The HAL-Inria project team : Support for Research and Innovation Award

Publish on 29/01/2020
The HAL-Inria platform aims to promote scientific publication, visibility and peer review. Launched in 2005, the HAL (Hyper Articles en Ligne) open access repository has become an essential tool for the research community. The 2015 Support for Research and Innovation Inria Award has been awarded to the HAL-Inria development team working in collaboration with CNRS.
Equipe HAL
© Inria / Photo G. Scagnelli

In just a few years, the CNRS-managed HAL (Hyper Articles en Ligne) open access repository has significantly impacted the research community by providing an alternative model for scientific publication. The HAL- Inria portal provides access to the repository, allowing researchers to deposit their work as open access publications with immediate document visibility (metadata created directly by authors). "Inria adopted this open access model in an effort to spare researchers the long publishing processes that can delay publication for up to two years " (Jacques Millet, Inria Scientific Information and Publication Services Manager).

"When the HAL-Inria portal was launched in 2005, many scientific publishers were convinced that the HAL repository system could only be used to exchange preliminary documents, notes and possibly reports, but not finalised, duly referenced publications ". Ten years later, the HAL- Inria portal has reached a critical mass of publications. Since 2013, Inria researchers are required to publish their findings on the portal if they want them to appear in research activity or evaluation reports.

Inria actively contributes to the national and international development of HAL repository services in collaboration with French higher education and research institutions. In 2014, Inria development teams worked extremely hard on the release of HAL V3 (Version 3). "Significant upstream work was needed to maintain the required level of data quality . Between May and October 2014, extensive verifications were performed to ensure that there would be no loss of data quality on the release date ".

The next step is the development of new services for researchers, with emphasis on open-access peer review of articles deposited in the repository after approval and validation by dedicated publishing committees. "The challenge was to regain control without necessarily opposing scientific communities to commercial publishers. We're on the right track, but still in the early stages of developing a truly alternative publication model ". This award recognises the achievements of the HAL-Inria development team, whose work is crucial to facilitating open access publication and peer review of scientific results.

Alain Monteil

Scientific Information and Publication Services Coordinator:

"I've been working on the HAL project for ten years! Since the preliminary design phase in 2004, followed by the launching of the HAL- Inria portal in 2005… As Scientific Information and Publication Services Coordinator, I am in charge of open access publications. I make sure everything runs smoothly when researchers deposit their work in the HAL repository or use its associated services. As a documentalist, my primary role is to promote and implement Inria open access publication initiatives decided by the Open Access development team.

For example, since full publication capacity is a major objective, we have conducted a survey to identify potential limitations. The survey targets authors who recently published a publication abstract on the HAL repository, and not the full text. The questionnaire was prepared and distributed by a team composed of myself and two other documentalists. The response rate was 60%, which is quite high. Based on questionnaire results, I propose actions to eliminate identified setbacks.

The HAL- Inria platform has made it much easier for researchers to generate research activity and evaluation reports. There are occasional problems, and we are here to solve them. Problems with publications not being published are generally due to required fields not being completed correctly, particularly department-specific fields. 95% of publications are moderated by the CNRS Centre for Direct Scientific Communication (CCSD), and we handle the rest (documents not directly depositable in the generic HAL repository, but which Inria wishes to publish, e.g. research thesis papers, conference presentations, capstones, etc.). Student publications are subject to approval by academic supervisors.

The metadata entry interface clearly indicates errors and omissions, yet some users write 'No abstract' in the mandatory 'Abstract' field. We contact them to explain the importance of a well-written abstract, particularly for Google indexation. We can directly access the HAL repository (the CNRS Centre for Direct Scientific Communication has given us administrator access). We reserve this possibility for handling emergencies, which are frequent during activity reporting periods, with researchers publishing their findings at the last minute. During these periods, we are faced with a large number of publications requiring validation prior to inclusion in activity reports.  After mid-November, the average number of publications per day increases from 30 to 250…

The HAL repository system works well but can still be improved, and we are currently working on optimising data quality. Technologies are constantly evolving. For example, our researchers no longer use simple PDF files but dynamic web pages. Nothing remains fixed for long. The trend is towards increased simplification, greater transparency and new forms of knowledge exchange and communication such as Twitter. We strive to ensure compliance with applicable standards and regulations, and closely monitor changes thereto.

This award acknowledges the work accomplished during migration to HAL V3, but also over the past 10 years.  Special mention should be given to documentalists from the Scientific Information and Publication Services team who actively contributed to HAL- Inria platform development and are now working on other projects. Their efforts greatly facilitated the migration from HAL V2 to HAL V3."

Laurence Farhi

Scientific E-Information and Multimedia Services Engineer

"We couldn't afford any mistakes! In mid-October 2014, HAL V2 creation/modification functions were shut down on a Friday evening, and HAL V3 was fully operational the following Monday without any interruption of service! We had a few concerns regarding data recovery, but everything went smoothly. It was a risky migration due to the large volume of data involved (approximately one million publications), as well as the significant number of users potentially impacted. This smooth migration was achieved through significant preparation and coordination work. HAL V3 has been completely rewritten by developers at the CNRS Centre for Direct Scientific Communication (CCSD), with a completely redesigned application architecture, new code written from scratch, updated baselines… We needed to ensure zero data loss and proper operation of HAL-based applications requiring modifications.

During development of HAL V3, Laurent Romary (Inria Research Manager and Scientific Advisor) assisted us with the implementation of an optimised publication description format based on the TEI standard (Text Encoding Initiative). The Open Access team assisted us with beta testing, which included qualitative testing by developers from the Scientific E-Information and Multimedia Services team and qualitative testing by documentalists from the Scientific Information and Publication Services team.  This work allowed bugs to be detected and reported to the CNRS Centre for Direct Scientific Communication (CSSD). HAL V3 is currently stable. This new version takes advantage of newer, faster, more secure technologies. It features a new tool for managing author-specific references, research structures, etc. New APIs are provided to search through repository-based references and publications, and to upload open access publications via SWORD.

My work consists of three main tasks. The first is to develop new tools (in collaboration with Thierry Dautcourt, Inria data processing expert) for improving data quality, detecting double publication and author entries, and identifying inconsistencies. The second task is to develop new applications for researchers, available from the website. The latest application migrated to HAL V3 is Bib2hal, a BibTeX to HTML translator used to upload publications from BibTeX files. These tools are proposed to the CNRS Centre for Direct Scientific Communication before being released to the research community and distributed to HAL users. Finally, my third task is to provide technical support for the HAL repository, with Level 1 support provided by the Scientific Information and Publication Services team.

I am very pleased that the HAL- Inria development team received this award. It is an acknowledgement of the hard work invested by Computer Services and Scientific Information and Publication Services teams, particularly during migration to HAL V3. It recognises our continuous efforts to improve data quality and provide optimal service for researchers, and also demonstrates Inria 's commitment to promoting its publications via the HAL open access repository."

The HAL-Inria project team

  • Marie-Laure Bretin
  • Brigitte Briot Thorey
  • Claire Buren
  • Thierry Dautcourt
  • Laurence Farhi
  • Audrey Genoud
  • Agnès Hermann
  • Anne Jaigu
  • Alain Monteil
  • Jozefina Sadowska
  • Alfred Zami

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