In December 2022, COMETS, the CNRS Ethics Committee, adopted a guidance entitled "Integrating Environmental Issues into the Conduct of Research - An Ethical Responsibility" on the issue of the environmental impact of scientific research.
The Ethics in Common Committee fully endorses the COMETS guidance and invites the research community to take note of it.
In its opinion, COMETS recognises that taking the environment into account is an integral part of research ethics. Thus, the responsibility of researchers concerns not only the carbon and biodiversity footprint of research practices, but also more globally the environmental impact of research projects, the means used to conduct them and the consequences of their use.
COMETS addresses the way in which the responsibility of the research world towards the environment should be exercised in concrete situations. It recommends a wide-ranging debate within the scientific community, equipped as far as possible with tools, methodologies and, more generally, a scientifically sound and shared theoretical framework. In this perspective, it stresses first of all the importance of measuring impacts and, to this end, of building up knowledge about these impacts, which is essential for an informed discussion and the identification of indicators and levers for action. COMETS also calls for the environmental impact of research to be approached from a perspective of proportionality, based on the collective evaluation of the costs and benefits of research.
While research must reduce its own environmental footprint, it must also contribute to the "transitions" undertaken by society, and support systemic transformations.
Following the "Tribute to Axel Kahn - Enriching the dialogue between science and ethics in the service of society" day, organised on the 23rd of September 2022, this question was put to the Ethics in Common Committee: "What are the rights and duties for scientists and their institutions in the face of the environmental emergency? The Committee has taken up this issue on its own initiative; its ongoing reflections, inspired by the COMETS guidance, will complement it soon.