Centre interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux stratégiques (CIENS)

Our center

The Centre interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux stratégiques (CIENS) is a research and teaching platform devoted to nuclear defense and strategic issues in the broadest sense (including cyber issues, outer space, artificial intelligence and information manipulation, arms control and disarmament, strategic thinking, etc.).

Our core ambition is to study inter-state relations of force and the various forms of conflict between powers, always with an eye to the possibility of a rise to extremes, in other words the nuclear confrontation that deterrence is designed to avoid.

What makes CIENS unique is its position at the junction of two worlds: that of academic research and that of decision-making. We are convinced that mutual exchanges between researchers and practitioners of nuclear and strategic issues are fertile, producing knowledge that is both original and necessary, at a time when multiple geopolitical upheavals make it necessary to rethink major strategic issues.

Our structure

CIENS now has a strengthened interdisciplinary team of four teacher-researchers (two historians and two political scientists), supported by a project manager. Frédéric Gloriant, senior lecturer in contemporary history, is in charge of management.

This core group is complemented by a number of associate researchers and experts, as well as a range of strategic practitioners who teach cutting-edge topics at the ENS as part of the CIENS program.

Our funding

An original organization in the French university landscape, CIENS is the fruit of a partnership between ENS-PSL and three institutional partners: CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives); DGRIS (Direction générale des relations internationales et de la stratégie, Ministère des armées) and ANSSI (Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information).

In addition to an operating grant from ENS-PSL, CIENS funding is based on harmonized agreements with these three bodies – for a renewable 3-year period.

Our history

CIENS (originally Centre interdisciplinaire d’études sur le nucléaire et la stratégie) was created in mid-2010. The first courses were held at ENS in 2016.

The birth of CIENS took place against the backdrop of the multifaceted geopolitical crisis of the years 2014-2016, marked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, migration crises and the wave of jihadist attacks in France and Europe, and finally, the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president.

It is the result of the combined initiative of École alumni and diplomats, in particular Nicolas Roche, currently French ambassador to Iran and author of the book Pourquoi la dissuasion? published in 2017 by PUF.

At the time, the aim of the Center was to meet a strong demand among Normaliens for information and teaching on issues that had seemed to lose their acuity with the end of the Cold War. The aim was also to revive university studies on nuclear and strategic issues in France.

Through the creation of CIENS and the support given to its consolidation, the École demonstrates its willingness to engage, through research, in some of the most pressing issues that characterize today’s world, in order to rethink our strategic situation, which has undergone profound upheaval since the middle of the 2010 decade.