IRD's operations cover a range of activities : partnership research, scientific co-publications with researchers from the intertropical and Mediterranean zone and support for research teams from these countries, provision of expertise and advice, participation in the International Development Agenda, and so on. In all its actions, the Institute ensures that its interdisciplinary, intersectoral and multi-partner strategy is complemented by excellence in disciplinary science.
IRD's principal mission is to generate science centred on the intertropical and Mediterranean zone and founded on equitable scientific partnership with the higher education and research communities (ESR) of the countries and regions concerned.
This mission has a dual purpose:
- Contributing to advances in scientific knowledge in matters of sustainable development
- Helping to give development policies a better grounding in science.
Cutting-edge scientific research
The IRD is a leading international player in scientific research on sustainable development and global issues [Scientific rigour and excellence];
The research carried out at IRD is structured around major areas linked to global issues (global warming, environmental changes, inequalities, resource crisis, etc.):
- Improving the health of populations
- Preserving biodiversity
- Understanding global changes, quantifying hazards and mitigating risks
- Sustainable management of ocean resources
- Understanding the societies in the tropical and Mediterranean regions
Equitable partnerships, built on shared objectives and resources
Woven into the fabric of French research via joint research units with universities and public research institutions, IRD maintains close contact with the French scientific community.
IRD's involvement in the French research arena continues to grow, using new tools that guide the coordination of ESR actors on key areas: alliances and investments for the future.
Through its missions and expertise, the Institute has the capacity to rally scientific communities around sustainable development challenges and build bridges between research and development.
IRD thus helps scientific communities emerge in developing countries, strengthening and empowering them while also bringing them international recognition, through actions aligned with a resolute commitment to the strategy of partnership and equitable cooperation.
By activating or encouraging the creation of coalitions of actors, IRD paves the way for its partners to tackle development challenges and helps them plan solutions.
In each of its domains, the Institute strives to bring science to fuel international reflection on pressing issues, while calling on research actors to support the institutions concerned.
The IRD acts by advocating and tirelessly implementing this principle of equitable scientific partnership.
Another intrinsic part of research activity is the dissemination of scientific information and the sharing of knowledge. These play a key role in advancing the competencies of scientific communities, and enhancing citizens' capacity to face the multiple challenges of sustainable development.
IRD is vigorously committed to the "Open Science" policy, driven by France and the European Union. Free access to information is a priority for IRD and its partners in developing countries.
The Institute believes that knowledge sharing means actively contributing to the dialogue between science and society. It therefore organises science events and exhibitions, presenting them throughout the world via the French cultural network. It also participates in flagship events, holds conferences, debates and workshops, puts on film screenings and provides innovative educational tools for young people in France and in partner countries of the Global South.
Lastly, the online scientific news platform IRD Le Mag provides another way to share knowledge with society, through news articles, dossiers, debates, reports, etc. on the publications of IRD researchers and their partners. This is truly science "in the making", as close as possible to current events in the labs and on the field.
Promotion and innovation
IRD collaborates with all public and private actors working on sustainable development issues, through a research approach based on co-creation: a process that seeks to change lifestyles or economic models.
The Institute thus acts as a driving force for open and responsible innovation, stimulating the innovation ecosystems of developing countries.
Promotion of research is a key part of all IRD's missions, and takes the following shape:
- intellectual property and economic development strategies specific to research;
- long-term public-private partnerships;
- tools and mechanisms that encourage, facilitate and assist co-creation;
- open and responsible innovations, founded on interaction with the Institute's partners.
Scientific excellence in partnership
IRD conducts research in around fifty countries throughout the intertropical zone – across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceania – and Mediterranean regions, operating in equitable scientific partnership with the research institutions of these countries.
One of IRD's objectives is to build the ESR (Higher Education for Research) capacities of its partner countries.
This serves a dual purpose: to contribute to advances in universal science, and to meet the needs of the countries' populations, particularly the most vulnerable ones.
IRD is at the forefront of international science, collaboratively producing rigorous scientific material that informs decision-makers and fuels public policies.
Leading the way in sustainable development science and its key issues
IRD takes an original approach to research, expertise, training and knowledge-sharing for the benefit of countries and regions, making science and innovation key drivers in their development.
IRD sets its priorities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), combining operations with critical analysis.
Adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) guide policies concerning sustainable development and the key issues facing us today: global, environmental, economic, social and cultural changes that affect the planet as a whole.
IRD aligns its operations with the Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly reflected in the structure and aims of its research approach: a partnership with the countries of the intertropical and Mediterranean zone. One aspect that IRD strives to emphasise is the importance of scientifically examining the interactions and/or trade-offs between SDGs.
