Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Suprisingly good CNRS guidelines on open access

When it comes to good practices, research institutions are often good at declarations of principles, and not so good at implementation. For example, it is easy to declare that research assessment should be qualitative and not rely too much on bibliometrics, but harder to do it in practice.

This is why I am pleasantly surprised by recent CNRS guidelines on open access. These guidelines take the form of a letter to CNRS researchers who have to fill yearly reports on their work. 


The salient points about open access are:

  • Over the last three years, the proportion of articles by CNRS researchers that are openly accessible rose from 49% to 77%. (OK, these data mean little in the absence of more details.)

  • CNRS is adopting a rights retention strategy, as proposed by Coalition S: it recommends that all articles be distributed under a CC-BY license. In particular, this allows the articles to be made openly accessible right at the time of publication.

  • CNRS is not asking researchers for their lists of publications: instead, CNRS just takes publication lists from the national preprint archive HAL.

  • The weak point of all this seems to be the impractical and clunky nature of HAL. However, as reminded in the letter, HAL is increasingly interoperable with disciplinary archives such as ArXiv and BiorXiv. And indeed, my recent articles were automatically harvested by HAL from ArXiv.

This goes in the direction of having a strong open access mandate while requiring no extra work from researchers. To get there, it remains to make the CC-BY license mandatory, and the upload of articles to HAL fully automatic.