My question about the application process at the CNRS has been "put on hold" for being "unclear". I am truly at a loss regarding what is supposedly unclear about it. I'm asking what is expected about the reports on past and projected work: their level of detail, their length, their structure. I'm struggling to find a way to put this in simpler words.

To be quite honest the experience of asking a question on this website has been less than stellar. First I had to deal with a vindictive user who fought teeth and nails because they did not know what CNRS is and thought it was a single small research center instead of a national institution which employs and funds people in most French labs, even opening a meta question on which I can't even comment. And now my question is "put on hold" for no visible reason with no explanation from the people who did it. Two different moderators looked at it and saw nothing wrong with it, but all it apparently takes is five random users to deem my question "unclear", presumably because they, too, don't even know what the question is about and should perhaps reserve their judgment...

  • 5
    I have been on StackExchange sites for years and am still reluctant to ask questions. The community can be a bit fanatical at times. Try not to take it personally and don't let it prevent you from asking questions in the future.
    – NovaLogic
    Dec 13, 2017 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


Welcome to AC.SE. I am sorry your first exposure has been so difficult. Please give us a shot, things usually work much better. Things seem to have gotten a little out of hand this weekend.

I think your question about the application process for jobs at CNRS is very clear. Not knowing anything about the CNRS in particular, I have a hard time judging if it is a good question for our community and therefore do not feel qualified to up/down vote on the question or vote to close or open the question.

My concern is related to this meta question in that I am not sure if your question is about a narrow set of intramural jobs at the CNRS or something broader. The US and UK funding agencies that I am familiar with (e.g., the US NIH and UK MRC), have intramural jobs, but don't really offer extramural jobs. I think a question about how to get a job at the NIH would be closed as too localized (SE speak for not being interesting to enough people) just as a question about the application process at Big State U would. That said, employment in France is very different from the US and UK and it sounds like the CNRS has a different model where you apply to and are employed by the CNRS, but work at a university.

My lack of understanding of the CNRS, and the potential that it is different from the US and UK (end even likely the German system) led me to suggest someone asking about the CNRS. This question was not what I had in mind and is way too broad.

  • "sounds like the CNRS has a different model where you apply to and are employed by the CNRS, but work at a university" Yes, that is precisely the case. France is a very centralized country, and besides the few "CNRS-only units", almost all researchers are in fact working in a university, with the option to move every 8-10 years. All the research in France is done in "research units" which are either with CNRS or another national agency. I think my question would be interested to anyone applying to the CNRS.. a set which is almost equal to the set of people interested in working in France. Dec 11, 2017 at 16:24
  • @YoungPostdoc that is very helpful to me, but to be clear, anyone capable of answering the question would known that so I don't think that info would need to be added to the question. As I said, the question is clear and from your description (and the little reading I am doing now) seems like a great question for us.
    – StrongBad
    Dec 11, 2017 at 16:35

For this question, the first (closed) version looked like this:

The competitive application process for CNRS jobs has opened this week, and part of the required documents are a report on past work, as well as a project for future work (together with a list of CNRS labs where this work could be done). There is not much information about what these are expected to contain; the instructions only specifies "Report on research completed" and "Proposed research program".

More specifically, for a "chargé de recherche" (junior scientist) position, how much detail should be given in these two documents? How long should they be? Is there a typical structure that one should follow for them? It is my understanding that the national committee members may not (and in my case are not, I checked) experts in the specific domain of the applicants, there is e.g. a committee for all of sociology, another for "brain, cognition, behavior" and so on.

I will try to write the unclear parts one by one:

First, there is no introduction.

  1. What is CNRS?
  2. What does it stand for?
  3. Who are you?
  4. How is CNRS related with you?

After that, you mention some reports out of nowhere.

  1. What are those reports?
  2. Which instructions specify those reports?

In the second paragraph, it gets worse. You start with more specifically, even though there is not a tiny bit of specification (see 1-4). After you ask multiple questions about those documents mentioned in the first paragraph, you suddenly jump to the committee members.

  1. What committee?
  2. How are those members related to your question?
  3. How are their area of expertise related to your question?

You cannot assume that people know the answers to all nine questions listed above. Usually, four or five of them makes the text unclear. In your case, you had nine.

For this question, I believe nothing is wrong with people. The question seems to be asked at random.

What is CNRS? It's supposedly a research center somewhere in Europe but it's been asked about a few times already on this site. I hope that asking this question is going to clarify things.

If it was asked a few times, why do you ask again? Just upvote the question and wait for an answer. This alone is a reason for closing the question because it is duplicate. Also what things do you want to clarify? Do you assume everyone reads this question also read your first question? Again, this question is not clear at all to me.

Just something popped into your mind and you asked in Academia.SE. As an example, this question also got several downvotes.
The answer to your question is a matter of Google search and reading through the results.

