fake news and misinformation and the role of science in crisis times. It will articulate with the ExposUM project whose objective is to establish an open-ended reference institute for the study, training and interaction between science and society on the environmental determinants of human health. It will also take advantage of the 2023 Montpellier Global Days event that aims at organizing a collaborative space to allow global expertise panels to cross views and perspectives to address the “Feed-Care-Protect” issues.

All types of contributions with the propensity to feed the proposed research theme, in both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities) disciplines, building on the candidate’s existing expertise or will to propose a new topic with support from the Montpellier’s scientific community, are eligible to this call.

  • To participate in a new type of decompartementalized cutting-edge research in a privileged scientific environment with minimum constraints;
  • To take part in a group-building exercise that promotes collective intelligence and transdisciplinarity, together with other researchers from different geographical and disciplinary backgrounds, expertise and viewpoints on the proposed research theme;
  • To acquire and test a new scientific methodological approach focusing on the treatment of societal controversies;
  • To interact with actors outside of the research sphere and get exposed to new perspectives at the science-society interface;
  • To be part of a vibrant scientific community that earned international recognition on the three societal challenges ‘Feed, Protect, Care’ and explore new possibilities for collaboration with the different research units on site;
  • To take risks, experience creativity, unconventionality and innovative thinking.

Nationality: researchers of all nationalities, who have not resided in France for more than 12 months in the three years preceding the call for applications.

Tax residence: candidates must have a tax residence abroad.

Level of education: candidates must hold a doctorate or equivalent and fall into one of the following two categories:

  • ‘Senior’ candidates: a minimum of 10 years experience in research after the doctorate (doctorate obtained before 1st January 2014).
  • ‘Junior’ candidates: a minimum of 2 years experience in research after the doctorate (doctorate obtained between 1st January 2014 and 1st January 2022).

Professional status: candidates must have an employment contract in a foreign university or research institution (other than a French research institution abroad), or be attached to it through an emeritus, covering the period of their residency. A letter of attachment, signed by the head of the home institution, will be required in the event of selection at the end of the evaluation process.

Disciplines/research field: all disciplines, in life and engineering sciences or SSH, related to MAK’IT’s three main action areas (agriculture & food, environment, health) and able to feed the proposed research theme.

Scientific partnership: applicants must have identified – even if they have not materialized yet – one or more possible partnerships with Montpellier’s research units that could lead to scientific cooperation during their stay (list of all research units available here).

Languages: Fluency in English is required, and understanding French is preferable.

Open-mindedness: the proposed programme requires candidates to be creative, open to interdisciplinary dialogue, risk-taking, and real group thinkers ready to engage in a collaborative exercise and motivated by the discovery of an original methodological approach focusing on controversies and exchanges with other actors from the socio-economic world.

A hosting agreement is signed between the University of Montpellier, on which MAK’IT depends administratively, the hosting research structure and the fellow to formalize the following modalities.


Fellows invited by MAK’IT are detached from their usual obligations in their home institution and have the necessary availability to freely devote themselves to their research projects and participate in the Institute’s activities.

During their stay in Montpellier, they each have an office equipped with a computer, internet access and printing facilities in an open space at MAK’IT’s premises, located at the Institut de Botanique, in the historic heart of Montpellier.  The fellows also have access to several meeting rooms and a 250-seat amphitheatre.  MAK’IT facilitates access and extended lending rights in the main libraries of the University of Montpellier, as well as the possibility, with a financial contribution, of having lunch at the administrative restaurant on which the Institute depends.

COHORT fellows are accompanied by a dedicated member of the MAK’IT Team, whose role consists in organizing and facilitating fellows’ interdisciplinary group work as well as supporting their integration, individually, into Montpellier’s scientific community by putting them in contact with local research units that may be interested in their work. The COHORT Officer is also in charge of conducting a bibliographical review and enriching a virtual library related to the research theme, identifying experts who can share their knowledge and interact with the Institute’s fellows, as well as valorising the products resulting from the group’s work.

An induction period is planned for the fellows at the beginning of their stay, including visits to Montpellier campuses and research centres, as well as an introductory group seminar to explain the interdisciplinary and collaborative approach expected within the cohort.


Requests for family accommodation must be indicated on the application form in order to be considered.

Since September 2022, MAK’IT has at its disposal newly renovated one- and two-room apartments at Villa Leenhardt, next to its premises. The costs of accommodation in the Villa are directly and fully covered by MAK’IT. This accommodation is allocated to researchers travelling alone or as a couple.

