Nonetheless, when they occur, they cause damage to science. Even if misconduct does not result from a wilful act, it reveals incompetence that must be analysed and dealt with. Error, on the other hand, can arise from the misinterpretation of data gathered in the best possible conditions and can impair the scientific results but does not compromise the authors' integrity.
Scientific misconduct can vary in its seriousness, from insufficient rigor in collecting or presenting data through the deliberate intention to falsify scientific findings or the conditions under which the data were gathered, which constitutes fraud. Although, they are not fraud in the strict sense of the term, the use of authorship for purposes of accommodation or to artificially inflate publication lists represents a potential source of injustice and conflict and is also considered as misconduct. Treatment of such misconduct must be appropriate to its gravity: minor violations may be dealt with by putting preventive procedures into place, while serious misconduct requires an inquiry that may result in disciplinary proceedings. In all cases, top priority must be accorded to the facts and to the presumption of good faith, systematically applied until evidence to the contrary has been shown, in accordance with the general principles of the French law.
Like in many other countries it is after a case of alleged misconduct that Inserm decided to appoint a scientific integrity officer in 1999.
Integrity office receives allegations on a strictly confidential basis; allegation must be lodged in writing. Anonymous allegations are never taken into account.
In a first step, looking for a local solution to the issue (i.e.: authorship conflict before publication, access to biological samples), the parties are interviewed by the Integrity Officer who acts as an ombudsperson and most often an agreement is reached.
If the Integrity Officer estimates that the matter must be examined more closely, expert (s) in the field could be associated after ensuring that they have no conflict of interests in the matter at stake. In view of the conclusions of the, or from the onset is the matter is serious, the Integrity Officer requests the Director General to appoint an investigation committee.
At the end, only the Directorate General has authority to decide the actions to be taken (disciplinary actions or reparations, publicity of the outcome) claims of inappropriate conduct that must be backed up with proof. Anonymous claims are not admissible. It firstly acts as a mediator by looking for a local solution after interviewing those involved: always in the strictest confidentiality. If necessary, the Group calls for a scientific appraisal to be carried out by an arbitration committee. After possibly consulting the legal department, it submits its conclusions to the Chairman and CEO who makes the final decision. For serious breaches, the Chairman and CEO may appoint an investigations committee composed of national or foreign experts.
The Directorate-General alone is authorized on what action to take (fines, compensation).
This code – developed through a series of workshops involving the ESF (European Science Foundation) and ALLEA (All European Academies) – addresses the proper conduct and principled practice of systematic research in the natural and social sciences and the humanities. It is a canon for self-regulation, not a body of law. It is not intended to replace existing national or academic guidelines, but to represent Europe-wide agreement on a set of principles and priorities for the research community.
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The value and beneﬁts of research are vitally dependent on the integrity of research. While there can be and are national and disciplinary diﬀerences in the way research is organized and conducted, there are also principles and professional responsibilities that are fundamental to the integrity of research wherever it is undertaken.