Ethics, deontology, scientific integrity and whistleblowing

Ethics, deontology and scientific integrity are core values for the organisation.

Ethics involve thinking about the values that underpin our acts and their consequences and also appeals to our sense of morality and responsibility. Deontology is a matter of the duties and obligations imposed on a profession, a function or a responsibility. Scientific integrity means the obligation for research practices to be 'properly' conducted.

At the CNRS these matters are managed by the Ethics Officer, the Whistleblower, the Scientific Integrity Officer, the Ombudsperson and the Ethics Committee.

Ethics officer

The role of Ethics Officer derives from the law dated April 20th 2016 on ethics and the rights and obligations of civil servants and its implementing decree in April 2017. The Ethics Officer is legally responsible for responding to requests for advice from civil servants on ethics and more specifically on integrity, probity, neutrality, secularity, professional secrecy, the independence of researchers, hierarchical obedience, occupying more than one job and conflicts of interest.

Referral procedures

Any staff member can contact the Ethics Officer to ask for advice when he or she encounters difficulty in his or her work or wishes to anticipate such a situation before it occurs. All CNRS authorities (unit directors, management departments, general management) may also request advice from the Ethics Officer on any ethical issue. Generally any advice from the Ethics Officer leads to a discussion with the person who has contacted him/her.


The Ethics Officer's work is covered by professional secrecy to protect staff members who ask for advice and to guarantee the Ethics Officer's independence in the performance of his or her duties. The Ethics Officer will never inform anyone of his or her exchanges with those who refer matters and any information given is anonymised in the annual report.

The CNRS Ethical Charter

The French charter on research professions

The Ethics Officer

This position has been held since September 1st 2018 by Joël Moret-Bailly, who is a university professor and lawyer.
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The Whistleblower's mission was set out in two laws, one from the 2013 law and the second from 2016, and involves verifying the admissibility of alerts and organising the way these are managed particularly in the event of a crime or an offence involving a serious and manifest violation of CNRS laws and regulations. The use of the internal alert procedure ensures the protection of any staff member who makes an alert 1) in good faith and 2) launches that alert 'internally' to resolve the situation that is at the origin of the issue.

Referral procedures

The Whistleblower's work involves receiving reports from any staff member working in a CNRS structure and also any external collaborator such as a service provider or occasional collaborator with the CNRS who reports or testifies in good faith and in a disinterested manner to facts that constitute a crime or an offence, a serious and manifest violation of the law or a situation involving a conflict of interest.
Reports cannot be anonymous, must be as detailed as possible and accompanied by any supporting facts, information or documents. An acknowledgement of receipt is issued to the staff member concerned as soon as a request is received. This sets out a provisional deadline for processing the reported facts. Reports are first examined by a panel coordinated by the Whistleblower and made up of the Ethics Officer, the Scientific Integrity Officer, the Head of Human Resources (or his/her representative) and the Director of the Legal Affairs Department (or his/her representative). The system put in place guarantees the confidentiality of the authors of the alert's identity, the people involved and all information gathered by the recipients of the report.


As long as the Whistleblower follows legal procedures, there can be no negative consequences for him or her regarding the launch of the alert. The Whistleblower guarantees the confidentiality of those who report alerts and respondents.

The Whistleblower

This position has been held since September 1st 2018 by Joël Moret-Bailly who is a university professor and lawyer.
To report an alert: 

The Scientific Integrity Officer

Scientific integrity derives from the set of rules and values that govern scientific work and guarantee its honesty. It is essential to the credibility of science and the trust society places in science itself. Research misconduct is generally defined as the trilogy of 'FFP frauds' namely the fabrication or falsification of data and plagiarism plus a broader 'grey area' including, among other things, dubious behaviour when involved in publications or expert assessments because of concealed interests.

The Scientific Integrity Officer leads the CNRS Mission for Scientific Integrity (MIS) which deals with allegations of misconduct and works with the Ethics Officer on training and raising staff awareness of scientific integrity and ethics issues.

The MIS is currently made up of seven people:

The CNRS Scientific Integrity Officer (French acronym - RIS) : Rémy Mosseri1, CNRS emeritus research professor from the Theoretical Physics of Condensed Matter Laboratory (CNRS/Sorbonne Université). Physicist.

