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Ringing the changes in the ombuds office

After three and a half years in office as CERN’s first Ombuds, the time has come for Vincent Vuillemin to pass on the baton


After three and a half years in office as CERN’s first Ombuds, the time has come for Vincent Vuillemin to pass on the baton to someone new: in January next year Sudeshna Datta Cockerill will assume the role.

The position of Ombuds was created along with the CERN Code of Conduct in 2010, and it is there to provide a no-barrier, informal, neutral and confidential place to turn for all members of the personnel as well as everyone working on behalf of CERN. Through listening, advice, coaching and mediation, the Ombuds is there to help anyone at CERN who is experiencing conflict, whether real or simply a misunderstanding or breakdown in communication.

The change of Ombuds is an opportunity for me to reiterate the importance of the role, and of the Code of Conduct as a guide for how we all should conduct ourselves at work and when representing CERN under any circumstances. On the rare occasions when things start to go wrong, the Ombuds office is there to get things back on track. The key attributes of an Ombuds are independence, confidentiality and impartiality, all of which Vincent has embodied fully.

Over his time in office, Vincent has done a great job in establishing the role. His regular messages in the Bulletin and on the Ombuds blog are widely read, and he has integrated the function into the wider world through establishing contacts with Ombuds in other organisations. Each year, he has brought over 90 cases to successful resolution. This relatively low number, a very small fraction of the CERN population, along with the fact that all cases have been resolved, comes as no surprise to me. While not wishing to underplay Vincent’s role, I am convinced that everyone working at CERN has the best interests of the organization at heart, and usually all that’s needed to resolve a conflict is a gentle, and timely, nudge in the right direction.

While thanking Vincent for a job well done, I would also like to welcome Sudeshna to her new role. She comes well prepared: over recent years, she has occupied several positions that have allowed her to build up relevant experience, from being Head of Learning and Development to CERN’s Equal Opportunities Officer and most recently leader of the organization’s Diversity Programme, a task she leaves in the very capable hands of Genevieve Guinot.

To end, I’d like to encourage you all to revisit the Code of Conduct and dip into the Ombuds and Diversity web pages. CERN is very active in these areas – you owe it to yourselves to find out more. And should you ever find yourself in a conflict situation, don’t hesitate to contact the Ombuds – she’s there to help.