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ABG and the PAUSE Program: The story of a collaboration

Since 2017, the PAUSE Program has made it possible to host and integrate in France foreign scientists who can no longer carry out their activities freely in their country of origin, where they are exposed to major risks due to the content of their research, their activism, or their belonging to a minority. Since 2019, ABG has been a partner of PAUSE and helping the laureates, who are highly qualified international PhDs and researchers, pursue their career.

In this interview, Laura Lohéac, Executive Director of the PAUSE program, and Vincent Mignotte, Executive Director of ABG, look back together at their collaboration and its future.


Questions adressed to Laura Lohéac - PAUSE program // Questions adressed to Vincent Mignotte - ABG Association Bernard Gregory

In fact, to help these researchers, we set up within a few days a two-stage system:

  • an emergency assistance to host them through the “Solidarity with Ukraine Call” launched on 2 March 2022. It offers a financial aid to fund their stay for a period of three months and can be supplemented by a family and a housing allowance (see details of the amounts and allocation procedures in the call);
  • a stabilization phase during which the beneficiaries may prepare, together with their host institutions, an application for an additional 6-month support according to the regular procedures (co-financing between the host institution and the PAUSE program) and the classic eligibility criteria. A call for PAUSE applications is currently open. The deadline is April 8th. The next call for applications will take place in the fall of 2022, but intermediate evaluation sessions may be held as needed.

We have been able to respond so quickly thanks to the support of public and private donors, including the MESRI (Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation), to which we are grateful. This type of support contributes more generally to the sustainability of the program. This is why I invite organisations of all kinds who wish to contribute to the program to contact us.

The PAUSE program was born out of the mobilization of the higher education and research community in the context of the crisis in Syria, in particular after the assassination by the Islamic State of the director of the Department of Antiquities of the Palmyra Museum, which revealed the urgency of setting up a system to host researchers at risk, as existed in other countries (Germany, United Kingdom, United States). The Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research at the time, Thierry Mandon, and his teams took up the subject and created in January 2017 (exactly 5 years before this interview is given!): the PAUSE program.

PAUSE is a national program, led by the Collège de France, which is very committed to this issue, and in which major research organizations (CNRS, INSERM, INRAE, INRIA, IRD), actors of higher education and research (Chancellery of Paris Universities, France Universités, CDEFI, CNOUS, AUF) and the main ministries concerned (Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, and also Ministry of Culture having the objective of opening the program to artists) have joined.

In concrete terms, the program allocates funding to higher education and research institutions hosting a researcher or artist forced into exile. The duration of the funding is one year, renewable once (twice for doctoral candidates).  The program also supports the host institutions and laureates, with a view to the social and professional integration of the latter.

Up until now, the program has welcomed more than 310 laureates, nearly 200 of whom have received one or two (for doctoral candidates) renewals. While the vast majority of the laureates were coming from Turkey and Syria during the first two years of the program, today they come from 34 countries in all regions of the world. One third of them are doctoral students and 43% are women - a quasi-parity that the program wishes to consolidate. More than half are from the humanities and social sciences, 1/3 from the exact sciences. Finally, the artists, whose first applications were received a year ago, now make up 7% of the laureates; a figure that is expected to increase.

The PAUSE program, which is a concrete French response to the challenge of hosting researchers and artists in exile, enjoys strong political support from the public authorities, in particular from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and from the Minister Frédérique Vidal, who has reinforced the financial support for the program. PAUSE has also benefited from the support of the European Union for three and a half years, through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (FAMI), which has allowed a change of scale: doubling of the team and tripling of the budget and the broadening of the program’s missions, in particular in terms of support for professional integration, but also in terms of advocacy on the issues of protection of researchers and artists at risk, as well as academic and artistic freedom.

Beyond that, PAUSE is supported by the mobilization of the higher education and research community, starting with the host institutions, without which the program would not exist. PAUSE has also established collaborations with its international partners, in particular with counterpart programs abroad, and, at the national level, with actors from civil society: foundations, committed individuals, associations, including of course, for more than 3 years, ABG.