There are five project managers:

  • Christian Jutten2, emeritus professor at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, Grenoble Images Speech Signal and Control Laboratory (CNRS/Université Grenoble Alpes). Information sciences.
  • Lucienne Letellier3, CNRS emeritus research professor, Institute of Integrative Cell Biology (CNRS/CEA/Université Paris-Saclay). Biophysicist.
  • Cécile Michel4, CNRS research professor, Archeology and Sciences of Antiquity Laboratory (CNRS/Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Université Paris Nanterre/Ministère de la culture) and professor at the University of Hamburg. Historian. Archaeologist.
  • Caroline Strube5, CNRS research professor, Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience (CNRS/Aix-Marseille University), head of training. Biologist.
  • Irène Till-Bottraud6, CNRS research professor, Physical and Environmental Geography Laboratory (CNRS/ University of Clermont Auvergne/ University of Limoges) and director of the Environmental Research Federation. Evolutionary ecology.

Administrative manager: Dorothée Peitzmann.7

Membres de la MIS


Referral procedures and how allegations are processed

The following principles govern all investigations: confidentiality for the entire procedure; transparency as regards the procedures themselves; the protection of those involved; the presumption of innocence for those who are the object of an allegation; prompt information for the persons involved; particular care taken regarding potential conflicts of interest when selecting experts; support for those who are unjustly accused in restoring their reputations.

The Scientific Integrity Officer is the sole contact for allegations which may be submitted by all. A person making an allegation may then request that his or her identity be kept confidential even in exchanges with CNRS general management but, as a corollary to this guarantee, allegations cannot be anonymous.

An allegation can only accepted if the CNRS was the employer of the person (or one of the persons) involved at the time the problem arose or alternatively of anyone who considers him or herself the victim of misconduct such as plagiarism, for example. In some cases however, the Scientific Integrity Officer may ask to be involved in an investigation as an observer according to his or her assessment of the potential prejudices for the organisation.
The first step is to determine the nature of the allegation and check whether scientific integrity officers from other universities or research organisations need to be involved in the investigation. Those involved will be informed promptly about the allegation and asked to respond. The Mission for Scientific Integrity then begins its phase of expertise work which may involve individual experts or an inquiry commission. The Scientific Integrity Officer makes a final report to the CNRS Chairman and CEO who will then decide what action to take and particularly if any disciplinary follow-up measures are required.


The CNRS Mission for Scientific Integrity (MIS)

The Scientific Integrity Officer

he position of CNRS Scientific Integrity Officer (RIS) was created in August 2018 and is held by Rémy Mosseri, CNRS research professor in physics.
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The CNRS Ethics Committee

The CNRS Ethics Committee (COMETS) was set up in 1994 and is an independent advisory body whose decisions are made public. COMETS is under the supervisory authority of the CNRS Board of Trustees and deals with issues referred to it by this Board, the Scientific Council or the CNRS Chairman and CEO. It may also decide to take up a case on its own initiative. Its independence means it can freely consider the ethical implications of major issues involving research.


COMETS deliberates on general ethical issues raised by research practice related to:

  • The social and moral consequences of the development of science and its practical applications;
  • The principles that govern researchers' individual behaviour of researchers and how CNRS bodies function;
  • The practice of science itself.

At the end of these deliberations, COMETS then makes recommendations on the definition, justification and application of rules on research ethics and deontology. COMETS's decisions and the training activities it runs or takes part in help raise awareness of research's ethical and societal dimensions among researchers and those in management positions. In doing this, its aim is to clarify the exercise of the freedom of research in the light of staff members' duties and responsibilities towards the CNRS and, more generally, towards society.

COMETS is a body that studies cases. It is neither an operational ethics committee that can give accreditation to projects nor a deontology body dealing with breaches of scientific integrity rules. It does not give rulings on individual cases concerning scientific projects or breaches of researchers' ethics.

A presentation of COMETS

The Ethics Committee


Christine Noiville was appointed chairwoman of the Ethics Committee on October 1st 2021. She is a legal specialist, CNRS research professor, the director of the Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences of the Sorbonne (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, CNRS) and also chairs the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety (HCTISN).

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