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Operational Committee for the assesment of Legal and Ethical risks

© Inria / Photo C. Morel

Since 2011, Inria has had an ad hoc body to assess the legal and ethical issues confronting staff involved in Inria missions.The Operational Committee for the Evaluation of Legal and Ethical Risks (Coerle) has a number of roles. It examines and issues an opinion on the research and experiments conducted at Inria, and on the software, knowledge and data it publishes.It approves the ethical aspects of research projects and the publication of their findings.It is also the authority on the scientific integrity of the output of Inria and its staff.

Why was Coerle set up?

Coerle was set up to address the legal and ethical issues likely to emerge in connection with the research and experimentation conducted by Inria project-teams, more specifically in areas associated with the security of information systems, data collection and processing, algorithm and software design, or the publication of software and research findings.

There are many issues at stake, the most important being to help scientists grasp the ethical questions involved in their research topic. Whereas, just a few years ago, most scientists in these disciplines did not feel concerned by the ethics of their developments, nowadays everyone is potentially involved. Another objective is to make scientists aware of the ethical issues involved in research in these fields and give them the training that will, when the time comes, enable them to anticipate the ethical questions posed by their peers or by society.

As the authority on scientific integrity, the committee can also be asked to issue an opinion on plagiarism issues, before applying to an EU call for proposals or submitting an article to a scientific journal.

How are ethics issues handled at Inria?

When questions arise about a research project, an experiment, the publication of software or data, they can be referred to two bodies: Cerna (Commission for the Ethics of Research in Information Sciences and Technologies), which is independent of the institute, and Coerle, which is an internal organisation. Both bodies work in collaboration on a wide range of issues. Their main objective is to help scientists grasp the ethical issues involved in their research topic and make adequate provisions for the legal aspects.

Why is Coerle important?

Management relies on Coerle to ensure that the research carried out at the institute does not raise ethical issues that have not been adequately grasped by the promoters of a research project, or which might incur the liability, criminal or otherwise, of Inria or the staff involved in its missions. Issuing opinions on a research project that are informed, pertinent and compliant with French and European legislation allows the establishment, once the opinions have been endorsed by Inria's CEO, to assume responsibility for the project, including criminal liability.

Keywords: COERLE Ethics Organization