France Bleu Bourgogne: Clémentine Hugol-Gential, you work in Dijon, on the college campus. Deputy director of the CIMEOS laboratory. And you have just received the 2022 research prize awarded by the Roquette Foundation for your work on the influence of social networks on the diet of adolescents. Why did you choose this theme in particular?
We are all connected on social networks, on Instagram, TikTok, etc. And college students obviously spend a lot of time on social networks. However, there are issues when you are an adolescent, because you have a period of self-construction, of the search for identity. And it is important to fully understand today how young people get information on social networks and to understand their links and their relationship to the body and to food via social networks.
Is it to see if they eat badly because of social networks?
What interests us is a little bit of understanding everything about the challenge format, if they follow challenges on social networks to have a “summer body” for example. What kind of diets are they going to do? What are they going to look at as a source of information and then try to build tools for critical analysis of all this and for taking a distance to also accompany them on all this mass of information circulating on social networks? and that is not always good information.
The idea with this “Expé” festival in Dijon at the moment is to know a little about how you, researchers, work on a daily basis. It always seems very abstract, so let’s be concrete: how do you set up a study like this on the behavior of teenagers?
Already it is a study that we are conducting with adolescents. The idea is really to co-construct this research, so to be in direct interaction with them. To already understand what they are watching on social networks. And we, on our side, to actually analyze this mass of information circulating and do what is called an analysis of reception, that is to say, once they have looked at these elements, what do they take away from it? What are the impacts on their representations, on their practices? Then, the idea is to build tools to help teachers in particular to support these young people on social networks and to distance themselves.
Why is this event, precisely, the Expé festival in Dijon, important for you, researchers, what message do you want to convey?
It shows the general public what we are doing because there is a lot of research that we do in connection with citizens, with the general public. And it’s a tremendous job that is done through experimentation, which aims precisely to put us in direct contact with the audiences for whom we actually work on a daily basis.
Sometimes we seek, but we do not necessarily find. Can it happen as a researcher to throw in the towel after years of work?
So I always say that not finding is a result as such, it allows others does not want. That means that effectively, it didn’t give any result, but it is a result and it will allow others not to look for them in the same place and to look elsewhere.
We often talk about the lack of resources allocated to research, particularly in France. Do you have the means here on campus, in Dijon, in your CIMEOS laboratory?
This is a real question, the question of the financialization of research today. This is why prizes like the one from the Roquette Foundation are important. Because there, there is an endowment of €25,000 which comes with this prize. And today, the fixed endowments of the laboratories are not sufficient. So we are obliged to respond to calls for projects. Today, a large part of the work of researchers is to set up projects, submit requests for funding and try to obtain them in a very competitive environment.