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13th INRA Awards ceremony © Arnaud Veldemann

2018 INRA Awards

Christine Charlot ready for service!

Christine Charlot has a laugh unlike any other, and it’s hard not to appreciate her cheery disposition and boundless energy. She paved her own career path with great strides, between both Paris and Bordeaux. Her work has no secrets for her, she knows the ins and outs of INRA like the back of her hand, and her attentiveness is widely appreciated. Currently Director of research support services at INRA’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux site and General Secretary of the joint INRA-Cirad-Ifremer Ethics Committee, this year’s Research Support Award recognises her long and fruitful career at the Institute.

By Patricia Léveillé, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 12/13/2018
Published on 12/10/2018

“Christine is here!” On the first floor of the “chateau”, as the small building dedicated to research support services and the president’s office at INRA’s Villenave d’Ornon site is known, it’s impossible not to notice when the Director of research support services walks in the door. Her laugh bounces from one end of the corridor to the other. Since 2016, Christine has been at the head of the 60-member staff of Human Resources, Budget and Accounting, Public Procurement, Partnerships, Real Estate Assets, Logistics, IT, Health and Safety, Collective bodies, Communications and more… Convinced that the quality of support contributes to the overall dynamic of the Institute, the newly-arrived Director wasted no time launching a new training session: “Research Support: In it Together”. “It’s true, she can be a whirlwind”, admits her secretary, “but she is determined to bind us together as a team. She is the ultimate people person”. Team work has always been a source of satisfaction for someone who describes her work as behind-the-scenes, fulfilling the crucial role of a go-between.

I needed more action

Christine does not regret never completing her doctoral thesis in labour law. Eager to get her hands dirty, she began her career in the legal and litigation division of INRA in 1985. Then came “a wonderful year travelling across the western US”, when she accompanied her husband, an astronomy researcher, as he finished his post-doc in California. Back in France in 1990, the young lawyer spent seven formative years in the personnel department where she developed her knack for working with people.

"Science First"

In 1998 Christine took up her post as Deputy Secretary General of INRA in Bordeaux. There, she put into practice her philosophy of support services: “Create the ideal conditions for scientists to do their job”. Her daily diet of work included forging partnerships, monitoring public markets, and managing projects and European contracts. Her role requires organisational, managerial, facilitation and advisory skills.  
Is that where her vocation to forge partnerships comes from, wonders François Houllier, who recruited Christine as his deputy in the Forests and Natural Habitats division of INRA in 2002. Their collaboration, which lasted until 2016, is studded with achievement, not the least of which was the creation of the scientific division “Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology” in 2004. Christine then spent three months between Paris and Bordeaux, having decided to continue working with François Houllier in running the Plants and Plant Products division. One wonders how she found the time to facilitate the “plant sector” groups and organise the National Research Agency’s programme on GMOs, which sparked controversy at the time. “What strikes me is her commitment, her ability to buckle down and get things done, and her enthusiasm and generosity in making sure that everything goes according to plan”, says the current President of Ifremer.

First Director of the Management Board support unit (CoDir)

The Management Board years

If you think that’s all, think again! From 2008, Christine Charlot served as Secretary General of the Board of Directors (CoDir) during Marion Guillou’s second term as President-Director of INRA. And since taking risks does not faze this champion of positive thinking, Christine also spearheaded a new support unit designed specifically for the Board. She fulfilled these two roles with pragmatism and expert knowledge of the ropes of the Institute, until the end of François Houllier’s term as INRA President. At the start of 2016, he made her Secretary General of the joint INRA-Cirad Ethics Committee, which was then extended to Ifremer with a new president, Axel Kahn. “She’s never not thinking of INRA” says Hubert de Rochambeau, president of INRA’s Aquitaine site. He is thrilled that this “powerhouse of the Institute” decided to come back to Bordeaux in 2016. Sometimes, though, she misses scientific dossiers, drafting documents, and seminars with site presidents and division heads. Her desk is piled high with large notebooks, a sign of her time with the Board of Directors. “I was the only one who took notes”, she says, revealing her fondness of writing. Naturally, she was surprised to learn of her winning the Research Support Award. She was not expecting “someone in general management to be chosen! I see it as an acknowledgement of an atypical career and a commitment to the Institute and all those involved with it”.

(1) The Management Board of INRA is in charge of the overall strategy of the Institute. It currently consists of a President-Director General and two Deputy Director Generals (in charge of research support and scientific affairs respectively). These three posts make up the “general management” of INRA (i.e. the executive branch of the Institute) along with the three Scientific Directors (Agriculture, Food, Environment) the Director of Regional Policy, Higher Education and Europe, and the Director of Human Resources.

Christine CHARLOT, in the centre, surrounded by teams from the Research Support Services of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux research centre.. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe
Christine CHARLOT, in the centre, surrounded by teams from the Research Support Services of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux research centre. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

Now what?

INRA Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux/Irstea merger: finding the right balance

Midway through her mandate, Christine Charlot was already fully committed to making the transition to the new INRA Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Poitiers site as smooth as possible. With that experience under her belt, her approach to the forthcoming INRA-Irstea merger in 2020 is pragmatic. Irstea is present in the Bordeaux region, on the Cestas site, with two scientific units and its general services. “180 more people, plus another 20 or so for general services, that will have an impact. It raises certain questions, and both sides have their concerns”, says the Director of Decentralised Research Support Services, speaking with typical clear-sightedness about the place where she will carry out the second part of her mandate. What drives her? Ensuring team spirit at the scale of the future site, helping everyone adapt to their new home, and reassuring staff in their roles of support for the new centre.

Mini CV

58 years old, married


1985: Recruited on a temporary contract by INRA, legal and litigation services: in charge of litigation and general regulations. Paris
1986: Tenure
1989: Extended leave (USA)
1990: Head of personnel management department, then Head of Career services. Head of Human Resources, Paris.
1998: Deputy Secretary General, INRA Bordeaux.
2002: Partnership assistant and head of European Affairs at the Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology division (formerly Forests and Natural Habitats), Bordeaux-Pierroton.
2005: Deputy Scientific Director Plants and Plant Products. Facilitation of the “plant sector” groups & coordination of the National Research Agency’s GMO programme, Paris/Bordeaux.
2008: Director of CoDir unit and General Secretary of Management Board, Paris
2012-2013: General Secretary of Board of Directors
Since 2016: General Secretary of INRA-Cirad-Ifremer Ethics Committee.
Since 2016: Director of support services at INRA Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux.
Elected to INRA’s Scientific Council in 2018 (sector 9 Research Support)

Degrees and education

Masters in labour law. Masters in private law. Eligible for entry to the Ecole nationale de la magistrature, French national school for the Judiciary.
Auditor at IHEST, the French Institute of Higher Studies in Science and Technology / “Leonard da Vinci” graduating class (2012-2013)


Reading (everything!) and cinema (esp. American 1950s-60s). Travel and the great outdoors, but also cities.
Art and civilisation, history, museums, books. Spending time with friends.