In France, the academlc research activity is carried out in the research organisms ("organismes de recherche") and in the universities.
There are two main categories of research organisms : the EPST ("Etablissement Public à caractère Scientifique et Technologique") and the EPIC ("Etablissement Public à caractère Industriel et Commercial"). INRIA and CNRS belong to the first category ; CEA to the second one.
The researchers of the EPST have no teaching obligations. When they enter the organism, they are "chargés de recherche". After several years of activity, they may be promoted to "directeurs de recherche".
The university staff have to carry out research and teaching activities. They are first "maître de conférences" and may be promoted to "professeurs".
PhD students can beneficiate from a grant of the Ministry for Research ("Minitère de la Recherche"). This grant is called "Allocation de recherche" and these students are said to be "Allocataires".
PhD students can also beneficiate from a grant which is partially supported by the "Ministère" and by a private company through a partnership with the research team. This type of grant is called CIFRE, which stands for "Conventions Industrielles de Formation par la REcherche".
Software and computer engineers may beneficiate from a permanent position or from a short term contract, called CDD for "Contrat à Durée Déterminée". Most of the CDD are supported through public grants or industrial contracts. In the HELIX research group, most of the engineers have a CDD and their contracts are limited to 4 or 5 years.
External members carry out their activity in the research team but are paid by a research organism or a private company in the context of a partnership.