In July 2009, IRSN obtained ISO 9001 certification for its management system through the quality of all its activities, in particular research.
For research, as for the other missions of the Institute, this certification is recognition of the credibility of the IRSN, its professionalism, the rigor of its work and its organization. It is therefore a very important element in the confidence of the Institute's partners, which positions it as a reference Institute. Quality certification completed the Peers’ evaluation, which guarantees the appropriateness of the directions and scope of research. This evaluation will also soon be assured at national level by the new evaluation Agency of research and higher education (AERES) created at the end of 2006.
The quality management system leads to optimizing the real operation of the Institute and organizing it to prevent potential malfunctioning. It is broadly focused on the analysis of customer-supplier relationships, i.e. for research, the assessment of scientific partner satisfaction.
In this respect, it responds to a requirement already existing amongst certain partners, such as the European Commission. In fact, the EC selects bids not only on their technical contents, but also on the rigor of their organization by being extremely attentive to the quality management of the project. Which is why a specific project organization has been set up at the IRSN for European contracts.
Within the Institute, the quality system is integrated into the work processes. It is designed as a continuous progress mechanism for the quality of information, study results, measurements and, more generally, the research carried out by the IRSN in reference to defined objectives.
This mechanism is notably applied to the professionalism of researchers, on the leading edge technical baselines or recognized operating methods. For example, laboratory journals, providing experiment traceability, have been standardized and systemized. Also, a guide for producing scientific software guarantees the quality of its production, development and maintenance. More generally, the setting up of the quality system, by requiring analysis of the work processes, has led everyone to reflect on their activity and its challenges. A medium term plan, currently being produced, will lead to better research efficiency. In particular, it will enable anticipation of requirements for new tools and will schedule their development according to the deadlines of the scientific programs.
The effective benefits of the different IRSN actions for society, in general, are the subject of organized and explicit thought within the framework of the quality management system. In this respect, to optimize the impact of the IRSN research, it evaluates the IRSN contribution to bringing new understanding of safety and radio-protection. The assessment is made especially on the number of publications in reading committee reviews, participation at conferences, winning scientific prizes or filing patents, all being elements that also contribute to the recognition of the IRSN by its peers.
The IRSN process for certifying its quality management system is therefore not only an internal requirement for better organization of its research, but it also a measure of its efficiency and its commitment towards society.