OA in France

Organisation of the french public research activities


The National Research Environment

Organisation of the french public research activities

The French environment of public research differs significantly from that which can be observed in other European countries. At the national level it is possible to distinguish three major types of institutions involved in the research process:

  • France has 106 universities (members of the Conference of Universities Presidents) which gather most researchers. Due to this aspect, French universities are often small or medium sized when compared to other countries. An important milestone in the French higher education system was the adoption in August 2007 of a law according more autonomy to universities in terms of budget and human resources (Loi sur les libertés et responsabilités des universités – LRU). Meanwhile, a process of consolidation was undertaken by many universities, either in the form of a PRES (Pole of Research and Higher Education) i.e. a federation of different institutions on a regional basis) or as a merger of several institutions (as it was the case in January 2009 for the University of Strasbourg for instance).
  • Grandes Écoles have historically been designed to train engineers in the government service. In 2015 France has around 226 grandes écoles that train students in the fields of engineering, commerce or humanities and have the particularity to recruit their students through competitive exams. Some grandes écoles don’t have any research structures but for others it is an important activity (Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Normale Superieure for instance)
  • Unlike universities and grandes écoles, research institutions have no teaching departments and focus on research. With the exception of the CNRS  which works in many subject areas, most organizations have a chosen field like computer sciences (INRIA), life sciences (INSERM), marine sciences (IFREMER)... The size of these organisms is highly variable: the biggest one being the CNRS, structured in ten institutes, which employs some 14,000 scientists and brings together 48000 researchers in joint research units with universities and other research institutions.

Number of researchers according to institution type and subject (2005).

Research operator

Life sciences

Material sciences


All domains

Universities and grandes écoles

16 010

(56 %)

20 628

(49,4 %)

21 252

(76,8 %)

57 890

(59,1 %)

Research institutions


(44 %)

21 129

(50,6 %)

6 420

(23,2 %)

40 130

(40,9 %)


28 591

41 757

27 672

98 020

(Les compétences scientifiques et techniques de la France, OST, 2008, p. 73)

This distinction in three separate sets is somewhat blurred when one looks at the research structure level. It is indeed very common for a single laboratory to depend both on one (or more) university and on a research organism, and possibly also on a grande école. The human resources and financial income of the laboratory come from these different sources, but the work is conducted in joint teams. In this case the laboratory is called a “joint research unit” (Unité Mixte de Recherche – UMR).

One should finally mention the three public bodies that play a major role in the consolidation of the French academic research at the national level in terms of:

  • funding with the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche - National Research Agency) see below
  • assessment with the AERES (Agence d’Evaluation de la Recherche et de l’Enseignement Supérieur - Research and Higher Education Evaluation Agency).
Research funding

The French main research funder is the Agence Nationale de la Recherche or ANR (National Research Agency) who has an annual budget dedicated to calls of 414 millions euros (2014 figures). Structured in 8 thematic departments, its aim is to increase the number of research projects issued from the entire scientific community, and to provide funding based on calls for proposals and peer review selection processes. The ANR addresses both public research institutions and industries with a double mission of producing new knowledge and promoting interaction between public laboratories and industrial laboratories through the development of partnerships. Through the call for proposals (CFP), projects are selected based on their scientific quality, as well as on their economic relevance for industries, when applicable.

The ANR has issued an open access policy in November 2007, strongly encouraging the deposit of funded publications in open archives systems and in HAL in particular. It is worth noting that the Humanities and Social Sciences department has adopted a stronger policy mandating systematic deposit of publications in HAL-SHS.

Importance of EU-funded research

In the 6th Framework Programme (2003-2006), French institutions and researchers took part to 3380 FP-funded projects which represents 37,3% of all FP6 projects. Among them, 1231 projects had a french coordination (13,6% of all FP6 projects). Figures taken from the OST report, 2008.

In the 7th Framework Programme (2007-2013), French institutions and researchers took part to 7265 FP-funded projects. Figures taken from CORDIS, 2016.

The French participation to the FP7 is coordinated nationally by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and several National Contact Points. The website Eurosfaire offers a comprehensive overview on the French implication in european projects.

In the H2020 (2014-2020) Framework Programme, French institutions and researchers took part to 2559 FP-funded projects. Figures taken from CORDIS, 2016.

Regarding the European Research Council (ERC) funding, French researchers have been allowed 138 (starting et advanced) grants since 2007, which makes France the second country in terms of numbers of grants received after the United-Kingdom (226 grants).

Open Access and Repositories

Open Access awareness

France has played an important role in the European open access movement, particularly in the launch of the Berlin declaration that was co-worked by the Max Planck Society and people from the CNRS. Among French research structures, the research organisms (CNRS, INSERM in particular) played a major role in the beginning of the 2000’s, especially with the launch of the HAL open archive in 2001.

