One to one with MESRI

Published on 21/03/2022
Isabelle Bénézeth is the Copernicus and GEO interdepartmental coordinator for the MESRI and represents the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) at the SCO. Recalling the importance of the continuum between science and service to the citizen advocated by the SCO, she underlines how much France is performing in terms of space data and applications.

What is your function within MESRI?Isabelle Bénézeth: My role is to coordinate France's positions for Copernicus and GEO, and to bring these positions to the governance bodies of these institutions.

MESRI Isabelle Bénézeth

Isabelle Bénézeth at the Copernicus Conference. © MESRI

As a member and partner of SCO France, what is MESRI's vision of this initiative?I.B.: MESRI is positive about this observatory, first of all because we know the climate emergency. An initiative like the SCO, which aims to reach the local level and propose solutions, is essential to help people. In this context, the continuum from science and research to operations and service to the citizen is one of our priorities, which is well reflected in the SCO, and the Ministry is very attentive to this.

How can satellite data support public policy?I.B.: Because of its information, its frequency and the geographical coverage it allows, spatial data is crucial and unavoidable. However, it is not the satellite data that must accompany public policies but the information they contain. At the Ministry, we need finished products, such as those of the meteorology or Copernicus programmes. Moreover, during the "Copernicus Horizon 2035" conference held in mid-February 2022, all the users questioned about the future of the programme replied that they wanted useful data, a service validated by research and science, rather than space data as such.

What does MESRI expect from SCO France today?I.B.: One of our main objectives is to use science and research to accompany - and this is the SCO's vocation - the final stages of the development of an application or a service for citizens. This is a missing link that the SCO fills.

How do you see the interactions between the SCO and Copernicus services?I.B.: These interactions are already in place with C3S, Copernicus Climate Change Service, which has a natural complementarity with the SCO. Indeed, while C3S works at the global and regional levels, the SCO allows it to reach the last level, towards the citizen. I therefore think that this complementarity should be maximised in the future.

The SCO will work closely with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO): what is your vision for this cooperation?I.B.: There is also a fairly natural complementarity here, since one of GEO's objectives is to respond to the Paris agreements, and the SCO can become one of the possible materializations. As a reminder, GEO is an international organisation attached to the WMO (World Meteorological Organisation), and takes the form of a trust fund, like the IPCC. Its purpose is to share and disseminate Earth observation data as widely as possible for environmental monitoring purposes, but also to share scientific knowledge with the people who need it. GEO is therefore a very interesting organisation to make itself known, disseminate information and increase its influence. Its rapprochement with the SCO is under construction, and I invite the latter to accept the proposal to become a participating organisation of GEO.

"There is a willingness at SCO to proceed in a rational way and to select quality projects."

You personally participate in the labelling committee that studies the responses to the SCO calls for projects. What do you think about it?

I.B.: I have a positive experience of this committee. First of all, because you can discover original projects that propose a different vision. Within this committee, it is clear that the SCO has a desire to proceed in a rational manner and to select quality projects. In addition, the SCO has a particularly enriching joint construction approach: when a project has shortcomings, we ask the promoter how to improve it and give him the time to adapt the dossier to maximise the SCO label. Even if the dossiers are still a little too upstream - which is normal at this stage of development of such an initiative - the range of 2022 proposals is interesting. For my part, the projects on biodiversity and water particularly caught my attention.

What future do you see for the SCO?

I.B.: I would like to stress the importance of understanding the climate emergency that we are facing, which is almost a question of survival, and which requires us to mitigate the phenomena as much as to predict, anticipate and adapt to what is going to happen to us. It is absolutely necessary to continue to monitor our environment, as Copernicus and the CNES Earth observation system are doing. France is a leader in these areas and the SCO is obviously important. It must continue to carry out projects at the most local level, right down to the end user, and to do so it must remain connected to research and science, a crucial proximity for evaluating projects in the process of funding. I am convinced that this approach is central for future generations.



The Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) is responsible for the preparation and implementation of government policy on the development of higher education, research and technology. It supervises higher education institutions and research organisations.