La mission Pour une science en confiance, responsable et ouverte

The mission: For a confident, responsible and open science

Sorbonne University's policy in favor of trustworthy, responsible and open science

The mission: For a confident, responsible and open science

A transversal and coordinating mission at the service of the Sorbonne University community

In a world where profound and multiple changes are taking place, and where our societies are facing challenges that threaten their sustainability and their most fundamental values, the scientific approach is an invaluable asset.

The knowledge that the university cultivates and deepens is a free and impartial quest. This knowledge is put to the test within the scientific community through the exercise of doubt, critical discussion or experimentation, which gives it a robustness that contributes to a common good. It is capable of enlightening public debate and developing proposals for solutions. Academic freedom and political freedom are mutually reinforcing.

At the heart of Sorbonne University's missions and activities, the scientific process calls for special attention to ensure that the principles, rules and requirements of integrity, deontology and ethics are recognized, respected and integrated into the culture of the entire community.

This is one of the main guarantees of the quality and reliability of the knowledge that Sorbonne University develops and transmits. It is therefore committed to making trust, responsibility and openness the three inseparable pillars of its dual scientific and social commitment.

Find out more about this policy, presented to the governance council on March 6, 2023 and to the academic council on May 25, 2023, as well as the interview with the project manager.

Building trust in science

Attention to the scientific process is a powerful lever for building trust within the community.

A community that is aware of the requirements and rules of scientific integrity encourages a reflective approach to the different types of knowledge it develops, encourages discussion of the questions and uncertainties they raise, and recognizes the complementary roles and contributions of each individual.

Given the diversity of scientific fields, and the multiplicity of skills required by scientific activity in its various facets, trust means accepting that we may not always be able to do and understand what our colleagues are doing and saying, even within the university itself. But above all, it means having a common language, so that we can explicitly share a common understanding of the rules and requirements of what we do together.

For responsible science

A vector of trust, the community's attention to the scientific process empowers each of its members in the positions they hold within the establishment and its organization. It goes hand in hand with the community's commitment to mutual respect, equality and inclusiveness.

But it also invites Sorbonne University, as a community and as an institutional player, to consider its relations with society: what does it bring to society through the knowledge it produces, the skills it trains, and the technologies and services it makes possible?  Does it assume the social and ethical responsibility that this entails?

Research, the advancement of knowledge, its valorization, the uses to which it can be put, its impact on society in all its dimensions (social, economic, political or environmental) all raise questions that universities must consider with and for society, in view of the challenges it faces.

For Open Science

The dissemination of knowledge is an integral part of the scientific process, whether through teaching, publication or mediation: scientific knowledge is a common good. The way in which this knowledge is disseminated is changing rapidly, and depends on a number of factors, which we will briefly mention to put into perspective the current challenges of the open science movement, to which Sorbonne University is strongly committed.

Progress in science, technology and industry, progress in education and progress in human rights have all been major vectors of social progress. Developments and innovations stemming from research have become an engine of economic growth, a manifestation of the power of states, and one of the reasons for investing in research.

A small number of international companies play an important role, capturing the "symbolic" capital of public research for their own profitability, while micro-publishers from small, more or less inward-looking communities remain.

Against this backdrop of possibilities offered by the "digital revolution" the scientific community must rethink how to disseminate the results of its research activities to make them directly and freely accessible to all. This accessibility can meet real needs, change the way they work and evaluate their activities, all within the framework of a new, more trusting and responsible relationship between science and society.

L’Appel de Jussieu in 2017, supported in particular by Sorbonne University, expresses this vision. Now taken up at the European and international level, in particular with le PlanS, the CoARA initiative and Global Summit on Diamond Open Access concludes with pledges to advance Diamond OA initiatives globally has just been created, this vision is now being put into practice across the entire research "ecosystem".

Leaders at the service of confident, responsable and open science

Sorbonne University's commitment to a responsible and open science in confidence is based in particular on the role of referents who intervene in a coherent and, where necessary, coordinated manner on issues specific to scientific integrity, public service ethics, research ethics and open science. The university ombudsman can also play an important role in preventing or resolving disputes.  

Positioned as trusted third parties vis-à-vis the university community, and acting in complete independence, each has a well-defined mission and distinct modes of intervention.

The French Office of Scientific Integrity presents "scientific integrity, research ethics and deontology [as] the three essential components of responsible conduct in research" and, more broadly, of any activity involving the scientific process and the knowledge derived from it.  What are their differences and how do they fit together?

