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Ethics and scientific integrity

Public trust in science is currently faltering. Scientific integrity has never been so present in the news with cases of plagiarism, data alteration, and problematic links with funders highlighted around the world. At the same time, the environmental and societal consequences of scientific practices and technological development constantly raises ethical issues.

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These issues reinforce the importance of Université Paris-Saclay’s commitment to promote high standards of scientific integrity and its resolution to create mechanisms to debate explicitly the ethical implications of its activities.

Indeed, scientific excellence is only meaningful if it goes together with impeccable research integrity practices and environmental and societal awareness. This is not only a matter of individual practice, but a deeply collective and institutional issue: we can and should promote collective scientific practices which make it easier, and not more difficult, to abide by good deontological and scientific integrity practices. Scientific integrity will truly progress only if we acknowledge the fact that some features of the scientific sector - such as the high level of competition and the pressure to publish - make research integrity more challenging.

By signing the Charte nationale de déontologie des métiers de la recherche, Université Paris-Saclay emphasises scientific integrity to ensure that they prevail across our missions. We view this as a crucial step towards a democratic state where moral reasoning is discussed openly.

Setting up internal processes and bodies in ethics and scientific integrity. To pursue this goal, Université Paris-Saclay has taken steps that go beyond its regulatory obligations as per the French Code de l’Éducation. Thus, Université Paris-Saclay has recently reinforced Poléthis, its internal body in charge of coordinating efforts in the area of scientific integrity and ethics. A pioneering bodycreated in 2018, Poléthis offers researchers support in terms of thematic ethics monitoring and consultation, enabling them to anticipate the ethical aspects as well as environmental and societal impacts of their research projects within the framework of a dedicated committee. Poléthis is also supported by a network of representatives of scientific integrity throughout the community (“référents intégrité scientifique”), to provide advice on dealing with cases of scientific integrity breaches and to design specific training sessions in scientific integrity for doctoral students and supervisors.

Poléthis gathers the people in charge of ethics, deontology and legal aspects of research integrity. The President of the university may refer to this body to provide an  opinion on any question of scientific ethics and integrity. It does not have a decision-making authority, but can highlight potential conflicts of values in specific projects, collaborations or partnerships. It thus creates a reflective space within the university where intrinsically complex ethical issues entailed by our scientific practices can be made explicit, pondered and discussed.

Efforts to promote research integrity are relayed throughout the university, with Graduate Schools, research laboratories and individual staff and students developing their own initiatives. Together with Poléthis, Graduate Schools are placing a specific emphasis on the training of younger generations of researchers and of the 4,500 doctoral candidates, by embedding these issues in training programmes, by creating explicit criteria to select collaborating institutions, or by raising awareness about plagiarism issues.

Changing research evaluation frameworks. Beyond these actions to promote ethics and scientific integrity, Université Paris-Saclay is well aware that a deeper transformation of the research evaluation framework is necessary. The prevailing bibliometric indicators used for evaluating scientific progress often become self-referential, inadvertently promoting behaviours that might compromise scientific integrity: an academic researcher will be rewarded for publishing articles, which are  highly cited by their peers, independently of the societal impact of their research or of their investment in teaching. This creates a world in which researchers are valued for having highly-cited papers rather than for ground-breaking scientific discoveries, and might dissuade researchers from dedicating time to undergraduate teaching or engaging in meaningful industry collaborations.

Addressing this issue will take time because citation impact still drives both university rankings and researcher evaluation and career paths, and because no clear collective alternative exists at the moment. Université Paris-Saclay is committed to working both internally in our recruitment and evaluation processes and externally as  ignatories of major international agreements such as DORA, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment and members of CoARA, the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment. As a concrete example, Université Paris-Saclay is currently reviewing its recruitment and promotion guidelines for academic staff to go beyond simple bibliometric indicators and encourage a broader, more complete assessment of scientific contributions and other commitments over the course of careers.


An 8-chapter online course designed to help students understand what integrity in research means and why it is important to follow an ethical conduct in research work.

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