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CNRS ethics comittee

COMETS, the CNRS Ethics Committee, is a think tank that examines the ethical issues raised by scientific research, in its practices, in the new situations it brings about, and in its purposes. In the field of ethics, it identifies the principles that concern research activities, individual behavior, collective attitudes and the functioning of the organization’s bodies. Through its opinions, training and awareness-raising activities, and its interventions in the public arena, COMETS draws everyone’s attention to the right balance between freedom of research and the duties of those involved in research towards the CNRS and society as a whole.

27

years

of overseeing ethics 

42

opinions

307 recommendations

+  200

experts

consulted

The COMETS remit

COMETS, the CNRS ethics committee, has the following missions
– to lead and develop reflection on the ethical aspects of research without obscuring the aims of the latter;
– to identify, in the field of ethics, the principles that concern research activities, individual behavior, collective attitudes and the functioning of the organization’s bodies;
– to formulate recommendations concerning the definition, justification and application of rules relating to research ethics and deontology which may concern the relationship between staff members and with the organization, internal and external scientific communication, and more generally the responsibility of the researcher before the organization and before society, in particular in his or her activities of evaluation, valorization of research and expertise;
– to make research staff aware of the importance of ethics in order to ensure a fair balance between their intellectual freedom and their duties towards the CNRS and society.
COMETS is neither an operational ethics committee in charge of giving accreditation to research projects, nor an ethics body dealing with violations of the rules of scientific integrity. It does not intervene in scientific controversies and does not rule on individual cases (which are handled at the CNRS by the ethics referent, the scientific integrity referent or the mediator).

The COMETS, an advisory body

Created in 1994, the CNRS Ethics Committee (COMETS) is an independent advisory body whose Opinions are made public. Reporting to the CNRS Board of Trustees, COMETS investigates issues referred to it by the Board of Trustees, the Scientific Board or the CNRS President. It may also investigate matters on its own initiative. Its independence guarantees an unbiased approach to the ethical scope of major research challenges. 

Ethics and integrity

COMETS was a driving force behind the drafting and promotion of the French National Charter for Research Integrity signed in 2015 by numerous research institutes (including the CNRS, INRIA and INSERM) and the Conference of University Presidents (CPU). It then took an active part in discussions about scientific integrity and the implementation of OFIS, the French Office for Scientific Integrity. COMETS is the author of ‘Integrity and Responsibility in Research Practices’, a guide which is now common to the CNRS and CPU.   

How COMETS works

COMETS’ deliberations are fuelled by practical examples. It keeps abreast of information through its close ties with the various CNRS bodies (including scientific departments and National Committee sections). It collects information in order to identify issues requiring ethical considerations. It implements tools through which it establishes and maintains constant contact with researchers and laboratories.

 

The committee aims to shed light on new situations opened up by research, taking into account existing regulations.

In any case, the committee’s opinions—which may be contradictory—are motivated by and based on both its respect for fundamental rights (particularly human rights) and its refusal of a dogmatic vision.

The committee tailors its work to:

  1. quickly provide concise declarations of principle on pending questions after discussion in a plenary session;
  2. initiate an extensive review of subjects considered a priority, while calling upon external contributions when necessary. The final document is discussed and validated in a plenary session, then published in the form of an Opinion.

The committee continues to build successful relationships with other players in the scientific ethics arena in France and abroad

 

The way COMETS works is governed by :

décret n°2009-1348 du 29 octobre 2009 modifiant le décret n°82-993 du 24 novembre 1982 [decree no. 2009-1348 of 29 October 2009 amending decree no. 82-993 of 24 November 1982] 
décision n° 020084DAJ du 20 août 2002 portant création du Comité d’éthique du CNRS [decision no. 020084DAJ of 20 August 2002 to create the CNRS Ethics Committee].

Members

Mandate 2021-2025

COMETS is composed of a chair and 12 members, all appointed by the CNRS Board of Trustees. Its composition respects gender parity and represents the full range of CNRS disciplines.

COMETS members

Chair :

  • Christine NOIVILLE, research director at the CNRS, Director of the Institut des sciences juridiques et philosophique de la Sorbonne (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, CNRS), President of the Haut comité pour la transparence et l’information sur la sécurité nucléaire (HCTISN).

