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French researchers in favour of a move towards open science, provided it does not drastically change their habits


Couperin publishes the results of the survey on the publication and open access practices of French researchers conducted in 2019. Thanks to its unique scope, number of respondents (approx.12,000, i.e. 10% of the scientific community) and variety of disciplines, this survey helps to shed light on the way French researchers regard current scientific communication in journals and to grasp their views on open access. The richness of the survey rests largely on the verbatim reports (more than 11,500), which have been fully exploited. The survey entitled "Your publication and open access practices" was disseminated and relayed by scientific institutions and social networks. It consisted of 4 parts comprising 42 closed questions and 8 open comment areas (list of questions in the appendix): practice in academic publications, the experience of open archives, the preprints experience, the perception of the research evaluation criteria.

Overall, researchers are in favour of open access and apprehend what is at stake, namely the free dissemination of scientific results. This objective, however, is to fulfilled effortless, in a simple and legible way, without any direct funding by the research laboratories and without any disruption to the conventional journals landscape in their own discipline(s).

The scientific publishers contributions, particularly those of the « major publishers » are criticized and sometimes quiteaggressively: their excessive costs are pinpointed by more than 85% of the respondents. The need for transformation is acknowledged but must not rely on an increased number of journals which could lead to overinformation and downgraded research standards. The research assessment criteria, among them those using the impact factors, are also considered as hurdles to the progress of scientific publication. In many disciplines, the peer review process remains a recognized means to ensure the quality of publications. Yet, it is considered as hardly transparent and not sufficiently valorized. So, it should change especially in today's globalized and more and more competitive context together with researchers' work appraisal. Researchers are willing to privilege sustainable publishing in collaboration with the ethical publishers who privilege a virtuous economic model. For all that, researchers are not ready to put additional effort in order to adjust to more and more complex publication processes. Supporting them in this move might prove highly beneficial. Depositing in institutional archives such as HAL is considered as simple and quick by a majority of respondents but many point out that they should not have to perform this purely administrative task which has nothing to do with the scientific publication process itself. The usefulness of open archives, both institutional and thematic, as vectors of dissemination of open science is well understood and their advanced functionalities, if any (resumes, researchers' pages) are valued.

The preprints archives are praised by the researchers who submit their research output especially in mathematics, computer science, physics and economics; they appreciate the chat functions on the articles. Many scientists, however, are still reluctant to use them for fear of finding articles that are not up to the expected standards and because preprints are not submitted to peer review. Yet, this opportunity is emerging in new fields of research such as chemistry and life sciences. The positive opinion on research data accessibility does not depend on disciplines and it remains moderate due to the risk of plagiarism, confidentiality issues and constraints linked to data submission. Some of the respondents express their concern on the potential capture of this new « treasure trove » by commercial publishing houses. All these data on publication, open archives preprints and research data show that the French researchers are aware of the bibliodiversity of the scientific publication landscape and are quite in favour of a move towards an open science, provided that it does not drastically change their habits.

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