Six objectives to reinforce our positive trajectory

Editorial by Valérie Verdier, President and Chief Executive Officer

Last Friday, the J'IRD, the Institute's days, were held, the first under my mandate and in a new format due to the crisis. I was keen to maintain this institutional meeting which brings together our unit directors (DU), representatives and regional delegates. We organised this meeting via a live video and chat system, which enabled us to exchange with them wherever they were in the world, with the whole of the governance team at my side - Corinne Brunon-Meunier, Deputy Director General, Isabelle Benoist, Secretary General and Philippe Charvis, Deputy Director for Science, confirmed in this function after the Board of Directors meeting on 26 June. I would like to thank the team which, in perfect coordination with the Institute's three divisions, orchestrated this meeting.

Our two supervisory ministers (MESRI and MEAE) did us the honour of opening this meeting with two recorded video sequences. They thank you and express their encouragement for the research conducted within our Institute, while recalling the importance of the partnership with the countries of the South, particularly in the current crisis context.
Frédérique Vidal, our Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation has conveyed to us the "deep gratitude of the Government for all that the scientific community has given to our country during the particularly trying weeks that have just passed". She underlined the remarkable commitment of the IRD in this general mobilization to "find solutions, enlighten decision-makers in their decisions and citizens in their behaviors". (see the video)

The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, highlighted the leading role played by the IRD, "three letters that keep coming up in meetings around the world," in the French strategy of a united response to the pandemic crisis, thanks to the ties we have forged with our partners on all continents. He pleaded for a diplomacy that puts science back at the heart of the debates.
Michel Miraillet, Director General for Globalization at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, also honoured us with his presence and answered questions from participants.

I then addressed all 180 participants. I wanted, through this J IRD and now through this message, to share the main priorities that I give to our Institute for the next four years. It is a question of giving greater impetus to the positive trajectory on which we are on. The period we are going through and the years to come are rich in challenges for research for development.  The priorities I am setting must enable us to further increase the strength and impact of the original model of equitable scientific partnership that we carry, a unique model in the global research ecosystem.

There is no development without science and research, and no research without supporting functions. I therefore hope that science will be at the heart of IRD's actions, with governance closer to you, with new forums for exchange that will enable new interdisciplinary science fronts to emerge. We must be at the forefront of the science of sustainability, developing a different way of thinking and doing science in order to provide answers to the questions of citizens, in the North and the South. Following the Board of Directors meeting of 26 June which installed the position of Deputy Director of Science (D2S A) in charge of Sustainability Science, I took the decision to appoint Olivier Dangles, currently acting Director of the ECOBIO Department. Olivier Dangles will officially take up his new position at the beginning of September. During this day, he presented a first reflection on the deployment of sustainability science at the Institute during the crisis, developed at my request alongside Philippe Charvis. It is based on what we are learning step by step from crisis management and mobilises a wide range of scientific and administrative expertise in the search for concrete solutions to the issues and difficulties we are facing.

My second priority is to strengthen our model of equitable scientific partnership in the South and Overseas France. We have nearly a hundred active mechanisms, LMI, JEAI, GDRI-South, etc., which are real tools of scientific diplomacy. Together with our partners, we need to promote them and make them better known to our supervisory authorities, both nationally and internationally. They should lead as much as possible to the emergence of centres of excellence in the countries and among with the partners we work with.

It is also important to strengthen ties with development players and donors, particularly the French Development Agency (AFD), with which we have built major projects, such as ARIACOV during the crisis. Europe, philanthropists... we are going to strengthen our exchanges with many other development donors in the coming months.

Another point that is particularly close to my heart: modernizing, simplifying our operations, investing, making our jobs more attractive, taking into account our specificities and promoting synergy with other higher education and research operators.

We must further enhance, innovate and promote open science for sustainable development. The bridges we are building between science and innovation, between research and application are fundamental. They give full meaning to the model that we are carrying, and in the same way we must continue to work to strengthen our role in coordinating science that is open to the countries of the South.

Finally, I want to conduct a strong policy on gender equality, in favour of young people and in favour of the environment. We have considerable room for progress on these fronts. With regard to parity, for example, 15% of the directors of units are women and 30% are women representatives. We must be willing and pragmatic to make progress. I would like to see a "green SRI", in line with our values and our model, which will lead to a green deal that we are building with our partners in the South. Our environmental roadmap, presented to the Board of Directors in June, is a step in this direction.

These priorities are in line with a trajectory that I want to be very ambitious, in the service of research and capacity building for the South, which are and will always remain my line of conduct. We must exploit all the opportunities open to us to carry out this programme.

We must also have all our strengths at our disposal. With the end of the state of health emergency on 10 July, we are back to our normal rules of work organisation, including a return to the traditional teleworking arrangements as they operated before 17 March. This does not, of course, rule out taking into account the childcare problems that some of you have encountered and which could persist this summer, and the vulnerabilities to illness. Steps have been taken in this regard.

As of September 1, we will also be restarting the long-term assignments and missions outside metropolitan France that have been decided for 2020. Administrative formalities and the purchase of transport tickets can already be started. These departures will naturally be constrained by the conditions of opening of countries and the capacity of commercial flights. The reason I have given this instruction to restart allocations and MLDs is that we must be ready, as soon as we have the opportunity, to continue our work alongside our partners in the South. Ready but also exemplary, with the absolute duty to respect health rules on entry and during our stays in a partner country.

The virus continues to circulate, it is still there. Wherever we are, let's remain prudent and responsible, let's respect all and every preventive measures: physical distance, wearing a mask, washing our hands.

I wish you, in this summer period, a very nice holiday, both peaceful and joyful.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones,

 Valérie Verdier