Members : 

  • Philippe ASKENAZY, research director at the CNRS and professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, economist
  • Etienne BUSTARRET, physicist, emeritus research director at the CNRS, former President of the Conference of Presidents of the National Committee, Institut Néel in Grenoble
  • Henri CARAYOL, mathematician, emeritus professor at the University of Strasbourg
  • Virginie COURTIER, biologist, research director at the CNRS, head of the “Genetics and Evolution” team at the Institut Jacques-Monod (CNRS, University of Paris)
  • Patrice DEBRÉ, honorary professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Sorbonne University, doctor, expert in immunology, full member of the Académie de Médecine, former ambassador to the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs
  • Mathias GIREL, philosopher, lecturer at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, director of the Centre d’archives en Philosophie, Histoire et Edition des Sciences, UMS3610 CNRS-ENS
  • Eric GUILYARDI, climatologist and oceanographer at the CNRS, member of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL), professor at the University of Reading (UK)
  • Ruth HORN, Ethicist and sociologist of ethics, associate professor at the Ethox Centre, Oxford University, deputy director of the Centre Ethik der Medizin at Augsburg University
  • Magali JACQUIER, research engineer at the CNRS, veterinarian, scientific manager of a technological platform at the IPBS (Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology) in Toulouse
  • Olivier LECLERC, research director at the CNRS, Centre de Théorie et Analyse du Droit (CNRS, Université Paris Nanterre, Ecole normale supérieure)
  • Catherine PELACHAUD, research director at the CNRS, Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics (SU, INSERM, CNRS)
  • Stéphanie THIEBAULT, research director at the CNRS, former director of the Ecology and Environment Institute.

Permanent guests (collaborators) :

  • Alice RENÉ, head of the bioethics regulation unit of the CNRS Institute of Biological Sciences, neuro-biologist
  • Gilles ADDA, CNRS representative on the CCNE
  • Alain CLAEYS, CCNE observer

Permanent guests :

  • Antoine PETIT, President of CNRS
  • Dorothée BERTHOMIEU, chair of the CNRS Scientific Board
  • Alain SCHUHL, CNRS deputy director general for science

Prior comittees

Membership from 1994 to 2021

 2016 – 2021

Chair 
Jean-Gabriel GANASCIA, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Sorbonne University (formerly Pierre and Marie Curie University), computer scientist, specialist in artificial intelligence.

Members 
Philippe ASKENAZY, research director at the CNRS and professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, economist
Patrice DEBRÉ, honorary professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Sorbonne University (formerly Pierre and Marie Curie University), doctor, expert in immunology
Jean-Paul DELAHAYE professor emeritus at the University of Lille, mathematician and computer scientist
Didier GOURIER, professor at ParisTech, chemist
Catherine JEANDEL, research director at the CNRS, geophysicist
Michèle LEDUC, emeritus research director at the CNRS, physicist
Frédérique LEICHTER-FLACK, senior lecturer at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre, essayist and professor of comparative literature
Lucienne LETELLIER, CNRS emeritus research director at the University of Paris Saclay, biophysicist
Antoinette MOLINIÉ, CNRS emeritus research director at the LESC, Nanterre, anthropologist
Rémy MOSSERI, CNRS research director at the Faculty of Sciences of Sorbonne University (formerly Université Pierre et Marie Curie), theoretical physicist
Nathalie NEVEJANS, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law of Douai at the University of Artois, lawyer, private law
Jean-Pierre POUSSIN, member of the Regional Commission of Statutory Auditors, lawyer.

Permanent guests (collaborators)
Alice RENÉ, head of the bioethics regulation unit of the CNRS Institute of Biological Sciences, neuro-biologist
Gilles ADDA, CNRS representative on the CCNE
Sophie CROZIER, CCNE observer

2012 – 2016

Chair
Michèle Leduc, emeritus research director at the CNRS, physicist
Members
Françoise Birg, research director at Inserm, molecular biologist
Danièle Bourcier, research director at the CNRS, lawyer
Michel Campillo, professor at Joseph Fourier University, geophysicist
Amy Dahan, emeritus research director at the CNRS, science historian
Isabelle Desguerre, university professor and paediatric neurologist, Necker Children’s Hospital,
Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, professor at UPMC, expert in artificial intelligence
Didier Gourier, professor at ENSCP-ParisTech, chemist
Lucienne Letellier, emeritus research director at the CNRS, biophysicist
Pascal Petit, emeritus research director at the CNRS,economist
Norbert Schappacher, professor at the University of Strasbourg, mathematician
Evelyne Serverin, research director at the CNRS, lawyer and sociologist
Roger Maynard, physicist, professor at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble
Pierre-Henri Tavoillot, University lecturer in philosophy at Paris IV University
Permanent guests
Bertrand Weil, CCNE observer
Alain Fuchs, President of the CNRS
Bruno Chaudret, chair of the CNRS Scientific Board
Philippe Baptiste, director general of the CNRS for science, Expert for the working group on “raising awareness and training on research ethics”
Anne Cambon-Thomsen, director of research at the CNRS, doctor specialising in immunogenetics

 

2007 – 2011

 

Chair
Jean-Pierre Bourguignon,
mathematician
Members
Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent
, historia and philosopher,

