Ombuds' Corner: Users and Staff Members

In this series, the Bulletin aims to explain the role of the Ombuds at CERN by presenting practical examples of misunderstandings that could have been resolved by the Ombuds if he had been contacted earlier. Please note that, in all the situations we present, the names are fictitious and used only to improve clarity. 


Pam* and Jeff* are both physicists working on the same project for an experiment. Pam is from a collaborating institute and Jeff is a CERN staff member. As the project is being developed at CERN they both share the same technical support available in the Laboratory. At the beginning they organised themselves so they could get the support that both of them needed.

When some milestones concerning the delivery of parts became urgent, they started to actually compete for the same resources, which could not possibly satisfy all requests at the same time. With the time pressure increasing, Jeff started to accuse Pam of diverting the resources for her own share of the project, while Pam in turn accused Jeff of using his position at CERN to prevent the technical team from working with her.

The conflict between them rapidly increased to the point where Pam complained to her home institute about the lack of support from the Organization, and Jeff did the same with his hierarchy, stressing that his resources were diverted. At the point where there was a high risk of developing a conflicting relationship between the institute and CERN, the Ombuds was called in to help.


If the conflict had been managed at an early stage, an agreement between them in dealing with their respective responsibilities could have been found with the Ombuds, who has the advantage of being fully independent and neutral in such issues. The conflict would then not have reached the level of a possible disagreement between a collaborating institute and CERN, which could be very damaging for an international collaboration.

* Names and story are purely fictitious.

Contact the Ombuds early!

by Vincent Vuillemin