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1The national consultation on the Digital Republic Bill, launched by the Prime Minister, prompted an unprecedented debate on the preparation of major government legislation. Among the many original results from this consultation, it is worth noting the importance attached by the debaters (researchers, publishers, scientific institutions or research groups) to the theme specifically covered by this White Paper: how should scientific information in the digital age be characterised, exploited and shared?

2Admittedly, France is not the first country to ask itself the question: an abundance of solutions have been offered, both inside and outside the European arena. This White Paper intends to innovate by providing an overall study, based on possible solutions developed in several major fields of scientific practice. This work takes place alongside the recent efforts prompted by the Academy of Science and its Permanent Secretary, Jean-François Bach, to conduct an in-depth review of the foundations of access to scientific evaluation and publication. The aim of this wide-ranging study is to inform the choices which, in the new digital practices adopted in science as in other fields, must inevitably take the international dimension into account, all the more so in view of the impact of and issues raised by information systems that now stretch right round the planet, thanks to the Internet.

The challenges of Open Science: International convergence is necessary

3The issue of Open Science, specifically, is neither a distant vision nor a slogan: Open Science, as currently accepted by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, who in 2015 made it one of the European Commission’s three priorities, is an approach that has to simultaneously reconcile new digital uses, new ways to exploit these uses (intellectual property in particular), and new procedures and rights guaranteeing access to and sharing of scientific results. On these themes, North America especially is actively pursuing the construction of new bases that make the field of scientific research particularly competitive at an international level.

4Each country is therefore currently seeking its own solutions, which is only logical, even though we should all ultimately be seeking convergence: scientific publishing practices, whether digital or “print”, depend on national publishing ecosystems, historically well established and constructed, with their own legal and contractual structures, and their acquired rights. These ecosystems are themselves dependent on the influence of international scientific publishing in each of the contexts: the major science publishers1 each take a slightly different approach to their national scientific publication systems, through a wide range of contractual practices.

5In the Digital Republic Bill, our country will therefore seek to define the positioning called for by its history and its scientific publishing sector, in light of the needs of its research communities.

6This White Paper will confine itself to addressing only the need expressed by the research communities. It should be emphasised that these parties expressed their views on several major converging themes during the consultation on the Bill.2 This has been acknowledged by Axelle Lemaire, the Secretary of State responsible for the Bill.3

A public research approach for a national dialogue

7By deliberately adopting this single point of view confined to the needs of “end producers” and “direct users” of scientific information, this White Paper is obviously open to criticisms about the deliberate restriction of its horizon of concern: indeed, would it not have been logical to include all the stakeholders involved in the production and sharing of scientific information more broadly? While they are aware of the limitations imposed by this choice, the authors of this White Paper have also weighed the benefits in the current context: the debate with publishers and all providers of digital scientific information services has clearly not yet approached a consensus at any of the levels – whether national, European or international – at which it is currently being conducted, while the actual options considered by this debate continue to evolve.

8By adopting a scope of analysis confined solely to internal research uses, the authors of this White Paper believe they can offer sufficient “added value” to contribute to a debate that exceeds the scope of the Bill itself. As a reminder, this White Paper was initiated before the debate on the Digital Republic Bill was launched, and many of its themes exceed the scope of the legislative debate, with a view to providing benchmarks in an overall framework of reflection on the needs for digital information in science. This approach is widely inspired by the debate initiated at and by the Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (INIST) and its director, Raymond Bérard: in the digital age, this approach updates for the twenty-first century one of the key ideas initially set out by Diderot and d’Alembert in the Prospectus of 1750, the famous programme of work for the Encyclopédie, which aimed, literally, to find the representations and the means to “make science work”.

In this regard, two key observations serve as the guiding thread for the two phases of this White Paper

9Firstly, the review of the current situation on uses suggests a pressing need to catch up, in areas where today the digital uses of science currently lag behind the major emerging and/or established practices in the leading countries of science. A second key idea concerns the direction of the changes under way: moving towards a “right of shared resources and protected uses” might broadly summarise the proposals and recommendations of the White Paper. We can clearly see here a digital perspective on the proposals made in the report Pour une société apprenante (For a society that learns4) presented to the President of the Republic in September 2015.

10The authors of this collegiate approach also wish to stress that they attempted to exchange and debate with all the actors contributing their services and know-how to the work of science: the needs and constraints of researchers have been addressed with a view to leaving open the question of the economic and legal models by which these needs could be met in the future. In fact, rather than entering the arena of a debate whose scope is clearly far from settled, whether about current concerns regarding models of convergence between the needs and uses of scientific information, or the means to satisfy them, the authors of this White Paper hope that their contribution will feed usefully into the indispensable debate with all the present and future suppliers of science.

11In taking this option, the authors of this White Paper affirm their commitment to a dialogue at national, European and international level, in particular with all the representatives of scientific publishing and providers of services to science. Only this dialogue can give meaning to these proposals and thoughts.

12It should also be recognised that the aim of this analysis and deliberation is not to appropriate and reflect the opinion of the national scientific community as a whole, but to provide an initial constructed contribution to a national debate that is just getting started, and in which individual positions are not yet being adequately identified or substantiated. The lack of studies has been emphasised on several sides, and is summarised by the Opinion on the Bill by the Council of State.5 On these aspects, the surveys conducted by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) within the Joint Research Units (UMRs) constitute isolated examples, and must be further developed, however thorough these have attempted to be.6

A White Paper: Testimony, deliberations, expertise

13Lastly, the authors of this White Paper take collective responsibility for the choices regarding the construction and presentation of the study that has brought them together, which is based on both third-party testimony and expertise. A detailed presentation of this approach is offered in Annex 1 of the White Paper.

