Mathematics: a typical or atypical model of academic excellence? An empirical study of the French case

September 30, 2021


Type Lecture
Intended for General public / Enrolled students / International students / Alumni / University students / Academic and Administrative Staff
Date(s) October 13, 2021 17:00 — 18:30
Location Online
Venue Zoom Webinar
Entrance Fee No charge
Registration Method Advance registration required
Please register here.
Registration Period September 30, 2021 — October 13, 2021


The excellence of French mathematics has long been recognized. This remarkable position is explained by certain classical factors, such as the selective tests for training and talent recruitment, but their effect is more precocious and cumulative than in the other sciences.

The culture of playful and competitive challenge that nourishes the history of conjecture and problem solving, in this individualistic discipline detached from empirical work, has its organizational side: competition for jobs is more open and opposed to inbreeding, and the advantage initially gained through pure research jobs is not systematically exploited to keep the best mathematicians away from teaching.

These traits adhere as a system, but do they also act to create competitive dynamics that penalize female careers, which are particularly under-represented? My analysis will be based on a vast corpus of career and publication data, which is unparalleled to date.

Speaker's Profile


Pierre-Michael Menger
Professor, College de France

Prof. Pierre-Michel Menger studied philosophy and sociology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and earned his Ph.D. at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in 1980. He has been senior researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Paris) before joining the Collège de France, where he holds the Chair of Sociology of Creative Work since 2013. A member of the Academia of Europaea since 2010, he is also professor (directeur d’études) at the Paris Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. His current research focuses on the global competition for talents, careers and stratification in research and higher education, and meritocracy and its discontents.

Prof. Pierre-Michel Menger is the author or co-author of sixteen books, and has published numerous articles in journals such as Revue française de Sociologie, Sociologie du travail, L’Année Sociologique, Annales, Annual Review of Sociology, Poetics, Revue française d’économie, Revue Economique. He has been the editor of the Revue française de Sociologie and is currently a member of the editorial board of the Revue Economique and Revue française de gestion. His Economics of Creativity has been published by Harvard University Press in 2014.


Ralph Willox
Professor, Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Tokyo
Research Fields: Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Physics
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