Surfing the web for information about European research activities can be a hit and miss affair. Every now and then, you come across a site which, although not necessarily a work of art, tells you why it exists and guides you to its core activities with minimal fuss. France's Agricultural and Environmental Engineering Research (Cemagref) is that sort of website.
Opening in French, visitors to Cemagref's website are given several browsing options, including science news, thematic dossiers, partners, research activities and products, as well as a presentation of the organisation and its mission. The English option goes to a simple but informative sub-site, with a foreword from the Director-general Patrick Lavarde, news links and what it calls its ‘Seven-page visit to Cemagref'.
|Examples of research in waste water engineering and management.|
This mini-guide is innovative and does what many sites fail to do: it provides enough to learn about the organisation and its activities or to write an article like this, but no so much information that it drowns. For example, page one of the quick guide is an overview of Cemagref's activities with deliverables and partners clearly outlined.
The next page provides its key figures – budget and staff – in easy-to-read pie charts. In 2004, the budget was €69.9 million (€19 million on scientific activities, €45.3 million on staff and the rest on general costs). Page three is a chart of research outcomes, including publications (850 per year), papers, symposia and congresses (430 per year), specialist reports and advice to government (770 engineer months per year), as well as 1 320 tests approved in labs and 33 patents.
To give a full brief of Cemagref's research goals and position in European research, one need only continue browsing through the mini-guide. Page four, for example, is an active map of its nine research sites, from Antony in the north of France, to Renne in the west, Lyon in the east as far down as Montpellier in south. On the next page, the group's 25 research units are described. They are organised around four themes: aquatic ecosystems (quality and pollution); water resources (uses and hazards); landscape management; and eco-technologies and agro-systems.
On page six, Cemagref's many European partnerships are summarised. A dozen, mostly EU-funded, projects and networks are described with logos and links to the respective research pages. An earlier Headline (18 November 2005) features one of the projects in which Cemagref is involved, Glochamore, which is tackling global change in mountain regions. Other projects include FLOODsite, an integrated flood risk analysis and management project, the ALTER-Net European Network of Excellence for biodiversity, and a project for exploiting research results on the multifunctional uses of agricultural and rural areas (MultiAgri).
On the final page of the quick guide, the Cemagref research group states its social and ethical position in “a changing world”. It mentions science and governance, where environmental and agricultural engineering research fits into the whole global change and sustainability picture, and the role of knowledge and sound policy-making in meeting society's needs.
“A number of general trends and developing patterns are driving changes in both public policies and the needs of society. They constitute the backdrop of the strategic research scene embraced by organisations whose mission is to produce knowledge that is useful to society and for the management of public goods,” the website notes. Sustainable development, climate change, water-related issues, multipurpose agriculture and general safety issues are among the priority areas for developing new knowledge, the site continues.