Political aide sails into top job at maritime institute

Finance adviser winds up in science slot after scandal.

Paris

A scandal that prompted the resignation of the French finance minister, Hervé Gaymard, last month has ricocheted into the most unlikely of places — the national marine research agency, IFREMER.

Jean-Yves Perrot, who until the scandal broke was Gaymard's political adviser, was nominated by the agency's board on 22 March to take over as the agency's chief executive. Two days later the council of ministers confirmed his appointment.

The move follows a government decision earlier this month not to renew the mandate of the agency's current director-general, Jean-François Minster, a renowned oceanographer.

Perrot is an unknown face in French science. He lost his adviser's job when Gaymard was toppled in a controversy over rents. The French government paid the €14,000 (US$18,000) monthly rent on a flat where the minister lived with his family, even though he owned other homes.

Several researchers have expressed outrage at Perrot's appointment, claiming that IFREMER is a victim of the fallout of the Gaymard scandal — especially as Minster's mandate at IFREMER had been viewed positively.

“I am profoundly shocked by the decision,” says Pierre Papon, a socialist and former head of both IFREMER and the CNRS, the French national research agency, who is now a physicist at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution in Paris.

IFREMER has traditionally been headed by scientists, whereas Perrot has had a solely political career. He is currently the mayor of Marly-le-Roi, a small town on the outskirts of Paris, and is a local representative in the greater Paris area for Jacques Chirac's ruling, neo-Gaullist UMP party.

“To nominate someone who has neither a scientific attachment, nor scientific or technical competence in the areas of activity of IFREMER, nor knowledge of public research in general, is a serious mistake and a serious political fault,” says Papon. Perrot was not available for comment as Nature went to press.

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French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER)

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Butler, D. Political aide sails into top job at maritime institute. Nature 434, 551 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/434551b

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