For a trustworthy, responsible and open science

  • University

Jean Bouvier d’Yvoire, in charge of the mission "Science that is trustworthy, responsible and open," discusses the stakes for our University and the importance of being attentive to the scientific process in a rapidly changing society.

How did your mission come about?

Jean Bouvier d’Yvoire: In recent years, Sorbonne University has demonstrated its commitment to the values, rights and principles it holds dear by setting up specific missions and mechanisms. This is the case for the missions of equality, the fight against discrimination, support for disabilities, and the mission of sustainable development and environmental transition.

The mission "For a trustworthy, responsible and open science" focuses on the scientific process that is at the heart of the university’s activity and what it brings to society in terms of education, research and development. It is based on five areas, each of which is led by a coordinator. Each of them, in their own field, contributes to the promotion of a trustworthy, responsible and open science.

Who are the main players?

J. B. Y: The scientific integrity coordinator, Roger Guérin, ensures that the rules, values and good practices governing research activities are respected. The Research Ethics Committee, chaired by Mohamed Chetouani, examines requests for advice on non-interventional research protocols involving human beings. The ethics officer, Pierre Valleix, advises all civil servants on issues such as multiple activities and conflicts of interest.

Open science, on which Anne-Catherine Fritzinger advises the President, supports researchers in managing their data and publishing their results in open access: it promotes traceability, reproducibility and sharing of research results. The mediator, Pascal Challande, as an impartial third party, proposes a mechanism for preventing or resolving disputes through dialogue.

In a coordinating role, my mission is to facilitate their interactions, to address emerging issues or subjects that are at their interfaces and sometimes give rise to contradictory injunctions. It is also to encourage the sharing of information and initiatives, for the benefit of a common vision that is that of the university community in all its components.

What does "trustworthy, accountable, and open science" mean?

J. B. Y.: Trustworthy, responsibility and openness are essential qualities that constitute science. In the great diversity of knowledge that it covers, science does not depend on a superior authority and must build trust: critical thinking, contradictory discussion and confrontation with experience, pushed as far as possible, are levers for building trust within disciplinary communities. It gives responsibility to those who are involved. It publishes its results once they have been validated by peers and thus made reliable for the public.

However, the context has changed. In a few decades, digital technologies, resulting from scientific progress, have become one of the major vectors of a "revolution" with multiple dimensions (economic, political, social, cultural, cognitive...), comparable to those of the invention of writing, money or printing.

In addition to a science focused on content, disciplines and an organization of work by relatively stable communities based on mutual recognition, digital technology opens the way to a science focused on challenges, linked to rapidly changing contexts, which mobilizes skills, and relies on interactions and forms of collaborative work in networks at different scales. It opens the way to new forms of collective intelligence, but also to the artificial production of knowledge (see the very recent artificial intelligence and the debate it provokes).

The space-time of scientific practices as well as the conditions of trust and responsibility are being shaken up. Open science, integrity and research ethics are thus becoming important issues that, beyond the disciplinary communities and the scientific community as a whole, are part of a "new deal" in the relationship between science and society.

What are the stakes of this mission?

J. B. Y : First of all, it is a question of increasing the attention we must pay to what is at the heart of our activity and our missions: the scientific approach in its demands and its questioning, the diversity of its forms and the knowledge it produces, and what it brings to society through education, research and promotion.

This is a lever for dialogue, for reflection on the specificities of each discipline and for beneficial interactions between communities and professions. This mission should contribute to giving meaning to the individual and collective involvement of all members of the community by reminding them of what and for whom they work.

This mission aims to professionalize research activities and practices without compromising the freedom required by the scientific process. It is a matter of ensuring, in the systems, processes and exchanges, the proper articulation between support services and scientists.

Finally, it should constitute a capacity for expertise and prospective reflection, which brings together and exceeds those of each of the referents in their own field of intervention.

Why is it important today for a university such as ours?

J. B. Y: In the context of the profound changes that are affecting scientific practices, it is important for our recently created university that the challenges of a science in confidence be the object of attention, dialogue and exchange. It is necessary to promote a better knowledge and mutual recognition of the different scientific communities that it brings together.

Sorbonne University must be exemplary in terms of scientific integrity and deontology, research ethics and open science. It is exemplary in several aspects. It must be exemplary in all aspects.

How will this be translated into concrete terms?

J. B. Y : First of all, through communication actions to ensure that the meaning of this mission and the scope of the referents are clearly identified by the entire community and adapted by the faculties on the basis of their specific disciplines.

We will also develop, for the community, students and the public, awareness-raising actions using challenging examples, and, for the members of the community, training in the requirements and questions raised by each of the referents and in the challenges of a science in confidence. A reference system of competences is being finalized.

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