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Inria Awards 2013

The Department of Research Team Assistants of Inria Sophia Antipolis centre receives the Research Support Department Award 2013

Department of Research Team Assistants of Inria Sophia Antipolis@Inria @Inria

Since its establishment in 2002, the Department of Research Team Assistants has been playing a pioneering role at the Sophia Antipolis centre. The prize for research support is rewarding the initiative of the employees in that department and their ambition to enhance the value of their work. Theirs is a profession that is gaining ever greater importance in the functioning of the research teams and of the institute.

Gérard Giraudon, Director of the Inria Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée research centre

"The role of research team assistants (AERs) is to assist the work of researchers by relieving them of a significant share of their administrative tasks and overseeing their contact with business-line teams, support departments, partners, etc. Here at Inria, the AER role is performed alongside researchers, as our AERs are embedded in the research teams they assist from day to day. Despite being split up among the teams, our AERs are nonetheless organised as a single department.

This allows them to exchange best practices, train new recruits, formalise working procedures, organise their own replacements in the event of short- or long-term absence, and so forth.

Their work is very important to the Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée research centre, which was the first site to create an AER department in 2002. Just so for the other Inria centres, each of which has had an AER department since 2009.

More than merely rewarding the AERs working in this centre, this award recognises the importance of what, today, is a clearly defined profession. It reflects the value of the work carried out by all AERs across 8 Inria research centres".

Ephie Deriche, who manages the Department of Research Team Assistants (AERs):

Ephie Deriche

"These days, research team assistants must be multi-skilled. They play a pivotal role in the research team and act as the point of contact between the team and the other research support departments. AERs play the role of advisor when it comes to decisions of an administrative nature. They monitor the team's budgetary and financial situation (recruitment of personnel, handling of European contracts, the ANR (French National Research Agency), etc.), in addition to many other responsibilities (coordinating scientific publications, organising events within the team, etc.) These are a long way from standard secretarial tasks" explains Ephie Deriche, Head of the Sophia Antipolis AER department. Very early on, the assistants at the centre observed the need to organise themselves within a structure. This allowed them to better meet the needs of the researchers and ensure their own representation within the various bodies of the institute. Since 2009, when AER departments were set up at all of INRIA's centres, each AER has been functionally assigned to a research team but, in terms of hierarchy, reports to the AER Department Manager (RAER). "This is very important as it allows for greater fairness in the distribution of tasks within the department, the evaluation of research assistants and their assignment to teams" judges Ephie Deriche. She also pointed out;"The AER manager also oversees coordination of the work performed by the different assistants, as well as their representation before management. This energetic and passionate department manager set her team to thinking about their line of work, which lead to the proposal in 2012 of a new type of organisation that would allow each of the assistants to quickly adapt to new constraints, as well as facilitating better communication with other departments and enhancing the value of the assistants' skills. "We organised a think-tank to consider the questions of the moment, with designated contact persons for partner departments and software tools, tutoring and general interest services." And what do you think of this prize? It's a great way to give recognition to our profession; I'm delighted for all of the AERs!"


Christine Faber, assistant to the Tosca research team and the Projects Committee of the Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée research centre, a member of the Centre Committee and of the IPT support cell, and designated contact person for the workforce management tool.

Christine Faber

"I really enjoy my line of work and I have a heartfelt desire to help our researchers in their work by allowing them to get on with it undistracted. The new organisation allows for greater efficiency and better management of any new constraints we may encounter. When a problem arises, we consult each other and, if necessary, we launch a reflection and consultation process to find a solution that works for all of the parties concerned. Working in this way, we made some proposals in September regarding changes to REMI, the new automation tool for computer account management. Those changes allowed specific cases that were not pre-configured in the software to be taken into account. Now, new recruits can get on with their work as soon as they arrive. The prize is a nice surprise; it's gratifying, and no small honour to see that the work of the assistant is recognised and valued!"

Isabelle Strobant, assistant to the Asclepios research team and Editorial Coordinator of the scientific journal Medical Image Analysis. She is also a member of the Committee of Computer Resource Users in Services (CUMIS), and the designated contact person for questions of procedure.

Isabelle Strobant

"The creation of this department was very important for establishing the scope of our work and gaining official recognition of our responsibilities. Up to that time, the profile of the AER role was very multi-skilled, but not clearly defined or structured. In the twelve years since then, the role has become very professional and requires a lot of technical skills! The AER network has brought us visibility on a national scale, and represents an opportunity for this profession, much like regular, collective reflection about our roles. This has helped us move forward while remaining well integrated within the overall structure of the institute. And so, since 2010, we have been involved in making an inventory of procedures and formalising them in writing. Initially for the purpose of accounts certification, this became and remains essential to coordinating activities on the ground, and maintaining a consistent quality of service for our researchers. It is very satisfying that our pioneering role providing the link between the scientists and the administrative staff, through specific support tasks and research support in general, has been recognised with this prize."

Laurie Vermeersch, assistant to the Maestro team and the Department of Research Assistants (SAER). She also coordinates the IPT support cell and the handling of accommodation.

"It has been very rewarding to play a role in the structuring of the organisation. A lot of reflection was needed to find a consistent structure that would provide good working conditions for each assistant. This collective work gave us the chance to discuss our feelings on different matters and our personal experiences. Through it, we forged a feeling of belonging to a single structure and a spirit of competition, even though we are spread out and seldom have the chance to meet in person. Each assistant is involved in this process of reflection and makes every effort to bring something extra to the department. For example, I personally provide the point of contact with the human resources department, which facilitates communication between the two departments. Moreover, by offering general interest services to our co-workers, for example our English skills through the Translation Cell, we also acquire greater visibility. I am very proud and very pleased for all of us that the value of our collective work has been recognised within the institute."

  • Nathalie Bellesso - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Montserrat Argente - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Marie-Cecile Lafont - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Stéphanie Sorres Savoie - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Patricia Lachaume - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Christel Kozinski, AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Annie Aliaga, AER Research centre of Inria Sophia Antipolis – Méditerranée

  • Christine Foggia - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Christine Faber - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Claire Senica - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Delphine Robache - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Ephie Deriche - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée Ephie Deriche - SAER au centre de recherche Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Isabelle Strobant - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Jane Desplanques - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Laurence Fontana - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

  • Laurie Vermeersch - AER Research Centre Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée

Keywords: Inria Awards