Scientific integrity and staff ethics

Ethics cover all the principles, rules and values that govern the exercise of a profession. In the public sector, ethics are specifically concerned with the conduct of public service employees, whether civil servants or contract staff, whatever their professional activity or function.

Scientific integrity means respecting the rules, values and requirements inherent in any scientific endeavor in search of true and robust knowledge. It guarantees the honest, rigorous nature of the knowledge it produces.

For scientific staff in public research establishments, deontology and scientific integrity are the two components of professional integrity.

Furthermore, the person who reports a breach of scientific integrity and the whistleblower are subject to two different regimes under French law, which Ofis explains in an interview with Olivier Leclerc, Director of Research at the CNRS Centre de théorie et analyse du droit.

Scientific integrity and research ethics

"Scientific integrity ensures the reliability of knowledge and the honesty of relations between those involved in research. Research ethics, on the other hand, focuses on the protection of human and animal participants.

"The institutionalization of research ethics in France also makes it an area for broader reflection on scientific and technological developments, "with regard to their possible uses and impact on society and the environment.”

See also the appendix below: Ethical considerations and research.

Scientific integrity and open science

With the appropriation by the scientific community of the possibilities opened up by the "digital revolution" referred to above, an international movement is taking shape to ensure that the accessibility and transparency of research results, traceability and good data management serve the integrity and good practice of science, the reproducibility of research and improved methods of validating its results.

This is a legitimate aim. By virtue of the mechanisms and regulations it would require, "open science" could in fact act as a common language (or metalanguage) enabling members of the scientific community, despite their great diversity, to share a common understanding of the rules and requirements of the scientific approach.

Not only does this have a cost and require skills and time, but it should not blind us to the fact that any scientific approach involves a wide variety of skills and (good) practices, depending on the discipline, which are difficult, if not impossible, to explain fully, as are the cultural, linguistic and other contexts in which they are practised.

If open science can serve the cause of scientific integrity, the reflexive approach required by the scientific process, in all its diverse forms, must nonetheless raise questions about the modalities, benefits, limits and requirements that must accompany it.

Appendix - Ethical considerations and research

Ethics apply to research involving human beings, whose dignity and rights must be respected, as well as to research involving animals. Consideration of the consequences of research on the environment is a growing concern, in line with the emergence over the last fifty years of environmental ethics.

More generally, ethical reflection is needed on the issues that scientific progress raises for society, in terms of its values, principles and expectations.

With the Jardé law (2016), research involving the human person carried out with a view to developing biological or medical knowledge is subject to the opinion of a personal protection committee (CPP). The research concerned falls into three categories, distinguished according to the level of risk involved and the degree of intervention on participants.

Approved by the Ministry of Health and reporting to the regional health agencies (ARS), the CPPs, which bring together people from different disciplines, must ensure the protection of participants and compliance with legislation.

Non-interventional research projects involving human subjects that do not aim to develop biological or medical knowledge are not covered by the Jardé Law. However, from an ethical point of view, such research requires the free and informed consent of the persons concerned. In addition, the law provides a framework for the collection and processing of personal data involved in such research (cf. in particular the General Data Protection Regulation, the right to one's own image, etc.). Ethical and responsible research must respect these requirements.

Sorbonne University's Research Ethics Committee (CER) examines requests for ethical opinions on non-interventional research protocols involving human subjects in fields such as engineering sciences, digital sciences, human, social and behavioral sciences, cognitive sciences, etc.


The ethics of responsible animal experimentation must, as far as possible, respect the "3Rs" principles: completely or partially replace the use of animals with methods that achieve the desired objectives; reduce the number of animals and obtain the maximum amount of information with the fewest animals possible; refine experimentation methods to minimize suffering and stress for laboratory animals.

The Animal Experimentation Ethics Committees (C2EA) are responsible, at regional level, for issuing opinions on interventional research protocols involving animals: such research requires authorization for projects using animals for scientific purposes (APAFiS).

C2EA members are appointed from among persons with expertise in the design of projects or experimental procedures involving animals, in the performance of experimental procedures involving animals, in the care and/or killing of animals, and in veterinary practice, as well as at least one person who is not specialized in matters relating to the use of animals for scientific purposes.

Quelques comités d’éthique internationaux :
•    Conseil de l’Europe : Comité directeur pour les droits humains dans les domaines de la biomédecine et de la santé (CDBIO)
•    Unesco : Comité international d’éthique (CIB)
•    Unesco : Commission mondiale d’éthique des connaissances scientifiques et des technologies (COMEST).