- Science is at the very source of SDGs; without science, there is no way to apprehend the complex chains of cause-and-effect that affect the dynamics of the planetary system and the well-being of populations.
- SDGs cannot be attained without the science that enables the emergence of "win/win" solutions and innovations to tackle global changes.
- Although SDGs are universal, the priorities for implementing them differ according to the level of development and realities of each region.
- In developing countries, particularly in Africa, it is essential to build capacities for higher education and research systems. The reason is twofold: not only must these countries achieve the overall advances in knowledge required to take on SDGs, they must also ensure they have sufficient expertise of their own to successfully implement them.
IRD's strategic priorities are thus structured around SDG implementation and critical analysis.
The IRD therefore promotes interdisciplinary coordination and intersectoral scientific approaches to SDGs, for instance through seminal, interdisciplinary scientific partnership programmes (PSIP).
IRD, a driving force for change : enhancing the impact of research
Without appropriate solutions, without relevant technological drivers, without grounded innovations, there is no hope of attaining the SDGs.
Enhancing the impact of research in countries of the Global South is part of IRD's core strategy of equitable scientific partnership, an approach founded on the co-construction of programmes and on a spirit of responsibility and accountability towards developing countries.
The Institute's commitment to a responsible innovation process is fuelled by growing awareness of its contribution to the emergence of "common" goods. Indeed, the Institute’s researchers have a long history in this area, participating in the protection of local "commons" in the Global South (forests, water resources, soils, biodiversity hot spots) and creating a considerable number of "information commons".
Consequently, responsible innovation and commons theory encourage IRD to adopt an approach that promotes differentiated solutions adapted to local contexts for its commercial exploitation activities.
In terms of training, the objective is also to develop actions in conjunction with partners, with a view to training future researchers in key sustainable development topics and contributing to the creation of networks of research lecturers and researchers in the Global South.
Access to Biodiversity and Benefit-Sharing
The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) established as one of its objectives the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources and calls researchers to consider the ethical, economic and political dimensions of research on biodiversity.
The Nagoya Protocol (2014) laid out the legal framework for this objective. Whenever we access a biological resource or associated traditional knowledge in any location and whenever we use, distribute or exploit this resource or knowledge, the regulations on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) defined by the provider country must be applied.
Four main principles guide IRD’s ABS action, which is rigorous, pragmatic and ambitious :
Compliance with laws and regulations
In ABS, as in all fields, IRD tolerates no exceptions. Both in France and abroad, IRD staff and those hosted within its facilities must comply with the local, national and international laws and regulations in force. The Nagoya Protocol has been incorporated into European regulations and the French law for the reconquest of biodiversity, nature and landscapes. Each country has laws that govern access to their genetic resources and associated knowledge. (https://absch.cbd.int/countries)
Scientists and their superiors who fail to comply with the regulations risk criminal and financial sanctions and penalties in terms of the academic and non-academic exploitation of results, partnerships and reputation.
Respecting the spirit of ABS
By placing justice and equity at the heart of its objectives, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) establishes a strong ethical dimension like no other in international agreements on the environment. It promotes an equal relationship between users and providers of genetic resources, that is formalised by Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT). This corresponds closely with IRD’s guiding ambition of equitable partnership. The implementation of ABS should be seen as a new opportunity to develop equitable research partnerships that are grounded in co-construction, accountability and transparency and acknowledge the rights and duties of all the actors involved.
Compliance with the spirit of ABS allows IRD to take informed action whenever decisions are required, since the regulations leave room for interpretation. It encourages a benefit-sharing approach even when the use of resources is outside of the biological (depending on the definition of the genetic resource) or temporal (depending on the date) scope of the regulations. It also informs the Institute’s intellectual property policy.
Efficiency and pragmatism
To encourage compliance with the letter and spirit of ABS, IRD:
- Makes it a priority to encourage awareness and train its staff in ABS. Annual collective training has been organised since 2016.
- Develops in-house procedures and good practices to make staff aware of their responsibilities.
- Includes ABS clauses in all its research agreements signed with partners, including UMRs.
- Accords a crucial role to its representatives in overseas France and abroad, in particular through dialogue with the competent local and national authorities in order to be as close as possible to the realities of the field and facilitate information sharing by geographical area.
- Created the IRD Nagoya Committee. The committee is composed of researchers and members of the legal, promotion and international relations departments. It supports researchers and IRD’s different units in all matters concerning ABS and offers operational solutions to allow research projects to be carried out in compliance with ABS.
- Maintains dialogue with other French higher education and research institutions to harmonise internal procedures, with the relevant French ministries to share feedback, and with the competent authorities of partner countries to facilitate ABS processes and integrate them into other existing processes.