14The testimony is firstly that created by the ISTEX project, the first national digital “Investments for the Future” programme for scientific documentation, whose instigators together examined the new uses of digital resources dedicated to scientific literature.

15ISTEX offers a dramatic validation of the approach proposed by the Digital Scientific Library (BSN): the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research (MENESR), the Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education (ABES), the Couperin Consortium, Lorraine University, and the CNRS (DIST and INIST) are all stakeholders of this major project. This White Paper originated in the context of the ISTEX Seminar, chaired in 2014 by Jean-Pierre Finance, representative of the Conference of University Presidents (CPU) and initiator of ISTEX, and aimed to lay the foundations for a legal debate on the fundamental reorientations required for science in the age of digital practices.

16This White Paper also came about thanks to the deliberations and testimonies of two major university members of the League of European Research Universities (LERU): the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC) and the University of Strasbourg, represented by their respective Presidents and Vice-Presidents: Jean Chambaz and Paul Indelicato (UPMC) and Alain Beretz and Paul-Antoine Hervieux (University of Strasbourg).

17The national Open Access system, the CCSD (Centre for Direct Scientific Communication), which is paving the way for new forms of knowledge sharing, expressed its view via its current president, Claude Kirchner.

18The CNRS, which as early as 2013 promoted a national strategy based on the pooling of scientific information7 needs and resources, expressed its view here via the Chairman of the Scientific Board, Bruno Chaudret, after nearly a year of internal debate by the Scientific Board. Lastly, Benoît Thieulin, President of the French Digital Council, made a valuable contribution to this overall process of reflection, by establishing some coherence between the themes of science and all those issues for which he is responsible in the organisation of a national transition to digital uses across our country.

19The expertise provided by the international consulting firm Cabinet Alain Bensoussan has given an indispensable legal underpinning to this work, through its analysis of the texts and options offered by the emerging law on digital technologies applied to science, at national, European and international level. The Cabinet Alain Bensoussan has brought this project to life by organising all the hearings and the construction of this White Paper, in line with the expectations of all the actors involved in this process, and by bringing to the table a spirit of openness and innovation.

20Lastly, several key witnesses wanted to share their thoughts on two major areas central to key issues for scientific information in the digital age: Bruno David, President of the French Natural History Museum addressed the diversity of uses of scientific information and new ways of sharing it, and, lastly, Daniel Egret, former President of the Astronomical Observatory of Paris, described the new uses of scientific publication metrics.

21The CNRS orchestrated this approach through especially productive joint contributions, by its Scientific and Technical Information Department (DIST) and Office of Legal Affairs (DAJ).

22The many testimonies offered by researchers and research managers, combined with the international legal expertise presented here, have enabled this White Paper to compile an outline of current information on the rights and uses of scientific digital publication: this responds to the need expressed by all actors, both professional and non-professional, for objective information on the changes under way introduced by digital technology.

23May this collection of testimonies, thoughts and expertise contribute to the common debate and enable France to make the necessary choices for it to take its place in the great twenty-first century project of digital scientific creation, which is now under way.

The signatories:

For the members of the Executive Committee of the ISTEX Investments for the Future project:
Grégory Colcanap, Coordinator of the Couperin Consortium
Renaud Fabre, Director of the DIST (CNRS)
Jérôme Kalfon, Director of the ABES
Jean-Marie Pierrel, Professor at Lorraine University
Laurent Schmitt, Head of the Projects and Innovation Department, INIST (CNRS)

Image 100002010000008E0000008E1100EC34.png

For the key witnesses:
Alain Beretz, President of the University of Strasbourg
Jean Chambaz, President of the UPMC
Bruno Chaudret, President of the Scientific Board of the CNRS
Bruno David, President of the French Natural History Museum
Daniel Egret, Astronomer (Paris Science et Lettres – Paris Research University), Former President of the Observatory of Paris
Claude Kirchner, Adviser to the President of the National Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (INRIA), Senior Researcher
Benoît Thieulin, President of the French Digital Council

Notes de bas de page

1 A recent study by Livres Hebdo (26 June 2015) shows that of the world’s 12 leading publishers in 2014, the top four, which all have a turnover in excess of €3.5 billion, are professional publishing groups, largely rooted in science and its promotion.

2 A detailed summary of all contributions is accessible from: http://www.cnrs.fr/dist/z-outils/documents/Projet%20de%20loi%20-%20analyseCNRS_DIST.pdf

3 Axelle Lemaire, summary of the consultation on the Bill.

4 Report presented to François Hollande, President of the Republic, in the presence of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, and Thierry Mandon, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, by Sophie Béjean, Chairwoman of the StraNES Committee and Bertrand Monthubert, General Rapporteur.

5 By the publishers themselves through the French Publishers’ Association (SNE), and more recently by the Opinion on the Bill by the Council of State.

6 http://www.cnrs.fr/dist/z-outils/documents/Enqu%C3%AAte%20DU%20-%20DIST%20mars%202015.pdf

7 http://www.cnrs.fr/dist/strategie-ist.htm

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