COMETS publie un nouvel Avis “How CNRS can respond to scientific integrity violations” (n°2016-33), approved in June 2016

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SUMMARY – This position paper focuses on how CNRS can implement the principles set out in the National Code of Ethics for Research Professions, which it signed in January 2015 along with a large number of French research institutions. The Code of Ethics falls within the framework of the French law on ethics and the rights and obligations of officials of 20 April 2016, and takes the general concern for ethics into account at European level. 

This position paper identifies various practices that violate scientific integrity, ranging from fraud – including plagiarism and the fabrication and falsification of results – to non-disclosed conflicts of interest. It explores the issues in relation to their exposure once they have been identified and how institutions handle the allegations made. COMETS believes CNRS should encourage and facilitate the internal submission of reliable allegations of misconduct or fraud against staff in its research units. It suggests that CNRS would benefit from appointing an integrity officer alongside the ombudsman to receive fraud allegations from laboratories and organise a response, in liaison with the Institutes’ deputy scientific directors and the National Scientific Research Committee (CoNRS). This officer could also work in cooperation with advisers in each main academic field. Whatever system CNRS chooses to put in place, COMETS believes it is especially important to provide a single, easily accessible and clearly identified point of entry for allegations of fraud. This raises the question of whistleblower protection. COMETS would like to see greater transparency in how the institution handles cases of fraud and the penalties imposed as a result. Inposition paper, COMETS reflects on the risk posed to scientific integrity by putting pressure on publications. It sets out recommendations for reversing this trend, based on researcher and project evaluation practices especially. It also suggests that results are published with raw data where applicable. Finally, COMETS underlines the need to put in place training in scientific integrity for all research staff at CNRS in accordance with the National Code of Ethics for Research Professions, which it has promised to enforce in partnership with universities and other research bodies.