Jean-Michel Besnier, philosopher,
Alain Boudet, biologist,
Danièle Bourcier, lawyer*
Michel Campillo, geophysicist,
Hubert Doubre, nuclear physicist,
Marie Farge, fluid mechanics engineer,
Anita Guerreau, historian specialised in the Medieval Age
Marc Jeannerod, neuroscience researcher
Joseph Mariani, researcher in information and communication science and technology,
Andrée Marquet, chemist,
Evelyne Serverin, lawyer and sociologist
* replaced Christine Noiville from 14 December 2009

2003 – 2007

 

Chair
Pierre LÉNA, astrophysicist
Members
Bernadette BENSAUDE-VINCENT, historian
Jean-Michel BESNIER, philosopher
Alain BOUDET, biologist
*Jean-Pierre BOURGUIGNON, mathematician
René CARRÉ, researcher in information science and technology
Pascal HUGUET, psychologist
**Marc JEANNEROD, researche in cognitive neuroscience
***Isabelle de LAMBERTERIE, lawyer
Joseph MARIANI, researcher in information and communication science and technology
****Dominique MEYER, medical biologist
*Christine NOIVILLE, lawyer
*Gwen TERRENOIRE, research engineer in the sociology of ethics
(*) Appointments on 01/01/05, (**)13/07/05, (***)01/02/06, (****)07/11/06 following the resignation for professional reasons of Alain Pompidou, Bernard Meunier, Jean-Didier Vincent, Ketty Schwartz, Dominique Wolton, Robert Dantzer.
Observer
Claude BURLET, representing the CCNE
Anne CAMBON-THOMSEN, representing the CNRS operational ethics committee for life sciences (COPé)
Pierre LÉNA (COMETS chair)
Jacques BORDÉ (task officer)
Christine NOIVILLE (COMETS member)
René CARRÉ (COMETS member)
Christiane BOUCHARD (task officer)

 

1998 – 2001

 

Chair
Pierre JOLIOT, biologist, professor at the Collège de France, Paris
Members
Pierre JOLIOT, biologist, professor at the Collège de France, Paris
Maurice AYMARD, historian, study director at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, administrator of the Maison des sciences de l’homme, Paris
Philippe ASCHER, biologist, professor at the Pierre & Marie Curie University, Paris
Jean-Pierre BOURGUIGNON, mathematician, CNRS research director, director of the Institut des hautes études scientifiques, Bures-sur-Yvette
Monique CANTO-SPERBER, philosopher, CNRS research director, Centre de recherche politique Raymond-Aron (EHESS), Paris
René CARRE, language engineer, research director at the Ecole nationale supérieure des télécommunications, Paris
Bernard DECOMPS, physicist, university professor, ENS-Cachan
Françoise HERITIER-AUGE, anthropologist, honorary professor at the Collège de France, honorary research director at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales
Gilles KAHN, computer scientist, chief scientific officer at INRIA, Le Chesnay
Jean-Yves LALLEMAND, chemist, director of the Laboratoire de synthèse organique at the Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau
Isabelle de LAMBERTERIE, researcher in legal sciences, head of the Paris branch of the Centre d’étude sur la coopération juridique internationale (Poitiers-Paris)
François MOREL, physiologist, honorary professor at the Collège de France, Paris
Dominique WOLTON, sociologist, director of UPS2262: Information, Communication and Scientific challenges, Paris
Gérard Mégie, appointed President of the CNRS on 31 October 2000, leading to his resignation from COMETS.
Albert Masson resigned from COMETS on 14 March 2001 for personal reasons.
Observers
Jean ROSA, representing the French Academy of Sciences
Marie-Claude MAUREL, representing the CNRS
Robert NAQUET, representing the operational ethics committee for life sciences (COPé)

 

 

1994 – 1997

 

Chair
Hélène Ahrweiler, President of the Université pour l’Europe”
Members
Maurice Aymard, historian
Georges Balandier, sociologist
René Carré, professor at the Ecole nationale supérieure des télécommunications (ENST)*
Hubert Curien, physicist
Françoise Giroud, author
Jacques Lesourne, economist
Jacques-Louis Lions, mathematician**
Gérard Mégie, physicist
Roger Monier, biologist***
Hourya Sinaceur, philosopher
Gérard Toulouse, physicist
Michel Vivant, lawyer
Daniel Widlöcher, psychologist
Dominique Wolton, director of the “Communication et Politique” Laboratory
* appointed on 8 October 1996 as the 14th member, in compliance with decision no. 940789SJUR of 29 June 1994
** replaced by Alain Bensoussan, President of INRIA, on 20 March 1995, himself replaced by Jean Dausset, honorary professor at the Collège de France, on 8 October 1996
*** replaced by Jean-Didier Vincent, director of theI Institut Alfred Fessard, on 28 September 1995
Observers
Odile Fichot, representing the CCNE, France’s national consultative ethics committee
François Gros, representing the French Academy of Sciences
André Kaspi, representing the CNRS trustees
Robert Naquet, representing the operational ethics committee for life sciences (COPé)