Interview – Richard Dumont and Diane Sauvé

Université de Montréal

Richard Dumont, previously Directeur général, Direction générale, and Diane Sauvé, Directrice, Direction du soutien à la réussite, à la recherche et à l’enseignement

November 2018

Note: This interview was conducted while the Université de Montréal was in the process of planning a policy at its institution. Certain questions were omitted, as they were not relevant to their experience.

Please describe your institution [i.e. medium large, number of students, defining programs] 
The Université de Montréal is the leading centre of education in Quebec, with over 45,000 students, nearly 67,000 if you include those at its affiliated schools: HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal.  One quarter of them are graduate students. All disciplines are covered by the Université de Montréal’s programs of study. Its areas of excellence are many and include medicine and law. For several years now, the Université de Montréal has been playing a leading role in the development of Montreal’s artificial intelligence hub.

What defining institutional values or characteristics did you have to consider before launching an open access discussion on your campus?
Since its founding in 1878, the Université de Montréal, like other research universities, is built on a set of values that continue to be updated in light of the challenges of the 21st century:

  • Academic independence
  • Advancement of knowledge 
  • Excellence 
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Openness, respect, diversity
  • Public interest

Open access aligns perfectly with the institution’s views. In fact, the UdeM believes that “knowledge advances, both within and at the crossroads of established disciplines, result in social progress and are touchstones of a democratic society, for the benefit of citizens”. It also believes that “knowledge sharing and transfer are essential to a more accurate understanding of the world in which we live.”. Lastly, as a public institution for education and research, the UdeM believes in the power of actions for the common good and considers the overall improvement of society to be the primary purpose of education and research.

Against the backdrop of the open access matter at the UdeM, also to be mentioned are the following contextual aspects: 

  • The UdeM already had open access champions internally, for example Jean-Claude Guédon, a professor of comparative literature, who founded one of the world’s first open-access electronic scholarly journals (Surfaces) in 1991 and is among a number of initiatives since then for promoting open access.  
  • For several years now, the Université de Montréal has had a Canada Research Chair in the Transformations of Scholarly Communication, led by Vincent Larivière, a professor with the School of Library and Information Sciences, and deals with issues such as accessibility of documentation.  
  • The UdeM’s federation of student associations (FAECUM) had already developed a position on the subject of open access, when the work began.  
  • Érudit, the scholarly journal dissemination platform, which originated at the UdeM in 1998, has since its inception been promoting open access as much as possible.  
  • The UdeM was one of the first universities in Canada to launch an institutional repository (2005) and introduce the electronic repository and open-access dissemination of its theses and dissertations (2009).

How did it influence your approach?
Given the size of the institution, the expertise that exists within it, and the university’s organizational culture, we felt it was essential to the libraries that an open access policy be developed by researchers, not by the libraries or the university’s management. Despite the merits of the oft-cited approach by the Université de Liège in this matter, that top-down introduction of an obligation could not have been easily ported to the UdeM context, in our opinion. That policy development work needed to be supported by players reflecting the university’s diversity (e.g. disciplinary fields) and the perspectives within it. 

What was the impetus for initiating a policy? What steps were taken to initiate an open access policy on your campus? What was the first thing that needed to happen?
Although there is not yet an open access policy at the Université de Montréal in 2018, work did begin on it in 2015 and is still underway. In fact, it was in 2015, at the recommendation of the Library Advisory Committee, that a joint working group reporting to both the UdeM Research Committee and the Library Advisory Committee was established, chaired by two researchers.  That group was mandated to develop an institutional action plan for promoting the emergence of open access, a mandate that was quickly directed towards a draft institutional policy. 

The members of that joint working group cover a range of expertise and perspectives, while reflecting the diversity of the clients and disciplines at the Université de Montréal:

  • two members from the Research Committee;
  • two members from the Library Advisory Committee;
  • two people from the Office of the Vice-Rector, Research, Creation
    and innovation;
  • three people from the Library Department (the Director General; the Director of Support for Success, Learning and Research; and the Director of Document Processing and Metadata);
  • two students from the FAÉCUM;
  • two experts from the community.

As shown by the few examples given above, the initiatives to promote open access at the UdeM had started well before 2015.  However, against the backdrop of creating the previously mentioned joint working group, there is the horrendous increase in the cost of scholarly journals, and commercial publishers’ business model that entraps the libraries into an “all or nothing” situation by requiring them to subscribe to large sets. These factors had existed for a number of years, but they hit the UdeM harder starting in 2014. Actions and mobilization of the academic community therefore began on this front, which has everything to do with the objectives of open access, namely the best possible accessibility of research results. For more information about the approach and actions of the UdeM’s libraries, you can visit Nouvelle ère pour les collections

What did you consider the best reason the university should invest in devoting time and energy for this discussion?
All the reasons put forward by the open access movement are good ones for introducing measures and strategies in open access publishing!  Ranging from the more altruistic ones of better access to research results for everyone, to the more “selfish” ones of expanding our researchers’ reputation, as well as better use of the public funds entrusted to us for carrying out the university’s mission. 

Please share your story of what you consider the most outstanding or significant milestones of your journey towards an open access policy. 
We aren’t there yet, but we’re heading in the right direction. Frank exchanges and the work done by the joint working group on open access has resulted in a draft policy that should be submitted to the university decision-making bodies over the next year—quite a step!  In parallel with progress on the policy matter, the Université de Montréal was the first Canadian university to respond to the Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity, and its strategic plan contains open access objectives; progress is being made!

What was the biggest lesson learned? What were the most significant challenges, sticking points, or perceptions you needed to tackle and how did you get past this?
There is a French expression that says [TRANSLATION] “you can’t pull on a flower to make it grow”. The open access matter is one that requires time and patience, but more than 15 years after the Budapest Declaration, we feel that we have come a long way in terms of understanding the issues and being committed to the purposes of open access.  

Among the challenges, there is researchers’ sensitivity – and rightly so – to anything that could mean additional administrative tasks that would eat up valuable research time… Therefore, we have to be sure to plan for establishing simple and effective terms and conditions for an open access repository, and reassure the community about this when presenting the potential of introducing an open access policy.