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L’énergie dans le développement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

Yves Le Bars
Elsa Faugère
Philippe Menanteau
et al.

Section 2: Review and recommendations. English Version

Experts’ report for the IRD : objectives and method

Texte intégral

1As part of its mission as a public scientific and technological establishment the IRD undertakes to “develop an expert reporting capacity” (art. L 112-1 c b of research legislation in French law), in the form of collective scientific appraisals known as “experts’ reports”.

2Given the scale of its objectives (development, the south, human relations with the environment in the intertropical zone) and its establishment in the various southern regions by means of its representations, the IRD’s remit is to specifically cover complex global issues which, by definition, require both across the board use of the latest knowledge and transmission of the latter to society and social stakeholders. The compilation of experts’ reports forms an integral part of the institute’s missions and creates added value, in this area where the appropriate elements need to be gathered together and organised in order to clarify decisions in the public domain.


3An experts’ report is fundamentally an original exercise designed to transfer scientific knowledge to the sphere of decision-makers and leaders (in short, those whose role within their institution is to make or organise decisions for the benefit of the community, on the basis of a mandate or otherwise), produced in response to an initial question posed by the latter. Its aim is to produce, on the request of one or more sponsors (public authorities, in the vast majority of cases), a multi-disciplinary scientific analysis of a pre-determined subject, based on a complete review of the current situation.

4Conceived in this way, it always results in:

  • a contractual relationship with the sponsor, based on a list of initial questions and the funding acquired,
  • the delimitation of a question with a broad subject and numerous challenges, on a national or regional level, which a single disciplinary approach could not purport to cover on its own,
  • the establishment of a multi-disciplinary panel of experts from various scientific communities and establishments (bodies, universities, agencies), recruited for their individual skills and their proven knowledge of the issue in question,
  • the putting into perspective and translation of the initial question, based on a review (possibly already carried out, to a certain extent) and available data, as well as on a multi-disciplinary process,
  • the formulation of conclusions and recommendations, designed to clarify or even support the forthcoming decision or public action.

5The experts’ report is produced in close and monitored connection with decision-making processes or mechanisms, most frequently in the field of “public policies” within the remit of the state or regional or local authorities. It differs, in this respect, from the work of producing scientific knowledge in the strictest sense. The independence and joint responsibility of the panel of experts is therefore combined with the requirements and deadlines attached to the request and the sponsor.

6It therefore represents an original way of promoting/developing research, which makes use of the latest knowledge and also opens up new avenues for research in the forefront of a number of scientific fields. The “experts’ report” approach therefore does not stand alone but adds to the implementation of ongoing and/or future research programmes. The experts involved – professional researchers or research lecturers in the vast majority of cases – vouch for the benefits of this practice, on both a professional and personal level.

7To summarise, the experts’ report truly helps to make research “speak”, by basing it in a context where it meets a need.


8The key task at the project stage is to identify the request (confirm its sources, its precise subject, its context and its sponsors) and to formalise it, until such a time as it becomes an order. A request may be issued directly by an entity, which is itself the financial backer or not. Where the need is underlying, on site representatives of the IRD and its researchers represent a valuable intermediary and help the partner to formulate a request: they are perfectly placed and qualified to make the best use of their local networks (institutional, scientific, interpersonal) and their knowledge of the field.

9Where a request is adequately identified, the IRD’s Reporting and Evaluation Department examines it, explores it in detail and adapts it to the process of “expert reporting” on the basis of the three principal criteria usually applied:

  • clear identification of the expression of the requestor’s needs and the decision-making processes involved,
  • the central and essential use of a summary of scientific knowledge to clarify, evaluate and analyse the public policies involved and the challenges faced,
  • the existence of adequate literature (scientific, published or unpublished, but also professional reviews, sector-based dossiers, etc.) and consolidated and available data on the subject.

10These points are verified as far as possible upstream by cross-checking the available information and making use of bibliometrics. Where one of these three criteria is not met, the IRD retains the right not to continue with the project.


11An experts’ report, as designed and implemented by the IRD, is governed by a tried and tested, ISO 9001:2000 certified, methodological model. It is based on a set of standards, rules and practices, which the Reporting and Evaluation Department deploys and updates as assignments are carried out.

12The IRD’s Reporting and Evaluation Department itself manages and gathers together all the operations involved in the “expert reporting“ process, from the initial request and recruitment of experts until the final report is issued and the work is published.

13All expert reporting processes officially begin when the agreement is signed by both parties (IRD, sponsor). Concluding agreements, recruitment, establishment of bodies, working methods, etc. take place during the subsequent period.

14The precise terms of questions associated with an order are defined with the greatest care by the organisation, during the “initial workshop”, an indepth exchange of information/opinions between the sponsor, representatives of the scientific communities in question and, possibly, the various stakeholders. There is actually a need to precisely objectivise the expectations of all parties and to clearly delimit what can be covered from a scientific point of view and what cannot. Certain questions, which are, without a doubt, crucial for political decision-making, cannot even refer to a scientific approach in their terms; they should therefore be rejected. On the other hand, however, it is vital that the experts have an excellent knowledge of the political context and the decision-making processes in question.

15Work is therefore carried out over a period of one year by the panel of experts, under the leadership of its chairman and scientific coordinator (one coordinator for each thematic area). A monitoring committee made up of representatives of the sponsor and the latter’s possible partners, is kept up to date on the progress of work. The comments it makes are passed on to the panel of experts, which examines them.

16On completion of the work, between twelve and fifteen months after the initial workshop was held, the final report, including the summary and complete wording of experts’ contributions, is issued to the sponsor. This report is published in the “Experts’ report” collection of IRD publications.

© IRD Éditions, 2010

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