Ready for the future? A survey on open access with scientists from the French National Research Center (CNRS)

“All survey results converge towards the fact that the researchers have generally accepted the idea of open access and that they consider it as globally beneficial for their field, even if their information and publishing behaviour may be somewhat delayed. In Europe, 461 research organisations and funders have adopted open access mandates and policies that require or request their researchers to provide open access to their peer-reviewed research article output by depositing it in an open access repository7 ; many have signed national or international statements on open access, such as the Berlin Declaration. Both, individual awareness and uptake and institutional, political commitment are crucial for the further progress of open access.

Senior researchers, especially research managers and directors of research centres, are key stakeholders in this process in two ways:

  • They are appointed by their peers, coordinate the research activities and represent their colleagues in the executive and advisory bodies; as such, they act as a kind of transmission belt of the researchers’ opinions and demands, including reporting (bottom-up).
  • At the same time, they stand for the research organisation and are the guardians of the application of institutional decisions and rules within the local laboratory, including supervision, follow-up and control (top-down).

This intermediary or middle function may not always be an easy situation, as a latent source of conflict, but it makes them particularly interesting and influential as opinion leaders and even as potential models for good practice. For this reason, instead of a new assessment of scientists’ attitudes and behaviours towards open access, the CNRS conducted an exploratory survey on Scientific and Technological Information (STI) specifically at the senior management level, i.e. the directors of the CNRS research units (laboratories). One part of this survey was about open access. Our paper reports the survey results on open access, in particular to obtain answers to four questions:

  1. Do the CNRS senior research managers (laboratory directors) share the positive opinion towards open access revealed by recent studies with researchers from the UK, Germany, the United States and other countries? Are they supportive of open repositories and OA journal publishing?
  2. Does their information behaviour, i.e. use and production of open access publications, meet the challenge of open access or does it lag behind their opinions?
  3. Like in other studies, will this survey identify a group of unaware or even reluctant senior research managers not interested in open access?
  4. And finally, what can be said about differences between scientific disciplines?”