Since 2017, the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (M.E.S.R.I), and the Ministry of Culture have been working to set up a support plan for scientific publishing. 16.7 million Euros will be devoted to this over the next five years.
Following the enactment in October 2016 of the law for a digital Republic in France, and in relation with the European objective of distribution of scientific articles via open access before 2020 (the Horizon 2020 programme), the government has put in place a support plan that favours the maintenance of French scientific journals and the adaptation towards high quality, dynamic, and competitive digital publishing.
To monitor and evaluate this plan, the M.E.S.R.I, along with the Ministry of culture, has designated a monitoring Committee for scientific publishing, associating the public and private sectors (JORF n°0012 of 14th January 2017). In the light of International comparisons, this committee also has missions: to lead studies and to make a summary report (article 33 of the law for a digital Republic), to measure how each player (authors, journals, aggregators, institutes of higher education and research, libraries and readers) adapts his/her practices to ongoing evolution, and to formulate recommendations.
The state and the establishments of higher education and research are stakeholders of systems that aim to simplify on-line access to a greater number of journals, and to develop open access to scientific publications. With this goal in mind, in 2017 and 2018, five-year agreement protocols negotiated by the COUPERIN consortium and ABES were signed with the CAIRN, EDP Sciences and Open Edition platforms.
Furthermore, a complementary subsidy was opened by the M.E.S.R.I. to favour the multilingual access to translations of scientific articles.
The sum of these measures represents 16.7 million Euros of support for scientific publishing.
Cairn.info, an aggregator of human and social science (HSS) journals written in French, chose the principal known as the “movable barrier”. The full-text of articles can be consulted by free access after an embargo period, which currently varies from 2 to 5 years depending on the journal.
In an experimental capacity, for the duration of the contract (2017-2021), the agreement signed with Cairn envisages the reduction of this embargo period to one year for a corpus of thirty journals. These journals were chosen by a selection committee from the applications of publishers interested by this evolution. As of January 2019, all articles over a year old, from these thirty journals since their first issue, will be freely available on the Cairn.info platform. In exchange, the aggregator undertakes to redistribute part of the money allocated in the frame of the support plan to the publishers concerned.
Moreover, an additional clause provides for the remittance of data from a selection of journals on the ISTEX platform, with the aim of text and data mining. A corpus of thirteen journals will be the subject of this remittance, for provision during 2019.
List of CAIRN journals that benefit from the support plan.
EDP Sciences is the publisher of academic journals, scientific books and congress proceedings by open access. It committed to favour open access by signing a 5 year agreement (2017-2021). This agreement places open access at the centre of the system. Effectively, the corresponding authors of institutions that have adhered to grouping of orders can benefit from publication of their articles in open access, without having to pay publication costs, in any of the 31 following journals.
The CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution) licence is widely privileged by the publisher, who is working to make the best efforts for a progressive shift of its journals under subscription to full open access. The terms of the agreement also allow the users of member institutions to access twenty-nine journals that are under subscription. The publisher plans total liberalisation of data mining operations of this content, by the provision of usable, structured formats, via the ISTEX platform.
List of the EDP Sciences journals that benefit from the Support Plan.
Since its creation, Open Edition has been involved in the promotion of open access to documentary resources in HSS disciplines. The plateform currently hosts 495 journals, of which 75% are in immediate open access – via the open access or open access freemium models – and 25% allow consultation in open access after an embargo period that varies depending on the journal.
The agreement signed in 2018 envisaged the progressive passage of “movable barrier” journals towards immediate open access, at a rhythm of fifteen journals per year over four years.
In addition, all articles published in one hundred and sixty journals will be supplied in the formats required by the ISTEX platform, to be integrated into the data mining system.
List of the Open Edition journals that benefit from the Support Plan
The Bibliographical Agency of higher education (Abes) is a national operator in the service of documentary professionals. This public establishment of an administrative nature was created in 1994 by an inter-ministerial decree to set-up Sudoc – the University documentation system, a collective catalogue of higher education libraries.
Abes ensures the financial and administrative porterage of electronic documentation purchasing contracts with respect to the main scientific publishers, including the beneficiaries of the present support plan.
The Couperin consortium (a unified Consortium of university and research establishments, for access to digital publications) was created in 1999. It is a non-profit making association, financed by the subscriptions of its members and subsidized by the Ministry of higher education, research, and innovation. It is a network of negotiation and skills concerning electronic documentary resources of French higher education and research.
The monitoring Committee for scientific publishing will pursue its activities during 2019.
1/ What are the objectives of the Committee?
In a context of intensive digitalization, and of the development of Open Access, our primary mission is to evaluate the effects of the law for a digital Republicon the evolution of scientific journals, to assess the effects of the support plan, and if necessary suggest other measures. For that, the Committee will gather together objective data concerning this complex publishing sector that are characterised by their great diversity whether this concerns the status of the publisher (university presses, research laboratories, learned societies, private publishers with a commercial or non-commercial orientation), the means of distribution (paper, digital, or mixed), the periodicity or the number of articles per year. Studies and indicators exist, but it is also necessary to carry out complimentary studies: firstly on human and social science journals, and secondly on French distribution platforms. We have also recruited a postdoc. who works specifically on the indicators, and for example should shortly supply results comparing the depositing of scientific articles by researchers in the HAL open archive and in the Academia social network.
2/ How does CSES function? Who are its members?
Several European countries have set-up this type of body, but the originality of the Committee is its collegial nature. Concerning French scientific publishing of journals, it is the only instance to favour the permanent consultation between the public and private sectors. Effectively, it is composed of five players from the world of research, five professionals of public publishing and documentation, and five private publishers. This collegial formula has allowed a fruitful consultation and has paved the way for a better evaluation. We have not always had the same visions of ongoing evolutions, but each member participates actively in the meetings and in working groups. The discussions remain calm, and contradictory debates yield, for example, a clearer definition of studies underway, and allow their better steering.
3/ What are the perspectives for the coming year?
In the short-term, the Committee is preparing to launch a call to tender on translation, which is one of the measures intended in the support plan. This call to tender will be carried out with the concurrence of the M.E.S.R.I., and will particularly concern metadata and testing of automatic translation. We hope that we will have the results of these studies by the end of the first semester of 2019 and will publish our evaluation report on the effects of the law for a digital Republic during the second semester of 2019.