The independence of the Agency and of the people contributing to its work are essential to the quality, legitimacy and credibility of the scientific expert appraisal system it has established. From its inception, ANSES adopted an ethical framework to ensure this independence. It has developed its own regularly updated strategy, which includes good practice for collective expert appraisals, a code of ethical standards, a Committee for Ethical Standards and Prevention of Conflicts of Interest, and the implementation of several charters. All of this is in accordance with the current legal and regulatory framework.
Good practices for collective expert assessment
The reliance on collective expert assessment for evaluating health risks is one of the basic principles set down in the founding charter on which ANSES is based. For this activity the Agency applies the French standard NF X 50-110 on "Quality in expertise activities - general requirements of competence for an expertise activity" and is drawing up its own good practice guide.
Collective expert assessment is organised according to a procedure for selecting and bringing together experts from various fields to consider a particular issue, take into account all of the available scientific knowledge, organise collective hearings and debate for all of the experts' opinions and hypotheses and then to issue opinions and/or recommendations which are systematically made public.
These principles have been set down in 2 framework documents that were adopted by the Board of Administration in 2010: Basic principles and key points for expert appraisal and ANSES’s own Code of ethical standards.
Collective expert assessment thus guarantees that all of the knowledge and data on a particular issue are taken into account in order to be able to issue an independent opinion after considering all hypotheses.
In practice ANSES recruits most of its experts through public calls for candidates. All potential candidates have to sign a commitment to respect the Agency's ethical rules and they are only appointed once their public declarations of interests (which are mandatory and must be kept up-to-date) have been examined.
The expert appraisal must be conducted collectively at all stages, from the initial presentation of data, through successive discussion and debate to the final conclusions.
Furthermore, ANSES has tasked Professor Gérard Lasfargues with the mission of scientific integrity advisor.
In this capacity, he is the contact person for all actors in research who have questions concerning scientific integrity. He will also ensure that general scientific integrity policy is properly implemented at ANSES, and that instruments and procedures for preventing and treating failures in scientific integrity are put into place. Professor Lasfargues reports directly to the Agency’s General Directorate.
The Committee for ethical standards and prevention of conflicts of interests
An ethics officer at ANSES
The French law of 26 January 2016 on the modernisation of the health care system specifies that an ethics officer must be appointed for each public health organisation and Manuelle Vertot, Director of the Legal Affairs Unit, has been appointed in this capacity for the Agency.
She will conduct her ethical officer activities for a three-year period with the support of all the Agency's departments, while taking into consideration the opinions and recommendations of ANSES's Committee for ethical standards and prevention of conflicts of interest.
New charter of ethics for public procurement at ANSES
In order to play its part in implementing tools to prevent and combat corruption, influence peddling, misappropriation, unlawful taking of interest, embezzlement of public funds and favouritism, ANSES has introduced a charter of ethics for public procurement (in French). Besides the employees whose role it is to draw up and award public contracts, this charter applies to all the Agency's employees, scientific staff and administrative staff of the decentralised entities, who may be required to participate in any part of a procedure to purchase goods or services, or to carry out work. Accordingly, any ANSES employee, without exception, taking part in a procurement procedure or in contact with a supplier, regardless of the sum involved, must behave in accordance with the rules laid down. This charter sets out mandatory rules of good conduct to ensure compliance with the principles of the Public Procurement Code; namely equal treatment of candidates, freedom of access to public procurement and transparency of procurement procedures.
Charter on relations with interested parties
When ANSES was granted the power to issue, amend or withdraw marketing authorisations for plant protection products, fertilisers, growing media and adjuvants in 2015, it adopted a charter governing its relations with interested parties in the context of examining applications for plant inputs, with a view to enhancing its ethical framework. Its purpose was to define a framework of expression for the various interest groups and their representatives to the Agency, ensuring that it is both explicit and organised, while preserving the equanimity needed for examining application dossiers.
To take account of recent changes in regulations (the Sapin II Act on transparency, the fight against corruption and economic modernisation; guidelines from the National Authority for the transparency of public life – HATVP) and the 2019 recommendations of the Committee for Ethical Standards, the charter on relations with interested parties and the associated register* have undergone a major revision, at the request of the General Directorate, to improve the existing system.
Among the main changes, the Charter's scope has been broadened to encompass all areas in which the Agency is required to take a decision, carry out an expert appraisal or issue a scientific opinion.
The revised charter is applicable from 1 April 2021 (in French).
*ANSES is responsible for processing personal data in the register on relations with interested parties. Data are kept for a period of 5 years. In accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, known as the GDPR, and of the French Data Protection Act of 6 January 1978, as amended, persons listed in the register have the right to access, rectify, limit and, in certain cases, delete any information concerning them. For any questions, or to request access to your personal information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1)Ethics is understood as the "moral code of rules specific to a profession" - L.-M Morfaux, Vocabulaire de la philosophie et des sciences humaines, Paris, Armand Colin. 1980.