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White Paper — Open Science in a Digital Republic

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Scientific and Technical Information Department - CNRS

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1Like many other types of data, scientific data are central to the changes in a system whose equilibrium has been upset by the advent of new digital tools and the affirmation of the values of openness, sharing and collaboration. These developments inevitably lead to questions, fears and concerns about shifts in power, and call for the legal provisions to be clarified and practices to be secured.

2Faced with the observation of “a profound change in the production and dissemination of science (characterised by rapid growth in the number of scientific publications and, at the same time, the ever-increasing cost of access to these resources in the framework of financial resources that, at best, remain constant)”, the stated objective of the “Government’s Digital Strategy”, as presented by the Prime Minister on 18 June 2015, is to “foster Open Science by the free dissemination of research publications and data”.

3This White Paper proposes a two-part argument.

4The first part provides an overview of the current science situation in the digital environment, by noting:

  • the practices of researchers and their teams. These were mainly identified from a survey on STI uses and needs in research units, conducted with CNRS unit directors; this survey was carried out by the CNRS Scientific and Technical Information Department in mid 2014 among 1 250 units publishing articles;

  • the inhibiting legal embargo periods and the need for rights to be reformed;

  • the risks of misappropriation.

5Understood as a genuine working tool of scientific communities, the scientific data or information made available on digital platforms is subjected to use, exchange, manipulation and multiple processing operations that radically alter the traditional concepts of material and intellectual property rights.

6When compared with foreign legislation, the existing legal framework prevents researchers from:

  • gaining free access to scientific results;

  • fully using the analysis or processing features offered by digital platforms.

7These findings were also overwhelmingly validated in the framework of the national consultation on the Digital Republic Bill.

8The second part formulates legal proposals in favour of Open Science that the public authorities are invited to take up. These proposals result from:

  • the values and the needs expressed by the key witnesses for this White Paper. A consensus approach is preferred, which contributes to the emergence and the sharing of values common to public research;

  • an analysis of the positions adopted by EU and international bodies, as well as foreign legislation.

9The Digital Republic Bill could embody France’s ambition to promote the values of Open Science. This framework is an opportunity to include French public research in the global Open movement, while preserving the interests of all science stakeholders, whether they are the laboratories or public bodies funding the research project, the scientific publishers, the private partners, or the researchers themselves. Strategies for the development of a new law for digital scientific and technical information are proposed, with a view to rebalancing the digital science ecosystem.

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