FEATURE

The repository jigsaw

The French open archive HAL plays a key role in research across France and in the emerging European network of repositories, write some of the people involved in the project.

For many years, physicists have been using the disciplinary archive arXiv.org to deposit preprints and postprints of their research articles. In 2000, a small group around the French physicist Franck Laloe at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) decided to set up a similar French archive based on this model. This French archive had to be led by one or more research communities, it had to ensure better visibility and discoverability of research papers, and had to provide digital papers with stable web addresses so that they could be referenced and cited like any other paper.

The result was the HAL (Hyperarticles online) archive. This modular, open-access, digital repository of scholarly documents allows researchers in all academic fields to archive their publications and make them available to the community at large. It is maintained in France by the centre for direct scholarly communication (CCSD – Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe) of CNRS and currently gives open access to more than 30,000 full-text scientific articles.

Visibility of research

 

In order to guarantee the visibility of the research work by peers of the same research community, HAL is connected to archives of different scholarly communities worldwide. The first such connection was to arXiv.org, so that any researcher that deposited a paper in HAL had the option to have the same paper also deposited in arXiv.org if the paper’s scientific discipline was appropriate. More recently, biomedical researchers have also the option to deposit in the PubMed Central archive. Metadata import from the NASA ADS archive allows authors to quickly upload articles already mentioned in ADS. Finally, HAL supports the export of its content through the REDIF format for the economics community and the Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting for any other services. A fundamental feature of HAL rests on the importance given to an approach by each academic field and to the connection to international discipline-specific services through a unified deposit process.


Number of deposits in the HAL archive each year

As of February 2007, 18 archives were hosted by the HAL platform. All the documents they contain are stored and preserved in the HAL repository and are visible on the general HAL portal. The platform also provides a deposit interface that is adapted to each discipline or interest group. A core metadata set includes controlled terminologies for academic fields, journals and French research institutions and laboratories. Common rules have also been agreed about the scientific nature of the papers to be deposited, the access policy (open access unless documents are embargoed) and the types of documents that are accepted (research articles, conference papers and books and eventually their attached documents).

In addition to organising the documents at individual research organisations, HAL plays an important role on a national scale. In July 2006, a group of French research institutes, the Conference of French University Presidents (CPU-Conférence des présidents d’universités) and the Conference of French specialised higher education establishments (CGE-Conférence des grandes écoles) signed a national agreement to develop a common infrastructure for open archiving.

The integration of HAL within a larger context in France has led to the creation of web services allowing the import of articles from local databases. The Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) being deployed in French universities are creating connections to HAL in the same way as HAL has created connections to arXiv.org and PubMed Central. This also means that the HAL platform has to support additional layers of interoperability.

A network across Europe

But HAL is not just concerned with France. This archive is also part of the the new European DRIVER project (Digital Repositories Infrastructure Vision for European Research) [www.driver-repository.eu]. This project aims to bring together national networks of scholarly repositories such as the DARE network in the Netherlands, the DINI network in Germany and the SHERPA network in the UK.

Both the Archives Ouvertes network and the DRIVER federation have been created in the belief that scholarly communication is bound to take another form with the increased integration of internet technologies into the research process. This impacts disciplines in different ways but deposits in the HAL archive illustrate the increasing role that archives play. A major challenge that open archiving will have to face in the coming years will be to improve the connectivity between equivalent repositories and between repositories and other services and other types of repositories. This has to be considered collectively in different research communities and in different countries through the creation of new services that can be used by different repositories in the community and through the development of repository networks.

Francis André is French coordinator for the DRIVER project (CNRS-INIST); Muriel

Foulonneau is DRIVER liaison for the HAL archive (CNRS-CCSD); Anne-Marie Badolato is a DRIVER participant at (CNRS-INIST); and Daniel Charnay is director of CNRS-CCSD