Open science at AgroParisTech

Paris-Saclay University Article published on September 22 2020 , Updated on September 24 2020

AgroParisTech, component-institution of Université Paris-Saclay, recently introduced an open science policy, laying out an action plan for the years to come. The institute asserts its commitment to making science as open as possible both to researchers and to the general public, on the premise that research must be accessible to anyone who takes an interest.

AgroParisTech's goal is to make science as open as possible across the board, from formulating hypotheses to producing knowledge. Through a series of initiatives already under way or currently in the making, the institute wishes to swiftly help create an environment that fosters open science, facilitating the transportability and reuse of research procedures and results.

An institutional open science policy

In 2011, AgroParisTech took its first step on the road to open science with the launch of an institutional open archive, the HAL-AgroParisTech platform. Backing up this initiative, the institute introduced a policy of putting its scientific publications in the archive, in accordance with France's open data law (Loi pour une République numérique). For researchers to agree to post their publications on an open-access platform, the focus is on providing support and training, and raising awareness. At present (summer 2020), the HAL-AgroParisTech open-access platform contains around 50 % of scientific articles published by AgroParisTech scientists in 2019 and 60 % of those published in 2018. 

The institute also supports various mechanisms, such as the Peer Community in, an open-access service allowing researchers to form specialist communities in order to approve preprints (articles that have yet to be peer-reviewed by scientific journal committees). In addition, AgroParisTech assists other open science players through systems set up by Couperin, a consortium of French universities and scientific institutions formed for the purpose of negotiating the prices of scientific journal subscriptions with publishers. "More recently, we've adopted an institutional policy on open science. It addresses the various facets we group together under this term and encompasses several tasks and activities carried out by AgroParisTech (support for research, teaching, communication, publishing, etc.). The policy came into force this year. We've also started working on research data, with a project to improve management aspects and increasingly open up the data produced by our research community," explains Eva Legras, reference librarian at AgroParisTech.

Participatory science, opening the door to the public

Participatory science is intrinsic to this idea of open science. This approach generally seeks to remind society that open science is not a matter solely for researchers: it also concerns people who are not scientists and enables them, as far as possible, to take part in research activities.

"Participatory science sits at the crossroads between open science and society's relation to science. We're currently researching ways to develop a better understanding of what this concept entails, what areas we can build on and what the benefits are for academic staff. The findings will be used to elaborate a policy that addresses the links between science and society," says Alexandre Péry, director of research and development at AgroParisTech. Several labs attached to AgroParisTech are already experimenting with this principle of participatory science. One example is the Ecology, Systematics & Evolution laboratory (ESE - Université Paris-Saclay, CNRS, AgroParisTech) which has developed the BirdLab app, with the help of two AgroParisTech scientists. This app enables anyone with a bird feeder to participate in research on the behaviour of birds during the winter. 

A commitment to the future

AgroParisTech's policy takes into account situations in which confidentiality measures remain necessary and required (development projects, contractual relations, etc.). However, as a public institution, AgroParisTech does have the capacity to remove obstacles to the wider dissemination of a considerable proportion of its research work. "Open science is a movement that goes hand in hand with the very purpose of research at public institutions: that of sharing knowledge with society. This means making changes in how research is carried out, changes that may not be easy for everyone. We're going through a transition period on these matters," explains Eva Legras. The institute is making good headway through this period of transition. Thanks to AgroParisTech's policy and the firm commitment of all those involved, open science has a bright future ahead!