In addition, the Institute works with a seasonal apartment rental agency in Montpellier that offers a range of quality, fully equipped apartments in the city centre. In this case, accommodation costs are covered by MAK’IT up to a fixed and pre-established amount. Priority is given to researchers travelling with their families.


Fellows invited to MAK’IT remain attached to their home institution during their stay: they do not have an employment contract with the Institute, and it is their responsibility to ask their institution of origin to maintain all or part of their salary.

MAK’IT pays guest fellows a monthly allowance of a non-negotiable lump sum as follows:

  • ‘Senior’ fellows: € 2,700
  • ‘Junior’ fellows: € 2,000

This amount is calculated to enable fellows to largely cover the costs related to their stay in Montpellier and to finance their scientific activity (travels to meetings, registration fees for scientific events, purchases of books or software, etc.).


MAK’IT covers its fellows’ return trip between Montpellier and their usual place of residence, in economy class.

Any immigration costs (visa) are also covered.


The fellows must provide proof of adequate social security coverage, covering the risks of illness, accidents at work and civil liability, before arriving in Montpellier.

In the event that the coverage available through their home institution is not valid in France, MAK’IT will cover the insurance and social security costs of its COHORT fellows.

The MAK’IT team is at the fellows’ disposal to assist them in dealing with international health insurance companies.


The MAK’IT team is at the fellows’ disposal to help them with the administrative procedures related to their installation in Montpellier and the organization of their scientific events.

If necessary, their families also benefit from specific support: schooling of children, assistance with the academic integration of spouses, French as a foreign language courses, etc.

A stay at MAK’IT aims to enable invited fellows to carry out their research through an innovative and enriching approach, with flexibility in organising their activities and working hours and benefiting from the necessary services and assistance in their daily practical and administrative procedures. It also implies the acceptance of certain conditions.


Each invited fellow is required to be in Montpellier for at least 90% of the duration of his or her stay (excluding periods of closure of the Institute). This residency requirement, which is essential to pursue effective group work and establish genuine partnerships with the local scientific community, is compatible with occasional absences, which must be reported in advance. Absences of less than a week are simply notified to the MAK’IT team. A longer absence will be subject to management approval.


The COHORT programme is first and foremost a collective exercise. The fellow commits to fully contribute to the group discussions and exchanges, joint activities and the co-productions arising from the cohort’s work. S/he commits to participate actively in other interdisciplinary meetings and events organized by MAK’IT during his/her stay, including a weekly seminar with other MAK’IT Fellows on Thursday mornings. S/he acknowledges that these commitments may take up to two days a week.

The fellow also agrees to share the progress of his/her research and to complete an end-of-fellowship questionnaire at the end of his/her stay.


The fellow retains the intellectual property rights to the results of his/her research carried out as part of this fellowship with MAK’IT.

S/he undertakes to contribute to MAK’IT’s publications and other communication tools concerning the activities of the cohort.

S/he keeps MAK’IT informed of its participation in external symposia, seminars or scientific events as well as of his/her publications, prizes and distinctions obtained…

S/he authorizes MAK’IT to publish his/her portrait and, if relevant, the results of his/her research carried out at MAK’IT for the Institute’s archives. In the event of their wider dissemination, the fellow undertakes to mention the support he has received from MAK’IT and to affix the Institute’s logo to them.

  • LEVEL: Do the scientific background and international recognition of the candidate meet the standards set for this programme? Does the proposed contribution entail research at the highest level?
  • RESEARCH THEME: Does the candidate’s proposed contribution have relevance to the proposed research theme? Does it hold the promise of new insights and the potential to produce new knowledge, including publications? To what extent could it contribute usefully to interdisciplinary exchanges?
  • GROUP PLAYER: Does the candidate’s profile correspond to the vision and values inherent to this programme: collegiality, open-mindedness, creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and risk-taking? Does the candidate’s profile suggest that s/he could be a leading force in the cohort and contribute positively to the group dynamics? Do the expectations of the candidate match with what the programme has to offer?
  • VISION & PARTNERSHIPS: Does this application match MAK’IT vision and ambition? Does it constitute a meaningful contribution to the acceleration of transitions within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? Does it present an interesting potential for collaboration with Montpellier’s scientific communities?

The evaluators will strive to ensure that the group is as representative as possible with regard to gender balance, age, geographical origins, scientific disciplines and areas of expertise of the candidates.

Provisional calendar

  • 2 May 2023 – 6 June 2023: opening of the ‘COHORT’ call for applications
  • June 2023: evaluation of applications by MAK’IT Scientific Council and pre-selection of candidates
  • July 2023: final selection of candidates by MAK’IT Management Board and announcement of results
  • January – June 2024: selected COHORT Fellows in Montpellier