OPECST report: scientific integrity, evaluation and open science

News from the Committee

On March 4th, the Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options (OPECST) adopted the report Promouvoir et protéger une culture partagée de l’intégrité scientifique (Promoting and protecting a shared culture of scientific integrity). The OPECST had been asked to work on this subject by the French Senate Committee on Culture, Education and Communication in February 2019 following the multiple examples of scientific misconduct and the ensuing media coverage.

The two spokespeople, the deputé (MP) Pierre Henriet and senator Pierre Ouzoulias, chose to give a positive characterisation of scientific integrity as the direction of the report. To achieve this, they have set themselves two objectives: “to promote a shared culture of scientific integrity and to highlight the systemic problem inherent to the world of research which tends to encourage scientific misconduct”.

There were four parts to the report:

  • the first part, L’intégrité scientifique en France, une autorégulation exercée par les acteurs de la recherche (Scientific integrity in France – self-regulation by research actors) aims to present the different sources which enable the notion of scientific integrity to be constructed and developed;
  • the second part, Appréhender les méconduites scientifiques (Understanding scientific misconduct), identifies a typology of the misconduct observed and how this is dealt with;
  • the third part, Développer une ‘culture de l’intégrité scientifique’, (Developing a ‘culture of scientific integrity’) describes the many local and national initiatives that ensure the ever broader and trans-generational dissemination of the principles underpinning scientific integrity;
  • the fourth part, Les avancées obtenues en matière d’intégrité scientifique dans la LPR, (Progress on scientific integrity in the French Research Programming Law) lists the provisions to be included in this law for the period from 2021 to 2030.

Pierre Henriet and Pierre Ouzoulias make 10 recommendations at the end of the report. The eighth calls for a reform of research evaluation and the tenth calls for the consolidation of the open science policy. These two points are seen as essential if an environment conducive to scientific integrity is to be created. The aim of the actions proposed is to restore trust in the scientific world and reinforce the legitimacy of French research internationally.

Here are the recommendations:

  1. introduce a definition of scientific integrity in the French research code by law and propose general rules so that institutions and researchers commit to respecting it. This objective was largely achieved by the research programming law;
  2. assess the conditions under which the Ofis [1]Ofis: French Office for Research Integrity and Cofis [2]Cofis: French Council for Scientific Integrity carry out their missions and institutional roles;
  3. encourage the appointment of RIS [3]RIS: Scientific Integrity Officers in all research establishments; specify their status and the conditions in which they carry out their mission; provide a formal framework for monitoring of their work for example through these officers making annual or multi-annual reports on their activities;
  4. ensure the proper coordination of the work and discussions carried out by the Ofis, Cofis, Resint [4]Resint: National Network of Scientific Integrity Officers and the conference of signatories;
  5. recognise the value of the actions implemented by the actors, promoters and guarantors of scientific integrity and support those actions while fully respecting their independence;
  6. go further with standardising the rules for investigating scientific misconduct; ensure that the democratic rules of adversarial debate are respected during investigation procedures; encourage cross-disciplinary interaction between the RIS and institutions’ legal departments; encourage collegial final decision-making rather than exclusively leaving this to the heads of institutions; finalise the database of cases of investigations of misconduct to obtain an effective reference system;
  7. make scientific integrity training obligatory throughout researchers’ careers particularly for supervisors and others in mentoring positions (HDR [5]HDR: Authorisation to supervise research , post-doctoral supervision) as some institutions already do on an informal basis;
  8. ensure signatories of the San Francisco Declaration (DORA) [6]San Francisco Declaration (DORA) and the Leiden Manifesto [7]The Leiden Manifesto effectively apply the principles set out in these texts; following on from the Bonn Declaration [8]Bonn Declaration, promote legal and legislative thought within the European Union in order to develop and provide the EU with a regulation in favour of scientific integrity and academic freedom;
  9. integrate the promotion and guarantee of scientific integrity into the missions of the Hcéres [9]Hcéres: High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education;
  10. better identify the processes by which the objectives of open science can actually help scientific integrity to be respected and promoted; define standards for archiving and making research data available to ensure peer review of scientific output. The spokespeople consider it desirable and necessary for there to be a report on open science to follow on from this report.

A summary and a provisional version of the report are available here.