Authors: Maike Neufend, Martina Benz, Malte Dreyer
Open access is developing in an area of tension between institutional and funder policies, the economics of publishing and last but not least the communication practices of research disciplines. In a comparison across European countries, very dynamic and diverse approaches and developments can be observed. Furthermore, this international and comparative perspective helps us to assess the state of open access (OA) in Germany. In this series of Open4DE project blog posts, we will summarize what we have learned in our in-depth conversations with experts on developing and implementing nationwide open access strategies.
The open access movement in France plays a vital role since the beginning in the European region. Already around the 2000s French research institutions launched the Revues.org platform (1999) – now OpenEdition – for open access journals primarily in Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2001 the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) started running HAL open archive (2001), a repository open to all disciplinary fields. In 2003 the CNRS signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. During many years open access was a matter of personal involvement from individuals within institutions, says Pierre Mounier, deputy director of OpenEdition and coordinator of OPERAS:
The personal commitment based on political values works locally, but at one point you reach a glass ceiling. You don’t get that general movement because it is only a matter of individuals. It really changed in France…
In 2021 France has already published the Second National Plan for Open Science. Generalising Open Science in France 2021-2024. And during the recently held Open Science European Conference (OSEC) the French Committee for Open Science presented the Paris Call on Research Assessment, calling for „an assessment system where research proposals, researchers, research units and research institutions are evaluated on the basis of their intrinsic merits and impact […]“. In line with the general development across Europe, according to the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science and other policy papers, Open Science is no longer a question of few committed librarians, information scientists and researchers, but part of the national strategy on scholarly communication.
What can be achieved by a national strategy?
In Germany multiple stakeholders publish their own policies and strategies, committing to open access practices and values. Marin Dacos, national open science coordinator at the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, emphasizes that a national strategy is a strong signal no matter what, because multiple stakeholders receive concrete directions by such strategies. In addition, it might be more efficient to speak as a country regarding these issues, in particular at the international level, f.e. within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Commission and The Council for National Open Science Coordination (CoNOSC), a network of national coordinators in the UN-European region supported by SPARC Europe.
Looking at France, for certain topics national negotiations seem more convenient: Considering investment in green open access or diamond open access, it is more realistic to achieve progress on the national level instead of federal, local or institutional levels only. Setting open access on the national agenda allows for strategic planning. This argument is not only supported by the content of the two national plans for open science in France from 2018 and 2021, but also on the recently published Action Plan for Diamond Open Access „to further develop and expand a sustainable, community-driven Diamond OA scholarly communication ecosystem“. Prepared by OPERAS, PLAN S, Science Europe and French National Research Agency (ANR) the plan was commented by experts of a workshop sponsored by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in preparation for the OSEC conference. A summary of this conference and links to recordings are available online.
The National Plan and its infrastructure
But how did the first national plan actually come about in 2018? After the election in 2017, Frédérique Vidal became Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation. Since 2017 Marin Dacos is open science advisor to the director-general for research and innovation at the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. He has been highly involved in the writing process of the French Open Science Plan. The open science committee was founded in 2019, consisting of a steering committee of open science, a permanent secretariat for open science (SPSO), colleges and expert groups as well as the forum for open science.
The steering committee meets 3–4 times a year to make strategic decisions related to the national strategy, acts as the Council of Partners of the National Fund for Open Science (GIS FNSO) and decides which initiatives to fund. The permanent secretariat headed by the national coordinator for open science gathers monthly to prepare the work of the steering committee, and to ensure the implementation of its conclusions. It coordinates the work of the colleges of the open science committee, oversees the editorial board of the ouvrirlascience.fr website, and monitors the progress of ongoing projects for the operational implementation of the national open science policy. The colleges and expert groups are standing bodies composed of experts on various aspects of the national open science policy. They review issues, propose guidelines, issue opinions, and initiate and lead projects. The forum for open science supports the committee by bringing in the experience of professionals from academia and research institutions. It provides a space for dialogue, exchange and development of shared expertise. As Morka and Gatti point out, the open science committee is one of the „main platforms where librarians engage in discussions on open access“.
Moreover, in the French case, a national fund (Fonds National pour la Science Ouverte, FNSO) is in place since the first National Plan on Open Science (2018) funded by „ministerial allocations and voluntary contributions from institutions of higher education, research and innovation, as well as contributions from foundations and patrons“. Through this fund the steering committee for open science can incentivize concrete projects to foster implementation of measures articulated in the national plan, „it helps to target specific actions, an important transformation effect to help move forward“, says Mounier. 48 projects have been selected by the steering committee, 22 projects in 2019 mainly on research infrastructures, digital platforms and editorial initiatives and 26 projects in 2021 focusing on editorial platforms and structures as well as editorial content. Beside the fact that the fund is limited in its financial power, it is an important addition for a successful implementation of a national strategy.
What is there to consider for the German landscape?
One important lesson to learn from France refers to the administration of open access within the ministry. Open science and open access is highly coordinated inside the ministry and thus funds are not administered differently for these closely linked topics. However, the level of diversity included in the French national strategy is something to look up to. This is also visible in how the implementation of the national strategy is monitored in France. One aim of the French national open science strategy is the objective of a 100% open access rate in 2030 and progress is monitored on the national level. But different from the German Open Access Monitor the French version relies only on „using reliable and controlled open data“ like data from Unpaywall, DOAJ or OpenAPC – source databases like Web of Science or Scopus are not included. In addition, the French Open Science Monitor aims at including all scientific output and thus shows not only open access articles published in peer-reviewed journals but proceedings, book chapters, books and preprints as well. Sorting according to disciplines and their open access output is presented and the language of publication is shown as well. It is positive to see that both, the German and the French monitor, include diamond open access and thus differentiate it from full APC gold open access already.
But what works well in France is not necessarily the right path for Germany. University presses are well-developed in France, while the national publishing platform OpenEdition provides an infrastructure to publish open access books as well as journals. In Germany a decentralized library system operates quite autonomous on institutional levels, with different library consortia across federal states. A national publishing platform like OpenEdition may look like a desirable model, but as Pierre Mounier points out, does it really make sense for Germany? An important impulse from our interviews with French open science experts has been the question, how we can use the federated infrastructure in Germany as an advantage and not an obstacle for a national open access agenda.
(2017). „Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity.“ Accessed April 6, 2022. https://jussieucall.org/jussieu-call/.
Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation (2018). „National Plan for Open Science.“ Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.ouvrirlascience.fr/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/National-Plan-for-Open-Science_A4_20180704.pdf.
Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation (2021). „Second National Plan for Open Science Generalising Open Science in France 2021-2024.“ Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.ouvrirlascience.fr/second-national-plan-for-open-science/,
Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation (2022). „Paris Call on Research Assessment.“ Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.ouvrirlascience.fr/paris-call-on-research-assessment.
Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation (2022). „Action Plan for Diamond open access.“ Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.ouvrirlascience.fr/action-plan-for-diamond-open-access-2.
Mounier, Pierre (2019). „From Open Access as a Movement to Open Science as a Policy.“ Presented at the 2019 2nd AEUP Conference: (Re-)Shaping University Presses and Institutional Publishing. Profiles – Challenges – Benefits, Brno, Czech Republic, October 3. Accessed April 6, 2022. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3471026.
Morka, Agata, and Rupert Gatti (2021). „France.“ In Academic Libraries and Open Access Books in Europe: A Landscape Study. PubPub. Accessed April 6, 2022. https://doi.org/10.21428/785a6451.6df6495e.