Agnès Mignot: "Giving research time back to research".

Agnès Mignot has recently been appointed Vice-President in charge of simplifying research and monitoring national programs, and this is not her first mandate at the University. A researcher at Montpellier's Institut des sciences de l'évolution, she has been working for many years to improve relations between research and administration, but is also committed to the Nagoya protocol and to better recognition of women in research.

Agnès Mignot.

Duties ?
I'm a university professor at the University of Montpellier and I'm currently deputy vice-president in charge of major national projects and the administrative simplification process.

Is this new?
A few months ago, the French Minister for Higher Education and Research Research proposed that universities embark on a simplification process to restore research time to research, i.e. to teachers, researchers and support staff. One of my responsibilities is to oversee these initiatives.

Another mission of the mandate?
Higher education and research are organized around very large projects that are funded on a national scale. The University, through its teacher-researchers and researchers, is heavily involved in these exploratory research programs known as PEPRs, and so I also have to monitor these various projects.

First term of office at the UM?
No, this isn't exactly my first term of office at the UM. I was already Delegate Vice-President in charge of relations between administration and research. President Augé asked me to get involved in this issue of facilitating relations between the administration and the research world... With all that unit directors, administrative managers and then on a day-to-day basis, researchers, teacher-researchers and research support staff encounter.

Nagoya Protocol?
Indeed, I'm in charge of a project for the University of Montpellier concerning the Nagoya Protocol and its implementation from a very administrative, legislative and research point of view. The Nagoya Protocol was signed as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to protect biodiversity and to prevent biopiracy on an international scale. This is something that requires a great deal of support for researchers and teacher-researchers.

Are you a researcher yourself?
I'm a teacher-researcher, and I really like to wear both hats. My laboratory today is the Institut des sciences de l'évolution. It's a unit that looks at all the mechanisms of evolution, adaptation and speciation of species. In the long term, we have paleontologists; in the short term, we have people interested in the mechanisms of adaptation in very small organisms. And then there are people who are interested in questions relating to animals or plants, and this is more in line with my activity, since I'm interested in this evolution on flowering plants.

Women in science?
There aren't that many of us. Sex ratio indicators, i.e. the proportion of men and women, in different structures are often globalized, and while on the whole we're not too far from 50/50 when we look at the details... We're far from 50/50 in professions with responsibilities or when we look at each discipline. This means that, in activities where parity is necessary - selection committees for recruitment, central councils of universities or higher education and research establishments of all kinds - women end up paying a heavy price, since there are fewer of them and they have to do more than their male counterparts.

What's your magic formula?
What has been extremely beneficial, both for me and in the assignments I've had to carry out, is working as part of a team, in other words, trusting each other. This starts with getting to know each other's jobs, and those of all the people you're going to be working with, so as to be in a position to help them develop their activities, and find possible avenues for improvement. And these often come from what people experience on a daily basis. So, whether in teaching, research or administration, teamwork is really, really what I'm insisting on.