The Office for Research Integrity is responsible for handling reported breaches of research integrity involving Inserm staff or staff working within its structures, as well as proposing prevention policies, promoting good practice, and participating in relevant national and international initiatives.
In France, Inserm played a pioneering role by setting up an Office for Research Integrity in 1999. All of its interventions take place within an adversarial framework, in strict compliance with the principles of confidentiality and the presumption of good faith.
The Office can be contacted whenever advice is needed regarding integrity.
Reports are made in writing to the Office. They can also be made directly to Inserm senior management, which will forward them to the Office. Anonymous reports are not admissible.
When it receives a report, the Office checks that the complaint falls within its remit and notifies its correspondent accordingly. Excluded, for example, are:
- cases of behavior that are beyond the scope of the research activity itself (such as harassment, which falls within the French labor code)
- cases where legal proceedings have been initiated
If the report is admissible, the Office opens an investigation. When staff from different institutions are involved, the case is handled in conjunction with the counterpart representatives from the relevant supervisory bodies.
Firstly, evidence is collected from those involved: publications, copies of laboratory notebooks, patents, agreements and contracts, activity reports, correspondence, minutes of meetings, etc.
Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish between:
- issues whose apparent solution is a matter for mediation that the Office will endeavor, along with those involved, to bring to a successful conclusion. If the dispute persists, the Office may set up arbitration;
- cases where it can be assumed that there has been an infringement of research integrity, notably « fabrication, falsification, plagiarism ». In this case, the Office, alone or in coordination with its counterparts in the other institutions concerned, will continue its investigation. It may call upon one or more experts whose absence of potential conflict of interest will have been verified, whose anonymity will be preserved, and who are required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Following the investigation and based on the experts’ opinions, the Office forwards its conclusions and the entire case file to Inserm senior management, which has sole authority on deciding what action to take and what communications may be made.
Ghislaine Filliatreau, Research Integrity Officer