Who is Camille Noûs, the fictitious French researcher with nearly 200 papers?
Camille Noûs first appeared on the research scene 1 year ago, as a signatory to an open letter protesting French science policy. Since then, Noûs has been an author on 180 journal papers, in fields as disparate as astrophysics, molecular biology, and ecology, and is racking up citations.
But Noûs is not a real person. The name—intentionally added to papers, sometimes without the knowledge of journal editors—is meant to personify collective efforts in science and to protest individualism, according to RogueESR, a French research advocacy group that dreamed up the character. But the campaign is naïve and ethically questionable, says Lisa Rasmussen, a bioethicist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. It flouts the basic principle of taking responsibility alongside the credit of authorship, she says. And some journal editors are balking at going along with the protest.
RogueESR has spent the past year protesting a French research reform law that introduced new types of temporary research jobs. The group, which has no formal leader, says the changes threaten academic freedom and job security, and that the law’s focus on metric-based research evaluation—such as numbers of publications or citations—emphasizes individual accomplishment too much and is damaging to the research culture.