France also set forth an important initiative regarding open access journals with the Revues.org platform founded in 1999 and specialized in Humanities and Social Sciences. It is operated by a joint service unit bringing together the CNRS, two universities (Avignon and Provence) and a grande école (EHESS). Revues.org hosts at the beginning of 2010 more than 220 journals, around 90 of them being fully open access.

Universities and grandes écoles joined the open access movement with some delay but it is worth noting that some universities have been working on open access publishing (Nice with the database Revel) and Open Archives (in Toulouse for instance) since 2003. After the signature of a national agreement in 2006 aiming to foster the some universities and grandes écoles established an institutional open archive. At the beginning of 2010, 30 of them do have an institutional repository. Couperin was also an actor of this movement through a working group focused on open access. The movement is slowly growing and the Berlin 7 conference held in Paris in December 2009 was the opportunity for 10 more universities to sign the Berlin Declaration. It is also important to mention the fact that all French universities have been working since 2007 on the management of electronic theses and dissertations through a system called STAR, operated by the ABES, french higher education agency for bibliographic issues.

Open Access initiatives

There are currently 4 major projects regarding open access in France

  1. Publishers’ deposit policies : work has begun at the end of 2009 on the collection of publishers’ policies regarding deposit of scholarly materials in open repositories. This work is done in collaboration with actors representing the French publishing industry.
  2. Open access in southern Europe : the Couperin consortium is working with the CNRS (Inist) on a report describing the current situation of open access in France. This report  comes from a international will of the SELL (Southern European Libraries Link) consortium, to make an inventory of the European state of open access and to hold a seminar to establish policies to favour open access to scientific information in Southern European countries
  3. Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) : as previously mentioned, a nation-wide effort coordinated by the ABES has been made in order to mandate deposit of ETD. This initiative is going to be completed by the launch in 2011 of a dissemination portal for French thesis.
  4. France has been involved in several open access related international initiatives like Driver and continues to do so especially with the following projects:
Open Access LAW

In October 2016, the French Law for a Digital Republic Act (LOI n° 2016-1321 du 7 octobre 2016 pour une République numérique) came into force. One article is of specific concern for scholarly communication, as it relates directly to open access/open data. Article 30 is about Open Access and creates a new right for researchers which creates a legal right for authors to archive an OA copy, even if they have granted an exclusive right to a publisher.

See the details here: https://blogs.openaire.eu/?p=1602

Current status of Open Access repositories

There are currently 119 open archives (http://www.opendoar.org/index.html) running in the French academic environment (this figure does not take into account the numerous laboratories open archives) :

  1. 9 of them are thematic or central repositories (for french ETDs for instance)  
  2. 53 of them are institutional repositories
  • 22 from research institutions
  • 18 from universities (5 of them only with electronic thesis and dissertations)
  • 13 from Grandes écoles (5 of them containing only electronic thesis and dissertations)

A striking figure is the fact that 41 out of the 61 archives mentioned are hosted on the HAL platform.

Current status of Open Access journals

There are currently (may 2010), 167 French full open-acces journals (i.e. with no embargo). Most of them are in the field of humanities and social sciences.

Three major types of journals publishers can be identified: public research institutions (universities, laboratories, etc.), scholarly societies or associations (including the 15 I-Revues journals) and “traditional” commercial publishers. In order to point out the importance of the Revues.org platform (which hosts journals from both public research institutions and scholarly societies), this fourth category has been taken into account in the table below .

Type of Publisher

Number of journals


Commercial publisher


6,5 %

Public research institution


19,5 %

Revues.org platform


51 %

Scholarly society


23 %



100 %


Open Access organisations and groups
  • Couperin : the french academic consortium that brings together more than 256 members (teaching and research institutions), working group on Open Access (GTAO). In 2015, a new website dedicated to Open Access has been launched by this group: it is more simple and clear and has 3 different well identified target audiences: authors, readers and journal editors.
Useful links and resources

Contact details

Project officer : André Dazy : Couperin :

Project team members : Marlène Delhaye : Aix Marseille University

Christine Ollendorff : Arts et métiers Paristech

Claire Douady : University of Limoges

Camille Espiau-Bechetoille : University of Lyon 2

Julien Sicot : University of Haute Bretagne – Rennes 2

  • Last updated on .
flag black white lowOpenAIRE-Advance receives
funding from the European 
Union's Horizon 2020 Research and
Innovation programme under Grant
Agreement No. 777541.


  Unless otherwise indicated, all materials created by OpenAIRE are licenced under CC ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL LICENSE.
OpenAIRE uses cookies in order to function properly. By using the OpenAIRE portal you accept our use of cookies.