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The testimonials of our experts

Discharges from wastewater treatment plants

Testimonial of Jean-Pierre Canler, Lyon, TR TED, Area E

My customers are local authorities who are dissatisfied with their existing facilities. The most frequently asked question is: who is responsible for the plant's failure to meet its discharge levels or for its poor performance? Is it the design firm that produced its specifications, the construction company that performed its dimensioning, the operator that set its parameters or the community that generates the effluents? I identify the questions, I review all the reports and documents, I visit the site, I meet with the customer, and then I arrange a meeting with all involved parties to hear their views. I present my findings to them before delivering the written document to the customer. In most cases, the expertise leads to an amicable agreement under which various solutions are implemented. It may, however, lead to court-ordered expertise, which may rely on my report. Good expertise relies on the expert's competence, transparency and neutrality. Irstea's charter highlights these principles as well as the Institute's involvement in support of its experts. In all likelihood, the number of expertise assignments will continue to rise over time, driven by a dissatisfaction with choices based on economics rather than on technical considerations.

Land-use development

Testimonial of Ramon Laplana and Frédéric Saudubray, Bordeaux, TR DTAM

In terms of expertise as defined by the charter, our team has undoubtedly been less sought out than others. Indeed, whereas for a long time we were involved in "technical"-type expertise (land clearing permits, etc.), our expertise work now focuses on:

  • Expertise in support of public policies. For instance, we contributed to the evaluation of "GAL Leaders" (Links between Actions for the Development of Rural Economy), which resulted in the selection of 14 projects for a €16.5 million grant under the programme promoted by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (FEADER) of Aquitaine.
  • Theme-based and collegial expertise: several researchers participated in expertise assignments on subjects such as a study on pesticides, produced in cooperation with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) for the restoration of the Landes Mountain forest after the storm of 2009, or an earlier one examining the possibility of turning Martinique into "the first eco-island in the world".

Accordingly, we have attempted to bring a different perspective into Irstea's updated charter of expertise, one that reflects the working group's connection to humanities and social sciences. We hope that this charter will contribute to define the positioning of researchers in future expertise assignments. Above all, we hope that its implementation will be facilitated by preparation of a Guide of Good Practices.

Local Action Group for implementation of multi-year local development strategies

Control and safety of water engineering works

Testimonial of Paul Royet, Aix-en-Provence, TR Rivage

We have just signed a new three-year agreement with the Ministry of Ecology. This agreement covers most of our expertise activities, accounting for a third of the work of the scientists on the Aix-en-Provence and Bordeaux Civil Engineering team. It includes a set of internal procedures laying down the methods used in our activities in support of dams and dykes monitoring agencies. We have contributed to Irstea's charter of expertise, which offers the advantage of improving the standing of expertise activities, promoting their greater recognition within internal and external assessments. It represents an asset for future evaluations carried out by AERES (Evaluation Agency for Research and Higher Education) and sets the general framework for diversified roadmaps.
Thus, we shall now be able to update our "Expertise Quality Plan" (of 2006), with particular emphasis on the qualification of participants and procedures to be implemented on receipt of orders and on submitting opinions. An identical undertaking will be conducted within each team of the TR Rivage group, in light of the special characteristics of their activities.

Protection of persons and property against the risk of avalanche

Testimonial of Mr. Mohamed Naaim, Grenoble, TR Rivage

Our expertise activity is limited. In order to take place, it requires mobilisation of new knowledge and use of complex modelling techniques that engineering consulting firms cannot provide. Our expertise and Government support activities take three forms. There is the provision of occasional support to expertise carried out, among others, by the ONF/RTM departments, which request our opinion on specific courses of action, methodologies or results. These colleagues may also subcontract to us the modelling part of complex expert assessments. Finally, Irstea may also conduct large-scale expertise involving mobilisation of historical data, statistical tools, digital modelling and physical modelling. This type of expertise is proposed for studies that cover complex scopes or phenomena, or involve high stakes. This is the case, for instance, of an expertise performed for the benefit of the council of Chamonix valley communities regarding the dimensioning of an avalanche protection system for the huge Taconnaz corridor, which threatens more than 30 homes as well as the international highway passing through the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Mr. Paul Royet has emphasised the highlights of the charter of expertise for the TR Rivage group. I fully share his views, especially since, within this TR, we have established a specific awareness-raising activity on expertise, of which he is in charge.

ONF/RTM: mountain land restoration departments