Europe – France

Note: The folloing text (except the update at the end) is a summary of the state of theart report on Open Access in France published in 2011 by the French Ministry of Higher Education,, the CNRS and INIST.

Open Access in France

In the past years, the dynamics for Open Access in France have found a convergent support from higher education and research institutions with common general principles applicable to all researchers. The movement is mainly driven by the HAL platform (for pluri-disciplinary open archives) but still lacks a large political consensus and a national policy to achieve its ambitions.

First steps

  • In November 2000, CNRS created the Centre for Direct Scientific Communication (CCSD). The Centre developed the HAL platform which is used by many research organizations to build their institutional repository. Following the pioneer example of University of Lyon 2, several academic institutions developed local archives of electronic theses in the 2000s: INP Toulouse, University of Strasbourg, Paris Tech, University of Lille 1, INSA Lyon, etc.
  • The French institutions began to express their strong commitment in 2003 when CNRS and Inserm were the first in the country to sign the Berlin Declaration. Other French research organisations signed the Declaration in the following years. This commitment to Open Access brought about the setting up of archives by several institutions. The same year, Ministry of Higher Education and Research launched the Persée digitization program with the aim to widely disseminate the French scientific output in Humanities on the internet. 7 years later, in 2010, Persée was giving full access to 89 journals. This successful program completed the project that gives access to more than 240 electronic publications and represents a successful collaboration between CNRS and higher education institutions and research.
  • In the life sciences area, the second road (gold road) has also been largely explored by the research organisations, particularly with the support to both BioMed Central and PLoS initiatives brought by CNRS and Inserm. Since 2006, CNRS has also been involved in the SCOAP3 initiative - led by CERN - through the IN2P3 institute dedicated to research in nuclear physics and particle physics.

Towards a national policy

  • In 2006, the major French research institutions, the CPU (Conférence des présidentsd’universités) and the CGE (Conférence des grandesécoles), signed an agreement for “a coordinated approach on a national level to open archiving of scientific output”. This memorandum stated that “the signatories wished to acquire the necessary means to identify, disseminate, develop, promote and monitor the scientific output of their researchers and faculty members, within their research units and laboratories and, where applicable, of affiliated research teams”. The agreement also seeks to join forces to acquire a common platform for archiving scientific findings”. Signed for two years and unfortunately not renewed since then, this memorandum paved the way to the development of many institutional repositories in connection with the HAL platform.

However, this agreement did not lead to a common statement for the implementation of depositing in an archive or supporting Open Access journals. France has not yet implemented any mandates regarding article deposits. Some research institutions merely have filing requirements, while some agencies, universities or disciplinary entities enforce more or less effective incentive policies (INRIA, HSS, etc.).

  • The main French funding body, the AgenceNationale de la Recherche (ANR) nevertheless stated that "all publications produced during funded projects have to be deposited by researchers in the HAL open archive system with which it will collaborate”.

Landscape of OA Journals and Archives in France

  • Journals:
    • France counted 168 full OA journals (with no embargo period) in 2011.
    • A vast majority of these journals cover Humanities and Social Sciences related subjects. STM disciplines as well as Economics or Law are clearly under represented. In terms of visibility, the main international database for Open Access journals, the DOAJ, only refers to 86 out of the 168 French academic journals. journals are especially under-referenced as only 29 out of the 86 journals are in the DOAJ (33 %).
    • It must be noted that embargoed journals are also well represented in French publications notably with the platform (87 embargoed journals), I-Revue (9) and Carin (242).
  • Archives (Repositories):
    • France counted 68 repositories in 2011.
    • Most of the major research organisations set up an institutional repository. As previously mentioned, these institutions adopted HAL as their open archive platform after its launch in 2001.
  • Digitization programs:
    • 3 large-scale digitization programs have been launched in the past years including : Persee (full access to 89 journals), Numdam in the field of mathematics (30 journals and 29 seminars) and the French National Library platform Gallica (nonacademic contents, more than 300.000 documents online)


In a recent statement (January 2013), the French Minister of Higher Education claimed full support to Open Access despite the challenges and the necessity to implement a national and consistent policy focused on :

  • The development of OA Green with a global negotiation on the duration of the embargoes (as long as the embargo concerns the scientific publications and not the general debate of opinions).
  • Accompany the evolution OA Gold through license negotiation and costs control.
  • Promote a third road, the Platinum one which would be  free access publishing based on alliance between publishers, researchers, libraries and platform and hybrid business model.
  • Improve the HAL platform and provide incentives for researchers to deposit their publications.
  • Propose to researchers a national model of publishing contract
  • Support the publishers in their international development

Jeremy Lachal

Last update: 1 August 2014

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