One of the major challenges facing the program, like its counterparts abroad, is the stability and permanence of employment once the program's funding has come to an end, and when, unfortunately, the laureates are not in a position to return to their country of origin, if at all, in the near future. In view of the strong constraints of the highly competitive academic job market in France, it quickly became essential to develop post-program support to enable the laureates to bounce back professionally, not only in academia, but also, beyond, by opening up the field of possible horizons.

The program has thus set up a number of activities to provide researchers with the necessary tools to remain in the academic world or to reorient themselves towards other sectors, thus securing their professional situation.

The system set up by PAUSE is based on two main actions. The first one is the collective trainings, which consist of workshops dedicated to professional integration with experts in the sector, the main one being Association Bernard Gregory, which has joined forces with Action Emploi Réfugiés for certain activities. The second one is a personalized support by our partners, including ABG, and through the allocation of additional funding to the host institutions for training purposes (depending on the needs, this can be for example reinforcement of linguistic and scientific competences or help with publication).

Finally, an "alumni" network was created during the period of confinement with the support of ABG, with the objective of federating the laureates around a community, allowing them to share their experiences and expertise as well as their network, which is fundamental for social and professional integration.





First of all, we are very happy and proud to be associated with PAUSE because the mission of the ABG is precisely to help researchers develop their careers. PAUSE laureates face difficult personal conditions and the challenge, as Laura Lohéac just said, is to help them find professional stability.

The support offered by the ABG is provided by three experienced ABG trainers: Thao Lang, Melike Riollet and Kristina Berkut. All three have personal experience of international mobility and are highly competent in supporting the career development of researchers. Their involvement takes several forms.

First, they provide training on the main aspects of the job search in France: from the definition of a career plan and the exploration of the job market for researchers, to the recruitment process, including the networking approach and the effective communication of research experience and skills. These workshops allow the laureates to take a step back, analyze their past experience, the work achieved and plan their next steps. They also allow them to acquire the vocabulary, codes, methods and tools necessary to apply for jobs in the socio-economic sector in France. These interactive workshops, which bring together a dozen laureates per session, are also an opportunity to exchange ideas among peers and to benefit from the knowledge and perspective of other exiled researchers.

The training sessions can be completed by personal coaching, on a one-time or long-term basis, in order to address the specific issues of each laureate and to help them effectively implement what they have learned. One of our strengths lies in our ability to support both French and English-speaking audiences. Many English-speaking researchers - mostly Afghans in recent months - have been integrated into French institutions with the support of the PAUSE program.

Third, we organize different types of networking events for the laureates. These researchers (and artists) have been forced to leave a large part of their personal and professional network in their home country and they often have an important need to meet and discuss with their peers, as well as with professionals from various sectors.

Each activity is designed and implemented taking into account the particular situations of the laureates and their dual identity as PhD candidates/holders and exiles. For example, for the networking events mentioned above, the ABG team identifies and invites professionals who have a job and an international background that resonate with the audience, or recruiters who are familiar with working with international PhDs. These different interlocutors are thus able to provide relevant feedback and advice, which the PAUSE laureates would be able to put into practice.

Finally, the fourth form of support concerns the creation of the Alumni network mentioned above by Laura Lohéac. The network’s goal is to contribute to the social, cultural and professional integration of exiled researchers so that they "can be an asset and a strength for France that welcomes them".  To encourage the creation of the Alumni network, we have taken advantage of the experience of coaching and "training of trainers" present within the ABG team. In concrete terms, we have assisted the core group of the network to identify the needs and a common purpose. Moreover, we have helped these laureates consolidate their knowledge on career related issues as well as their mentoring skills so that they can eventually advise and guide their peers on matters related to career development. 

In addition to these main areas of support, we regularly rally around various events and activities of the "PAUSE community" which we feel a part of. Our colleagues also respond to requests from laureates, whether they are requests for professional contacts, or simple requests for advice on preparing for an important job interview.




The partnership with ABG, which is a long-standing operator, supported by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, in the field of career development and recruitment of PhDs, has become obvious for us very quickly, especially since we needed to open up professional horizons outside the academic field.

