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Senior researchers can set the good example and encourage our young researchers to take the OA route

“Senior researchers can set the good example and encourage our young researchers to take the OA route”
Alain Beretz
Catherine Schroeder, Unistra
Name: Alain Beretz
Position: University President
Expertise: Policy making
Institution: University of Strasbourg
Country: France
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An interview with Alain Beretz on 4 January 2016

What got you interested in Open Access (OA) originally?

Even as a university president, I am also very much a researcher. Access to scientific knowledge and the dissemination of research results are important parts of the research work process. I have experienced the transformation in access to scientific and technical information as a result of digitisation throughout my career.

For example, early on I sorted through Current Contents by hand! Digitalisation is changing the very nature of how we access data, information and knowledge. Not only that, but also how we use it. As a result, we need to go further to exploit our digital assets and the possibilities they bring to us in this new era.

A commitment to Open Access is a must if we want the information we produce to be used and distributed. It is our duty as an institution to offer our researchers the most efficient Open Access solutions possible.
My interest in Open Access also stems from the current economic model of scientific publishing. It is an aberration to ask a university and its researchers to make draconian information resource choices for financial reasons due to the rises in subscriptions imposed by some commercial publishers. Publications are, after all, produced by our researchers!

What Open Access activities are you currently involved in?

My activities are divided along two axes. First of all, on an institutional level I am making Open Access a priority for the University of Strasbourg. Secondly, on national and international levels I am lobbying for political action in favour of Open Access in France and Europe.

At the University of Strasbourg, this means implementing an ambitious open cross-institutional repository or archive, both for scientific publications and for research data. This project, called Open Archive of Knowledge, involves all Alsatian institutions and we are co-piloting it with our partners from the University of Haute-Alsace. Our open archive platform for publications will go live at the end of the first quarter of 2016, and we are working with a pilot group of researchers to openly publish their research data on the web.

On a political level, nationally I use my position as a university president to advocate OA whenever I get the opportunity. For example, I recently contributed to the public consultation launched by Axelle Lemaire about the draft French law on the “Digital Republic”, affirming the need for France to adopt a strong policy in favour of Open Access.

The University of Strasbourg is also a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU). I have the honour of chairing LERU, and this then also enables me to act on a European level for OA. LERU is very involved in the promotion of Open Access, particularly amongst European academic institutions. We have launched a petition, “Christmas is over”, which will be presented to the European Commission in 2016. We publish guides to help our members to take action within their institutions and we politically support the action of the European Commissioner for Research, Carlos Moedas, and also support the inclusion of an exception to copyright for text and data mining in future European legislation (see the press release on modernising EU copyright issued in Dec 2015).

Can Open Access have a positive effect on research careers?

Open Access must positively affect research careers! The mere fact that Open Access publications are more widely disseminated than subscription-based publications will have a positive effect on the career of a researcher making his/her work better known. However, one of the challenges of Open Access today is to ensure that the reputation of Open Access publications is comparable to that of traditional publications.

What can scholars and/or administration do to promote openness to research?

As the prestige of subscription-based publications remains, researchers must very much personally commit to using and preferring Open Access resources, and commit to using it to disseminate their work. Here, senior researchers can set the good example and encourage our young researchers to take this route.

“Institutions must provide their researchers with quality tools so that they can showcase their work easily.”

On the other hand, institutions must provide their researchers with quality tools so that they can showcase their work easily. They need to accompany them, support them, educate them, and inform them, for example on questions related to publication or research data copyright. Institutions should also encourage, promote and reward Open Access initiatives and good practices.

Who do you engage with to spread the OA message, and how?

I pledge the OA concept in my institution, working with the university authorities (at the research commission and at meetings of research unit directors), and especially with the team in charge of the Open Archive of Knowledge project. One of the vice presidents for research who I work with, Paul-Antoine Hervieux, is specifically responsible for driving the presidential team’s actions in the area of Open Access.

On the French national level, I participate in advocacy meetings and workshops on the subject that are organised by ADBU (Association of the Directors of Academic Libraries), Couperin or the CPU (Conference of the University Presidents). I try to provide my perspective as a university president whenever asked.

Internationally, LERU’s mission is to advocate the message of Open Access amongst European institutions. I support LERU in this as its Chair.

What are the challenges in advocating Open Access?

Time is needed to establish and implement an Open Access policy – time to discuss, inform and engage with the academic community as numerous technical and legal issues exist, which are not always obvious. This is important as it is also about changing culture and helping make new cultural habits evolve.

There are also political challenges to contend with due to powerful lobbies that are fighting the development of Open Access. In addition, from an economic standpoint, it is necessary to define new business models for publishing to avoid paying several times over for one and the same content, as is currently the case with the hybrid Gold publication system.

What still needs to be done to get more Open Access to research?

If we want OA to make an impact, we should not only focus on the economic model, but we must also take into account the sociological and strategic aspects of publication. For example, we need to review the quality of the editorial process, and consider the differences between disciplines. Furthermore, we need to provide researchers with information and training, e.g. on intellectual property and copyright, and we need to consider OA publications in the evaluation of researchers. By better ensuring high quality to Open Access publications, and combining this with fair new business models, we will reach a fair Open Access.
Tags: ADBU, CPU, Couperin, European Commission, IPR, LERU, OA policy, Open Access, TDM, accessibility, advocacy, career development, commercial publishers, commitment, copyright, cost efficiency, cross-institutional repository, cultural change, digital assets, digitalisation, disciplinary differences, dissemination, duty, economic model, editorial process, editorial work, education, efficiency, fairness, gold publishing, good practices, hybrid publishing, international, legislation, leverage, national, national OA policy, new business models, outreach, petition, policy development, prestige, quality, research data, research evaluation, reward, society, technical issues, text and data mining, traditional publishing, training

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