IFSTTAR on the path towards open access

The 22nd to 28th of October is Open Access Week. On this occasion, Serge Piperno, the Scientific Director of IFSTTAR, explains the Institute's policy of opening up its scientific output.

What does an open access initiative for IFSTTAR mean?

Open access is about providing free and open access to all scientific results: articles for a scientific and lay public, research data, scientific software. Scientific progress depends above all on sharing: today's science was created with that of yesterday. The more the scientific community shares, the less likely it is to reinvent what already exists, and the more likely it is to build on it. It also requires researchers to change the way they do things. They must think before they start their projects about producing shareable results. Moreover, open access does not necessarily mean total, unthinking, openness. We make sure that the confidentiality and sensitivity of the information is well protected and we can lay down the conditions for reuse: not-for-profit, for a research project only, etc. 

 To make the results of scientific research open to all, without hindrance, without delay and without payment

How do you encourage open access?

The tendency is towards open science: in July, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation launched the National plan for open science. The goal is to make the results of scientific research open to all, without hindrance, without delay and without payment. We encourage our researchers to take this change on board. For publications in research journals, our policy is to encourage our researchers to aim, as far as possible, for Green Open Access - i.e. the deposit of a version that can be freely distributed as part of the Institute’s  Madis archive, which interfaces with the  HAL and OpenAIRE archives. They may also target a journal that is totally unrestricted and free of charge. Finally, if necessary, our researchers are allowed to practice Gold Open Access (the article is made permanently freely accessible by the publisher, in return for funding), which requires, for example, that these costs be budgeted for (e.g. for European research contracts). For databases, we encourage them to follow the FAIR* principles: making data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.  The research-data.ifsttar.fr data warehouse has recently been rolled out for this purpose. The challenge is to promote the availability of data that sometimes have a fairly long useful life. Finally, we provide support to researchers wishing to publish their software under a free license - notably via the github.com/Ifsttar platform  - and all our publications, as well as our "Science and Society" thematic dossiers, are available for free download under a Creative Commons license.

What are the benefits for the Institute?

The first is the exposure of our research. Science is a very competitive environment. The better the work of an institute is known, the greater its reputation and the more it attracts researchers from all over the world for recruitment, visits, and partnerships..... It also encourages the exchange of ideas and generates additional, original, output. Indeed, an Open Data database can contribute to the work of a variety of scientific communities by allowing data and approaches to be shared. The contributory dimension is important, especially with software: when a scientific community is structured around an Open Source program, the latter is more likely to gain in usefulness and performance than if it were developed by a single person. In short, open access improves the quality, transparency and reproducibility of scientific activities, strengthening their integrity and nourishing them in return.