istex l'excellence documentaire pour tous

To build the base of the national digital scientific library.



ISTEX: Excellence Initiative of Scientific and Technical Information

The ISTEX project’s main objective is to provide the whole higher education and research community online access to retrospective collections of scientific literature in all disciplines by setting up a national document acquisition policy covering journal archives, databases, texts corpora etc.

A national policy

The ISTEX project (Excellence Initiative for Scientific and Technical Information) is part of the “Investments for the Future” programme initiated by the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research (MESR) the aim of which is to strengthen the position of French research and higher education on the worldwide stage. This innovative project is led by four partners: the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education (ABES), the Academic Consortium of Digital Publications (Couperin) and the University of Lorraine working on behalf of the Conference of University Presidents (CPU). The convention for financial support to the project was signed on April 19th 2012 by the French National Research Agency (ANR), the State and the CNRS and provides an investment of 60 million Euros over three years. 55 million Euros will be for acquisitions of document resources and 5 million Euros will go to setting up the platform destined to host the data.

Two actions: acquisitions and the creation of a platform

The ISTEX project is a vast programme for the acquisition of scientific resources aimed at setting up a digital library which complies with the highest international standards and provides all members of higher education and research establishments with remote access to those resources

The acquisition of scientific archives

The first stage of the ISTEX project consists of a large-scale proactive policy in favour of grouped acquisitions of scientific archives under national licences. These purchases will be determined according to requirements expressed by the different communities concerned cross-referenced with an analysis of the resources on offer from commercial publishers. Choices of acquisitions will be balanced regarding disciplines and made by a steering committee representing the full diversity of the research and higher education communities. These acquisitions will cover a set of retrospective collections with the aim of responding to all the scientific communities’ requirements and will be based on:

  • retrospective journal collections;
  • digital books;
  • large corpora of digitized heritage documents;
  • databases, etc.

This national level document resource acquisition policy has led to a first series of purchases in 2011 and 2012 being already made available for users:

  • All of the publisher Springer’s journals for the periods running from the first issue to 1996 (over 1000 journal titles);
  • A set of e-books published by Springer between 1995 and 2004 (7500 titles)
  • The corpus of dictionaries published by Garnier Numérique – 24 dictionaries covering the evolution of the French language from the 9th to the 20th century (nearly 200,000 pages with over 900,000 entries and definitions);
  • The “Early English Books Online” database published by Proquest. This is a digitized version of all works printed between 1473 and 1700 in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and in the British North American colonies along with works in English printed elsewhere (125,000 works);
  • The “Eighteenth Century Collections Online” database published by Gale Cengage Learning which covers digitized versions of texts published in the UK in the 18th century (plus de 136,000 titles).

Note: The www.licencesnationales.fr site provides practical information (user instructions, licences, basic information on contents) for professional document specialists to help them open access rights for their institutions to resources which have been acquired and publicize this. The www.istex.fr site is the project showcase and is for publishers (form to fill in), researchers (survey on requirements) and librarians (communication kit).

The creation of the ISTEX platform

The second stage of the ISTEX project involves setting up the ISTEX platform to host all the data. Access to document resources will initially be provided via the publishers’ websites as of the start of 2014 and subsequently in 2015 via the ISTEX platform administered by INIST – CNRS. This platform will host several million digital documents (journal articles, books, text corpora etc.) in all disciplines and will offer varied benefits for users:

  • Access to a unique and exceptional corpus;
  • Systematic access to full text documents;
  • A powerful search engine adapted to scientists’ requirements and providing search and download functions, etc.;
  • Data processing services: data extraction, text mining, production of document syntheses and terminological corpora, etc.;
  • Integration into local digital environments providing users with comfortable navigation between current resources and retrospective collections;
  • Remote access for all members of higher education and research institutions;
  • Long-lasting access to acquired retrospective data, etc.

Advantages for all stakeholders

This policy for centralized acquisitions has the following advantages for all stakeholders:

  • Equality: ISTEX will provide territorial and institutional equality of access to information in that all users will have access to an exceptional national reservoir national whatever their home institution.
  • Pluridisciplinarity: the ISTEX platform will cover all scientific fields in all disciplines so that all users can access a broader knowledge field.
  • Complementary services: the platform will also provide resources via current subscriptions and enable institutions to enrich their local portals by offering unified access to all document resources to dovetail with the institutions’ own acquisitions.
  • Savings: the funding provided for the ISTEX project will enable the acquisition of digital resources under national licences and thus provide scaled savings. This new approach combined with the institutions’ own acquisition policies will strengthen the position of public purchasers with publishers.

Responding to requirements

  • Surveys: providing researchers, teachers and others in research and higher education access to scientific literature and technique above all requires precise knowledge of their requirements. A survey of their requirements began at the end of October 2012 to enable us to respond to their exact needs. In October and November 2013, a national testing campaign was set up along with another survey so that researchers and academic researchers could give their views on the specialist resources resulting from the first ISTEX call to tender.
  • Selection: a steering committee with members from all the communities concerned (universities, research organizations and “grandes écoles“) will discuss and approve choices and define acquisition priorities in compliance with disciplinary balance.
investissement d'avenir

Financement : ANR-10-IDEX-0004-02