Joint interview with two former ANR Scientific Project Officers: Amélie Abrantes and Bernard Ludwig
What is your background and how did your hear about the ANR?
Amélie Abrantes: With an initial scientific training and a PhD in Animal Communication, I wanted to specialise in Management, Scientific Coordination and Research funding. Following an MBA at the University of California, Berkeley, I joined the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as Project Manager of a European programme on ocean drilling, where I assisted the French Director in charge of scientific communication and coordination. I also spent a year working for a consulting firm in Canada, where I helped innovative enterprises put together their funding application. It is through these experiences that I heard about the ANR.
Bernard Ludwig: I am an historian myself, having completed a PhD on anti-communism and psychological warfare in Federal Republic of Germany and Europe in the 1950s. I learned about the ANR during informal discussions with fellow PhD students, which allowed to see how project research works on the operator’s end, and to acquire skills for a University position.
What were your missions within the Agency?
Amélie Abrantes: I joined the ANR in late 2012 as Scientific Project Officer. I was in charge of the regional monitoring of projects funded within the framework of the Investments for the Future Programmes (now France 2030) in Lyon, St Etienne and Marseille. I supported these projects and ensured their successful implementation in line with the expectations of the French State. Simultaneously, the ANR co-funded my Master’s degree in Research Management at Paris Dauphine University, which allowed me to improve my skills in this field. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to join the Biology and Health Department, where I was in charge of managing, monitoring and coordinating European calls for proposals. After holding this position for two years, my husband, whom I met at the ANR, and I decided to move for family-related reasons. It was therefore with reluctance that we left the ANR, as we eventually missed many pleasant aspects of quality and pace of work.
Bernard Ludwig: I joined the ANR in April 2012, shortly after completing my PhD, when there was a thematic and non-thematic programme, i.e. before the Generic call for proposals was established. I was in charge of the “Humanities” Scientific Evaluation Panel within the Non-Thematic Department (R2E), before managing the Franco-German FRAL research programme. I also monitored other SSH programmes, such as the Open Research Area or the Norface network. Other instruments were gradually created at the ANR, such as MRSEI calls or the Tremplin-ERC programme, for which I acted as correspondent within the SSH Department. This experience helped me progress internally, as I became Scientific Officer, and externally, as I was able to join the Horizon 2020 SSH National Contact Points (NCPs) in 2017, which informs and coordinates training on calls in this field in France.
What is your current position?
Amélie Abrantes: I joined the University of Bordeaux to help researchers put together their projects. In a way, I swapped roles. I started as a European Project Manager, then Strategic Projects Manager on a fixed-term contract, and I am now Head of the Strategic Project Engineering Department on a permanent contract. My day-to-day work consists in identifying all France 2030 calls for proposals, in order to to respond to them and bring them in line with the institution’s strategy. There are many successive calls for proposals with permanent deadlines, and I am extremely excited about being on the field and close to researchers. I also had the opportunity to support the Vice-Presidency of Strategy and Development in implementing the University’s strategic plan.
Bernard Ludwig: I applied to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE), and I am now an Attaché for University Cooperation at the French Embassy in Berlin, on mobility leave. I am in charge of monitoring Germany’s higher education policy, and cooperation with French and German stakeholders. Within this framework, I meet the numerous requests from MEAE, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, and other stakeholders in Higher Education and Research (ESR), with quite different time frames. I prepare the remarks of the ambassador and the cultural consultant, advise them on academic or student issues, and accompany them on their trips. Finally, within the framework of debating ideas, we regularly organise debates and conferences, even exhibitions, with my colleague from the Book Office.
What did you gain from your experience at the ANR? What aspects did you appreciate most?
Amélie Abrantes: The knowledge that I acquired at the ANR, regarding the calls for proposals ecosystem, has been really useful. Without this experience, I would not have gotten this job. My ANR experience also improved my current professional collaborations. For example, I am still in contact with former agents of the French General Secretariat for Investment (SGPI). I particularly loved the atmosphere, and the family-like spirit that I felt at the ANR.
Bernard Ludwig: I can use this experience on a daily basis, as the ANR helped me gain a better understanding of research funding instruments and the technical aspects of putting projects together. It also gave me a better understanding of the French scientific environment, namely major SSH centres, laboratories specialising in one field or another, which helps me guide my German colleagues more easily. Knowledge of the research infrastructure (who does what in the Ministry, how does it work), and Franco-German and European cooperation instruments, is also a major contribution. In this respect, my experience at NCPs was valuable. I also bring a lot of my own Franco-German experience and knowledge on its structures. I appreciated the friendly and pleasant ANR relations and technical equipment that contributed to improve the work.