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Not reporting misconduct is misconduct: how many accomplices?

Par Hervé Maisonneuve, billet original publié le 20/5/2021 – Traduction : Citizen4Science

In a number of scientific integrity codes, it is more or less explicitly stated that being aware of misconduct requires reporting it to the appropriate authorities. This principle is expressed differently depending on the code. For example, in the CNRS guide « Practising honest and responsible research », it is written on page 20, in the recommendations for the scientific reviewer: « he/she has the obligation to report any breach of ethics by the person or project being assessed ».

On Transparency International website, there is the Practical Guide for Whistleblowers, French version dated 2017. Whistleblowers need to be protected, and the Sapin 2 law dated December 2016 gives « A broad definition of a whistleblower (no longer limited to professional framework), including reporting or disclosure of « a serious threat or harm to the general interest », with the exception of national defense, medical or attorney-client relations secrets. »

Simply put: « Not reporting scientific misconduct is misconduct. »

Several groups of researchers have alerted on misconduct by the IHU of Marseille which insults, defames researchers, and currently Elisabeth Bik and Boris Barbour are worried (we all go through it, and they are not alone). With E Bik, I participated in the TV show « The hidden side of DR » in April 2021. Let’s welcome the initiatives of those who dare to sign letters, and let’s disseminate this information:

  • An international group federated by Lonni Besançon has submitted a preprint on an OSF server (thanks to Brian Nosek) of an open letter (image below). This letter has been signed by many colleagues from the academic world, and the signatures have been checked; it is about protecting whistleblowers;
  • The association Citizen4Science made a press release and launched a petition which collects signatures of both scientists and citizens: « To stop the harassment on scientific spokespersons and defenders of science integrity« ; the point here is to protect D. Costagliola, K. Lacombe, N. Peiffer-Smadja, E. Bik, … and especially calling out the accomplices…

« Le Monde » from the pen of David Larousserie, published on May 18, 2021 an article: « Legal battle between Didier Raoult and a scientific integrity specialist », with subtitle: « The Marseilles-based infectiologist and one of his lieutenants file a complaint for « harassment, attempted blackmail and extortion » against the biologist Elisabeth Bik, who questioned several of their works on the PubPeer website. This article mentions that 240 articles had comments on PubPeer…nice performance. The IHU does not provide data to respond, a standard practice for most researchers. The article concludes:  »It is a bit of a shame for France that professors can accuse me for months without their institutions intervening. Their attitude also damages science, » concludes Elisabeth Bik. Contacted, Aix-Marseille University « does not want to communicate and publicize this subject »

All this is unfortunate, bcause scientific discussions are normal but should not be done this way. Why does the IHU, instead of providing scientific evidence, prefer to attack all those who comment on their baseless statements? The reason is that there are many accomplices, too many accomplices, starting with the institutions and organizations that finance and are cited or thanked in the publications, not to mention the governance of the IHU. There should be no integrity referents, no ethics commissions, no officials in any of these bodies….

Des comportements inadmissibles de E Chabrière ont été signalés par des médias anglais. J’ai remarqué dans un article de Slate de mai 2021 cette citation :

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