As a side note, it would probably be to your best interest to drop "I'm doing everything right. What is wrong with these people?" and move to "how can I improve my questions?"

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    I would consider your points 1–9 fundamentals of a given tag (france) that do not need to be explained. I do not expect everybody asking about GRE, NSF, statements of prupose, or tenure tracks to explain what they are either.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Dec 10, 2017 at 13:57
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    For this question, I believe nothing is wrong with people. The question seems to be asked at random. – Have you seen the original, unedited question?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Dec 10, 2017 at 13:58
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    Original question has the following phrase: Not sure that asking this question is going to clarify things but let's try.
    – padawan
    Dec 10, 2017 at 14:06
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    @Wrzlprmft the OP asks "what is unclear?" and here I answer exactly that. I don't agree that 1-9 need not to be explained. It says that the question is related to France. But a user who's not from France can look it up and answer if the question is posed well. In this case, it is unclear to me (and several others) what the OP asks either because we're not from France or we're not familiar with the topic.
    – padawan
    Dec 10, 2017 at 14:30
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    the OP asks "what is unclear?" and here I answer exactly that. Okay but just that the question is unclear to you (or even most other visitors), does not mean that it should be closed. The crucial point is whether it is clear to the respective subcommunity familiar with the French academic system. — But a user who's not from France can look it up and answer if the question is posed well. – That’s not a reasonable standard for questions IMHO. Most people ask questions here because they cannot easily look up the answer. Also, the answers to all your questions can be easily looked up.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Dec 10, 2017 at 14:56
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    Padawan, how many people who ask questions about NSF, GRE etc. explain explain the meaning of these terms? Should I vote to close each one of those questions just because they are not familiar to me? Dec 10, 2017 at 18:17
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    @MassimoOrtolano the abbrevation is only one part of the question being not clear. The question itself is not posed well. If this question is clear enough, then I do not which one is not.
    – padawan
    Dec 10, 2017 at 18:38
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    To me, it is as clear as any other question about admission processes to institutions I know nothing about (actually, virtually all questions about admission processes). Dec 10, 2017 at 18:40
  • @padawan: 1,2. are self-evident (just like NSF, DARPA, IIT), even if the tag 'France' hasn't been applied, which it was. 3,4. are self-evident: "an applicant to CNRS", 5,6. were specified in the instructions linked by the OP (admittedly in French), and 7,8,9 are quite clearly "the admissions committee". You might have simply said "Many of us don't know much about the CNRS admissions process, please link something in English". But in any case, many of us here equally don't know much about (say) MIT's admissions process. Please do not actively make Ac.SE unhelpful to non-American users.
    – smci
    Mar 14, 2018 at 0:47
  • As to the inappropriate tone mixed in with false claims, "In the second paragraph, it gets worse."... "In your case, you had nine [unclear].". False claims. Replace the phrase "I don't understand X" for "You are unclear". " As to *"What is CNRS? It's supposedly a research center somewhere in Europe... I hope that asking this question is going to clarify things.", the question was tagged 'France' and even if not, CNRS is a well-known acronym and trivially Googlable. And finally, "As a side note ... drop "I'm doing everything right. What is wrong with these people?" is too meta for words
    – smci
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:00
  • @smci "obvious enough" and "self-evident" are not objective statements. It might be self evident for you, and for many people who are familiar with the institute, but not for everyone. A quick search brings out that the mentioned question is the only one that assumes the background knowledge. france tag only indicates that the question is about France, and again, not everyone from France is, or must be, familiar with CNRS. This is precisely what you accuse me for: making Ac.SE unhelpful for non-French users.
    – padawan
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:12
  • A simple intro such as "CNRS is a such and such institute and I would like to apply for some position. The admission process is like this and that" would've solved the unclearness. Also, I have no idea what NSF and DARPA stand for. And IIT might mean Indian Institute of Technology or Illinois Institute of Technology or Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, which is again, ambiguous and hence unclear.
    – padawan
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:15
  • @padawan: "obvious enough" and "self-evident" are extremely objective statements, when the answer is in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Google hits. (Didn't even have to type "What is CNRS?") To people unfamiliar with the terms NSF, DARPA or IIT, would you advocate closing similar questions? I'm from Ireland and France's CNRS is well-known, and that was just at (European) high-school level, before I ever did a postgrad. Are you conjecturing on behalf of French users of Ac.SE? If you polled what % of French users of Ac.SE don't know what CNRS is, you'd see how absurdly meta your comments were.
    – smci
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:18
  • I believe you either did not read my sentences careful enough or you're just trying to undermine my reasoning. I deliberately state that the percentage of the users does not effect the clarity of the question. And this site is not only for French users, so correct comparison would be percentage among all users, whcih is, again, does not matter.
    – padawan
    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:29

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