Contribution to the core objectives of ABS
Through ABS, the CBD and Nagoya Protocol aim to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They provide a legal framework for users of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. They aim to encourage the use of genetic resources and the sharing of benefits with the providers who, through the recognition of their rights and their participation in the research process, are ultimately incentivised to preserve biodiversity.
Although the implementation of ABS is still recent, we must examine its effectiveness and effects. On a global scale, the shared monetary advantages appear to be small. On the other hand, the expectations of local and indigenous populations with regard to their recognition are high. The users of genetic resources are aware of benefit-sharing but are sometimes hindered on a national level by the lack of enforcement mechanisms or the complexity of ABS regulations.
Researchers in particular are worried. In the era of big data and open science, is there a risk that ABS procedures may hamper the development of partnerships and knowledge? IRD is fully aware of these concerns. It is also attentive to the standpoints of Southern countries and civil society organisations who voice their concerns during international negotiations (CBD; ITPGRFA) and for whom ABS is a crucial ethical and economical issue and a prerequisite for joining international biodiversity protection conventions.
This does not mean that there are contradictions. The preservation of biological diversity is central to many research programmes. IRD is committed to ensuring that ABS helps achieve this objective. To this end, it has put in place numerous avenues of innovation such as encouraging the adoption of good ABS practices among its staff, developing agreements with partner countries, researching multilateral avenues to improve the effectiveness of ABS and supporting research on governance for biodiversity.
Learn more about the Nagoya Protocol and the ABS principles
HR Excellence in Research Award
The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers, which is also known as HRS4R, aims to improve practices in research organisations and institutions in terms of hiring of and working conditions for researchers.
The European Commission grants this to institutions that have committed to the HR Excellence in Research award.
Since 2019, the IRD has been granted the award and has invested in improving recruitment practices as well as the employment and working conditions for researchers.
The Human Resources Excellence in Research Award
The Human Resources Excellence in Research Award is a tool to support employers in implementing charter and code principles within their institutions. This process is also called HRS4R (Human Resources Strategy for Researchers).
The granting process has the following characteristics:
- it is implemented by research institutions and funding organisations on a voluntary basis;
- it is based on internal review and respects the institution’s autonomy;
- it is a transparent approach that generates easily accessible information about the work of institutions and organisations that are involved in the implementation of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.
This process aims to initiate a process of harmonisation of internal procedures with the provisions contained in the Charter and the Code. It is comprised of the following steps:
- Signature of a commitment letter in which the organisation pledges to implement the principles outlined in the Charter and the Code;
- Gap analysis of the institution’s current practices regarding the 40 principles in the Charter and the Code;
- Creation and publication of an action plan to be implemented, on the basis of self-analysis results, with clearly defined objectives to be reached and progress markers, on the institution’s website;
- Evaluation and recognition of the HR strategy by the Commission, followed by granting by the European Commission of the HR Excellence in Research Award;
- Application of the HR strategy internally and internal review after 24 months;
- External assessment after 3 years and renewal of the award.
Why this award?
The bodies that have adopted the Charter and Code have committed to improve their Human Resources (HR) practices. The goal of these texts is to make good practice, in terms of the recruitment and researcher’s working conditions, become widespread within the European Union.
For institutions that have committed to this process, it can:
- support their policy of excellence in the research field;
- contribute to their appeal, especially with foreign researchers, when looking to take them on for their research project; allow use of the HR Excellence in Research logo, which is granted by the European Commission. This can be used to identify institutions and organisations that provide and support a stimulating and favourable working environment for researchers, in keeping with the principles outlined by the Charter and the Code, on the European job portal, EURAXESS Jobs;
- implement a stimulating and favourable environment for researchers which promotes and facilitates mobility;
- comply with Article 18 of the Grant Agreement for Horizon Europe projects.
The award at the IRD
Following its commitment during the granting process, the IRD was awarded the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) on 5 November 2019, pledging to a process of continuous improvement. European bodies ensure the continuation of the work carried out by the Institut and makes accreditation renewal conditional on the IRD maintaining a structuring and determined dynamic through regular assessments.
In order to achieve the objectives set for each of these areas, the IRD implemented in 2019 a two-year action plan (2020-2021).
In 2021, the IRD carried out an internal review concerning its implementation of HRS4R actions and subsequently deployed a revised three-year action plan. The European Commission received both documents on 5 January 2022 and praised the Institute’s efforts concerning the work environment of researchers, as well as the quality and ambition of the new action plan.
IRD granting process
- The European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers
- The President of the IRD’s commitment letter
- HRS4R 2020-2021 Action Plan (EN)
- HRS4R 2022-2024 Revised Action Plan (EN)
- Feedback from European Commission
- OTM-R Policy
- Internal review