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    Spotlight on the “RIS”

    Always eager to sharpen their pedagogical tools, the ALM-Formation team interviewed several Scientific Integrity  Officers to find out what this position entails, and how significant it is.

    Emeritus professor Henri Maitre from Institut Polytechnique de Paris kindly agreed to answer their questions. 

    Part one of an investigation.

    Laurence Moss – What is the role of the Scientific Integrity Officer?(or RIS in France and as referred to in this article )

    Henri Maitre The RIS is a non-hierarchical person placed under the authority of the Director of the Doctoral College to help him/her anchor the school in an integrated research practice. Their missions cover :

    • Training and information for both doctoral students and current researchers
    • Preventing misconduct by proposing actions and procedures adapted to the evolution of research practices,
    • Investigation of misconduct in order to establish the responsibilities and roles of the parties involved, and to provide the Director with the information needed to make a decision on sanctions.

    The RIS is preferably an experienced researcher who has assumed responsibilities in a wide range of research functions. The non-hierarchical position, which reduces the risk of bias or conflicts of interest, is particularly suitable for retired researchers (especially “emeritus”).

    A RIS can intervene in a number of ways: they can respond to a request from a doctoral student, a researcher or the institution’s management, or they can deal directly with an identified problem, for example, the publication of an article in which a conflict of interest is not mentioned. Confidentiality is, of course, guaranteed.

    Many countries, including Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and, of course, Europe, are taking a highly coordinated approach to the issue of integrity. In France, this reflection is driven by OFIS, a specific branch of HCERES.

    Laurence Moss - How long has it been around? 

    Henri Maitre This position was created following the December 2021 decree (see below), and I myself started in May 2022. I’m on site about one day a week, but can be reached by e-mail and through a specific mailbox available on the university’s website.

    “Decree no. 2021-1572 of December 3, 2021 relating to compliance with the requirements of scientific integrity by public establishments contributing to the public research service and foundations recognized as being of public utility whose principal activity is public research… In this context, the decree provides in particular for the creation of a position of scientific integrity referent and specifies the missions incumbent upon him or her with a view to ensuring compliance with the requirements of scientific integrity.
    References: the decree can be consulted on the Légifrance website (”

     To effectively apply the recommendations of the decree, we have created a network of delegated RIS at the Institut Mines-Télecom, acting in each of the schools, but in the final analysis, it is the RIS of the IMT who is accountable to the Director of the College.

    Laurence Moss - How did this approach come about?

    Henri Maitre The approach was set up by the IMT’s research department to provide the institution with a structure capable of reacting in the event of misconduct, and to avoid the mistakes that have been made in some institutions in the past.

    Laurence Moss - Why did you want this job?

    Henri Maitre From the outset, I saw the position as particularly important in helping to foster the emergence of honest, reliable research. It promised rewarding discussions with young researchers. I realized that, after the very singular experience of Covid, it was necessary to support them in learning their trade. Finally, I felt I had the right skills for the job. 

    Laurence Moss - Is your door open to everyone?

    Henri Maitre Yes, of course, and anyone can contact me at my email address or via the page available on the IMT website.

    Laurence Moss - What motivates these requests and what questions are regularly asked?

    Henri Maitre This may concern problems of abuse of authority, freedom of speech when employed by a company, independence from thesis supervisors, relations with former professors or future host laboratories with regard to research ownership.

    We often have questions about publications: the choice of journal, in connection with Open Science, problems of citations with previous work, when to publish, what it means to be responsible for an article, especially in a multidisciplinary field, as signing the article means agreeing with all the conclusions and with the means used to reach them.

    Laurence Moss - Doctoral students don't seem to be aware of RIS's presence at the university. How do you explain this?

    Henri Maitre – It’s true that the role of the RIS is still not well known, but that’s not surprising since the requirement for it to be set up in all establishments is not very old, and it has been set up in competition with other referents (parity, climate and environment, harassment/diversity, etc.), sometimes leading to a little confusion.

     Laurence Moss - What would you find favorable within the university to promote yourself?

    Henri Maitre -Doctoral training courses, presentations to teachers/researchers, electronic and paper postings are fortunately opportunities to bring it back into the spotlight.

    Laurence Moss - How can doctoral students contact you?

    Henri Maitre – In the event of misconduct or suspected misconduct, the first step would be to come and see me or send me an email. The RIS’s address should appear on the university website. I examine the request to see if it concerns the RIS, i.e. if it concerns a breach of ethics or research integrity. If this is not the case, I direct the requestor to the relevant department, doctoral school, HR, gender/diversity adviser, etc.  If the complaint is admissible, we examine whether it can be resolved through conciliation, which we always prefer to do. If not, we tell the complainant how to put together an allegation of misconduct file. It is this file that we investigate after receiving the green light from the Director of the Doctoral College. This investigation, led by the RIS, is carried out as far as possible with the involvement of other RIS, to ensure greater fairness and impartiality in the process.

    We then put together a file containing all the documents shedding light on the problem (e.g., laboratory notebooks, articles, interim reports, e-mails), contacting all the people concerned. An initial report is sent to the protagonists, who are asked to respond in writing. A final report is then drawn up, including the RIS’s analysis and the protagonists’ responses. The RIS advises and makes recommendations, but it is the Director of the Doctoral College who is solely responsible for the action they take.

    The result may be a scientific action (correcting a publication, withdrawing an article, producing a corrective) or an administrative sanction or sometimes – fortunately very rarely – a transfer of the case to the courts.


    Laurence Moss - What advice can you give to students and their supervisors on how to develop ethical reflection in their research?

    Henri Maitre – I’m not qualified to teach research ethics, as my work is strongly oriented towards integrity issues. These are often closely related to ethics, but differ from them in that they are much more pragmatic. In my presentation to doctoral students, I simply describe the history of awareness of research ethics, then the formal and administrative framework attached to ethics, and finally the emergence of ethics in the digital domain. Above all, then, it is a way of raising awareness of the need for ethical reflection in any research process.

    Laurence Moss - What message would you like to convey to students?

    Henri Maitre – With the introduction of the RIS in establishments, the legislator has filled a gaping hole in higher education and research. For doctoral students facing particularly anxious pressures, they offer firstly a sympathetic advisor who can answer their questions about research practice, and secondly, in the event of conflict, an impartial observer who can identify any misconduct from which they may have suffered. A RIS is placed under the authority of the Head of the establishment, but at the service of all researchers, regardless of their position in the research hierarchy.



    Image by Freepik


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