This journey is particularly difficult for the PAUSE laureates, whose identity as a researcher and attachment to their work are further increased by exile and the consequences of uprooting (distance from their country, family, friends).

The missions and know-how of ABG correspond perfectly to the needs of researchers. Indeed, they need to be supported to be able to use their experience and academic skills outside the academic world, to be given the necessary tools to find a job, to be put into contact with professionals. Some of the need to benefit from individual support. This partnership with ABG reinforces the PAUSE program's supportive missions.

As evidenced by all the activities proposed by ABG within the framework of our partnership and recalled by Vincent Mignotte, ABG has all the necessary expertise to respond to these needs.

Although our collaboration cannot be reduced to a quantitative assessment, the figures speak for themselves: more than 50 laureates participated in the collective workshops, more than 50 in the Apéros docs, and more than 10 benefited from coaching. ABG has been associated and has shared its expertise in many PAUSE events. Over the years, we have developed a relationship of trust with the ABG team and our very fruitful discussions contribute a lot to our reflections, including on the evolution of the program.


To read more about the support provided by the ABG, read the crossed testimonies of Souad ODEH, former laureate of the program 
and Thao LANG, training and support manager at ABG, collected by the PAUSE programme.



I have already mentioned how the mission of the PAUSE program echoes that of ABG. That's why we have been watching with great interest as the PAUSE program was created and ramped up since 2017. Crises and wars, which cause immense suffering and exile of populations, follow one another incessantly: Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine today... We have the capacity, and the duty, to contribute to help those affected by these tragic events.

For forty-two years, ABG's vocation has been to support young researchers towards employment, and over the last ten years we have extended our action in the direction of researchers who are increasingly advanced in their careers: post-doctoral fellows, (permanent) researchers and lecturer-researchers, supervisors, research team leaders. We help all these people to better manage their careers and their teams. We like this job of supporting people, and I like to say that ABG is an empathetic structure.

Moreover, international mobility is often essential to develop as a researcher. ABG has therefore built up an important network of correspondents abroad, as well as trainings on mobility and understanding cultural diversity. This international dimension of our association allows us to keep a permanent watch on the mobility opportunities and conditions for researchers, in order to help them carry out their projects in the best possible way.

The mission of the PAUSE program in favor of researchers in exile therefore resonates strongly with the values of ABG. Our knowledge of the skills of researchers and of the job market in France and abroad has naturally led us to propose a support for this audience. We also know what it costs to give up an academic research career and find new motivation in a new career path. And this is often the path that the program's laureates need to follow.  




This issue is and will remain one of our main challenges. We are continuing our reflection and activities with our international partners, within the framework of the Inspireurope project financed by the European Union and bringing together the main initiatives for the protection of researchers at risk. Together with our partners at the national level, including ABG, we have already responded to a number of needs and expectations of the laureates and contributed to their professional stability.

Today, out of the 120 laureates who have left the program and whose situation we know, nearly 2/3 have found new opportunities (contracts, funding), and about ten of them have been able to return to their home country, or are in a transition that could be described as positive (training, professional support). However, even if some of them have obtained a permanent contract and 3 of them have become permanent lecturers, most of them have only short or medium-term visibility. 20% of them are still looking for jobs. Although the figures are encouraging, much remains to be done...

In this perspective, we will of course pursue the activities we have been proposing (workshops, coaching ...) and further develop the Alumni network, which is, in our opinion, an essential resource for the laureates. The goal is to allow them to share information, their contacts but also to develop a specific network within the academic world. For the coming years, we would like to invest more in the scientific field and promote the skills and expertise of the scientists and artists beneficiaries of PAUSE. This could take the form of events and scientific meetings with the laureates in order to build bridges not only between them but also with their colleagues, outside the program, working on subjects of common interest.

It is also essential to develop relations with the private sector, which are currently insufficient. In this perspective, the support of ABG is particularly valuable to us and would constitute a new axis of collaboration.




