The Training Unit of Institut Curie: pioneer in fostering Scientific Integrity

Institut Curie promotes excellence in science and defends values such as curiosity, pioneering spirit and humanity. This is the reason why Institut Curie is also promoting responsible conduct of research and scientific integrity.

Indeed, doing “good science” implies doing it with honesty, accuracy, efficiency and objectivity and this involves knowing the rules and norms but also thinking about what we can do individually and collectively to make sure that these shared values are at the heart of our concerns when we are doing science.

In 2016, the “rapport Corvol” made 16 proposals to promote scientific integrity in France. Among them, one proposal was to organize courses for students. But, the Training Unit from Institut Curie was the predecessor. Indeed, the idea to tackle this issue and promote awareness was envisaged back in 2011 by Claire Hivroz and Vassili Soumelis at Institut Curie.  Their first step, with the help of the Training Unit and Pr. Claude Huriet, chairman of the Executive Board back then, was to organize a symposium on Scientific Integrity entitled "Let's Talk Ethics", the first of its kind in France, in April 2012. This allowed them to establish contact with other researchers interested in this problem and to create an event likely to raise awareness to scientists from Institut Curie and other institutes in France. During the symposium, there were some shocking results presented by Pr. Melissa Anderson (University of Minnesota), who reported that 33% of the scientists surveyed (3,247 out of 7,760) admitted, in an anonymous questionnaire, having already defrauded during their career (published in Nature, 2005). Dr. Nils Axelsen shared his experience, as a referent for scientific integrity, at Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen. He reported that the occurrence of a resounding scandal involving a Danish researcher in neuroscience had pushed the universities and institutes in Denmark to put tools in place to fight against fraudulent scientists.

Following this symposium, other researchers at Institut Curie joined Hivroz and Soumelis to put together a half-day course on scientific integrity for PhD students. From May 2013, this course was made compulsory to all new PhD students joining Institut Curie but also open to all members of the institute.

Soon after, in January 2015, Institut Curie signed the ‘French National Charter for Research Integrity’ (see charter below), which set the criteria for a rigorous and honest scientific approach. More recently, since February 2018, the Training Unit and Claire Hivroz with “Atelier des Jours à Venir” have organized several workshops about mentoring and scientific integrity for young principal investigators.

Today, the team involved in fostering responsible conduct of research at the Training Unit is constituted of Claire Hivroz, Maude Delost, Elaine Del Néry, Carsten Janke and Matthieu Piel.

With practice the course has changed. Talking about scientific integrity is not only talking about frauds and misconducts in science, although they unfortunately do exit. Besides, real situations are not always covered by codes and norms. It seems much more important to think about dilemmas and situations happening in real life research for which we have to work out the best solutions to do “good science”.  Thus, the course consists of a rapid overview of what scientific integrity is as well as responsible conduct of research, illustrated by examples, which is followed by a discussion of case studies in small groups.

Supported by the Training Unit and the dedicated members, the work continues to promote and raise awareness on scientific integrity and they hope to put in place the necessary tools to develop an environment where the issues of scientific ethics and responsible conduct of research are at the core of the development of scientific projects and careers at Institut Curie!

Equipe Intégrité Scientifique
Thèmes de recherche

VIRT²UE – Virtue based ethics and Integrity of Research: Train the Trainer program for Upholding the principles of the European code of conduct

Recognizing the importance of addressing ethics and research integrity (ERI) in Europe, in 2017 the All European Academies (ALLEA) published a revised and updated European Code of conduct for Research Integrity (ECoC). Consistent application of the ECoC by researchers across Europe will require its widespread dissemination as well as an innovative training program and novel tools to enable researchers to truly uphold and internalize the principles and practices listed in the Code.

Debates on how to train research ethics and, later, research integrity are decades long. It has been argued that approaches focusing on compliance but neglecting researchers’ moral and value development fail to equip them for the complexities and dilemmas of real life research and situations not covered by rules and codes. In order to deal with conflicting demands in practice, researchers need to develop moral sensitivity and the disposition to act in a good way. The VIRT2UE project, therefore, takes a primarily virtue ethics approach to research integrity. A ‘virtue’ approach fosters habits that dispose a person to exemplary practice. This allows researchers to go beyond mere compliance by motivating them to strive for excellence in themselves and their practices.

The VIRT2UE project aims to develop a sustainable blended learning programme, enabling contextualized ERI teaching across Europe focusing on understanding and upholding the principles and practices of the ECoC. Centers from twelve European countries cooperate to develop this blended learning course in Research Integrity: One online component and a face-to-face component, designed to train trainers to foster moral virtues.

The online component of VIRT2UE will be part of the Embassy of Good Science, the platform designed by the EnTIRE project and will also be linked to SINAPSE (the free communication platform of the European Commission). VIRT2UE will collaborate closely with EnTIRE and make use of the platform’s infrastructure and community of users for the online component of the trainings.

As for the face-to-face training component of the project, the aim is to reach 3050 researchers by the end of the project, through training 305 trainers who will each train 10 researchers. A train-the-trainer model is most appropriate in this instance due to the extremely large group of researchers to reach across Europe – teaching trainers allows the programme’s efforts to be multiplied many times over, as VIRT2UE -trained trainers will go on to educate researchers and influence the teaching and training in their own institutions over a much longer period of time. This way the proposed goal of the project is not only met but secured long after the project ends.