The joint status of the IAP, both as an “Observatory for Sciences of the Universe” (OSU) and as a "Mixed Research Unit" (UMR), means it has three principal activities: research, education and public outreach.
The IAP’s main activity is research. It is principally focused on astronomy, astrophysics, theoretical physics, and interdisciplinary subjects in connection with high energy physics and mathematics. Research at the IAP has four main goals:
Although an important and necessary activity of the astronomical community, it should be noted that the IAP is not involved in designing or making the hardware necessary for the completion of new astronomical instruments.
The scientific training of students and doctorate researchers is essential for the future of astrophysical sciences. Courses are principally held at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) and are taught by IAP staff members. University classes are given at all levels, for undergraduate and doctoral students alike. Because astronomy is usually rarely taught in middle or high schools, IAP researchers also participate in the training of teachers.
Astronomy has always been popular with the public as a consequence of the profound questions it poses, and because it reveals the nature of the objects one sees in the night sky. Consequently, research establishments such as the IAP play an important role in sharing their knowledge about astronomy, and most importantly in informing about the most recent discoveries thanks to expert researchers. This is why the IAP regularly participates in nationwide events such as the “Science Festival”. It also organizes public lectures on a monthly basis.