We are already facilitating the connection of the PAUSE laureates with professionals and recruiters, both from the private and public sectors, for example during “Apéro docs” (networking gatherings with professionals) or by inviting PhDs who have made a successful career change to speak at ABG training sessions.

Due to the health context, a large majority of these actions have been implemented remotely for more than a year. Even during online evets, we try to provide real networking opportunities to the laureates. For example, beyond the online round-tables or the webinar format, informal discussions in small groups are regularly organized, during the ABG/PAUSE Apéro Docs, with representatives of the socio-economic world. These are people working in companies or public organisations such as Renault, Ayming, Expertise France, or the ANR (French National Research Agency), to name a few.

In addition to inspiring the laureates, encouraging them to take ownership of their professional project, and to take action through the network approach, these meetings have offered us some beautiful, tangible results. For example, a postdoctoral researcher was able to benefit greatly from the meetings and discussions held during one of our workshops on networking in 2021. Indeed, it is following discussions with one of the speakers, a PhD in physics reconverted into a data scientist, that he decided to follow a series of technical trainings, as well as trainings to improve his English. These efforts have paid off, as they have helped him to be recruited in an excellent research institution for a new contract, following his Pause contract.

In the coming months, we hope to be able to organize some of these activities on-site, to strengthen the professional contacts and the quality of interactions. In particular, we plan to organize company visits, which are a very interesting way of discovering private research by discussing with R&D professionals on the spot. 

All these support methods aim to help PAUSE beneficiaries to better understand the jobs, opportunities and expectations of employers in France, to develop their professional network beyond academic research, and then to take action. They also contribute to our broader goal of bringing the PAUSE program closer to the various companies that are already part of the ABG network.   




At the start the 6th year of PAUSE, and while the program has been renewed for the next five years, the projects are numerous and the challenges are just as numerous. In order to provide the most effective responses to the ever-increasing needs, we naturally call for the continuation and reinforcement of our collaboration with ABG, which, as this interview shows, plays a leading role in our strategy of support for employability and professional integration.

Let me take this opportunity, to thank the ABG team and in particular Melike Riollet, Thao Lang and Kristina Berkut, whose professionalism is so valuable to the program and its laureates.



To go further...


The PAUSE program website

"Solidarity with Ukraine" special call

The article: Les réfugiés sont aussi des cerveaux, on France Culture [available only in French] 


                                               Vincent Mignotte, Executive Director ABG

Vincent Mignotte is a graduate of Ecole polytechnique (1985) ; he received his PhD in Molecular Genetics in 1989, worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, joined CNRS in 1990, and obtained his “Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches” in 1998.

In the first part of his career, he was a researcher and group leader in molecular genetics and hematology, as well as an associate professor at Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Techniques Avancées.

He was trained as a professional coach for managers in 2004-2005 and became ‘HR Deputy Director for executives’ at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS); for six years he was in charge of the recruitment, counseling, mobility and managerial training of scientific and administrative executives and high potentials. In 2011 he became Deputy Director for Innovation and Industrial Relations at CNRS. In 2012 he was appointed Executive Director of the Association Bernard Gregory (ABG), where he also participates activitely to trainings (in particular, for senior researchers and team leaders).


                                          Laura Lohéac, Executive Director of PAUSE

Laura Lohéac is the Executive Director of the Programme d'Accueil en Urgence des Scientifiques et des Artistes en Exil (PAUSE), at the Collège de France since May 2017. She was previously the advisor responsible for international solidarity actions at the office of the Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, Thierry Mandon, where she set up the PAUSE program in January 2017. She is also President of the Marianne Association for Human Rights Defenders launched by President Emmanuel Macron on December 10, 2021.

As a specialist in international and strategic issues, she has held analyst positions, notably on the sub-Saharan Africa zone at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security (SGDSN), serving the Prime Minister’s Office, before being appointed advisor to the communication unit in the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Bernard Kouchner’s cabinet. She then continued her career at the Ministry of Defense, in the Directorate General of International Relations and Strategy, where she successively held the positions of advisor to the Director and then head of the department of bilateral defense relations with countries in North America, Europe and the post-Soviet space.