France Guérin-Pace

tells us about the Collège International des Sciences du Territoire (CIST) or International College of Territorial Sciences


France Guérin-Pace, a geographer, co-directs INED’s “Identities and Territories” research team. She is also deputy director of the Groupement d’Intêret Scientifique (GIS)-Collège International des Sciences du Territoire (CIST).

(Interview conducted in December 2011)

How would you define the territorial sciences?

Several of the main challenges facing contemporary societies (population ageing, increasing social inequalities, urbanisation, new forms of mobility, North-South relations, and others) have an important territorial dimension to them. Disciplines and professional fields that handle matters of space, including geography, environmental studies, territorial development, urban planning, architecture and urban sociology, have fundamental contributions to make to our understanding of these issues. This set of distinct but related disciplines come together in “territorial sciences,” a field that is gradually taking shape based on the understanding that territories are situated at the intersection of the social sciences (history, economics, demography) but also of the natural, health and engineering sciences.

Why was CIST created? What are its objectives?

The CNRS and the Universities of Paris I and Paris-Diderot decided to unite their scientific efforts in response to these new territorial issues, and in 2010 they co-founded a Scientific Interest Group (GIS). They then formed institutional partnerships with DATAR (Interministerial delegation for regional planning and attractiveness]), the IAU-IF (Institute for urban planning and development of the Ile-de-France region) and the ADEME (Agency for the environment and energy management]. INED joined the group in 2011.

The purpose of the GIS-CIST is to formalise and organise the interdisciplinary field called territorial sciences at the French and international—particularly European—scales. CIST brings together 250 teacher-researchers and researchers (90 of who are accredited to supervise PhD theses), 80 technicians and administrative personnel and over 300 PhD students. It comprises 15 research teams and transversal programmes, and there have been many requests to form teams elsewhere in France and abroad.

What are CIST’s areas of research?

The scientific activities of the College are currently organized around seven interdisciplinary research avenues: Territorial information; Mobility, identities and territories; Conflicts, compromises and territorial governance; Biodiversity and territories; Agriculture, territories and sustainable development; Territories and health; Risks and territories.

What role does INED play in CIST?

INED became a CIST partner in 2011. INED Director Chantal Cases is on the executive board. INED’s “Identities and Territories” and “Mobility, Housing and Social Networks” research teams are heavily involved in College activities. I was named deputy director of the College in 2010 and Eva Lelièvre represents INED on the CIST Scientific Council.

Could you tell us something about the conference that marked the founding of CIST?

The international conference “Founding Territorial Sciences” was held at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie on November 23-25, 2011. It brought together participants grounded in a wide variety of disciplines from the greater Paris area, elsewhere in France and from several other countries. The conference confirmed the relevance of College’s “triptych” of founding convictions and commitments: the trans-disciplinary dimension of the territory concept; the central importance of having and disseminating territorial information; and the use of visualisation tools in the debate.

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