Archive for UNESCO

UNESCO and Open Science

Posted in Open Access, Politics with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2022 by telescoper

Time to pass on news of an interesting development from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concerning Open Science. Here’s a little video to explain what it’s about:

A press release announcing the new recommendations begins thus:

The first international framework on open science was adopted by 193 countries attending UNESCO’s General Conference. By making science more transparent and more accessible, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science will make science more equitable and inclusive. 

Through open science, scientists and engineers use open licenses to share their publications and data, software and even hardware more widely. Open science should, thus, enhance international scientific cooperation. 

Some 70% of scientific publications are locked behind paywalls. Over the past two years, however, this proportion has dropped to about 30% for publications on COVID-19 specifically. This shows that science can be more open. 

The framework document itself is here (21 pages). It’s a very general document, the strongest aspect of which is that it takes a broad view of open science. When I’ve talked and written about open access publishing I’ve always stressed that represents only one aspect of open science: there is a need to share data and analysis software too.

You can find an upbeat commentary on the new agreement by James Wilsdon here. Here’s a snippet:

At a time when ideologies opposed to universalism, multilateralism, and collaboration are gaining ground in many parts of the world—exacerbated by greed, corruption, and exploitation of common assets and resources—the scientific system is as vulnerable as it has always been to reflecting both the best and the worst of society’s wider tendencies.

Moves towards open research have gained significant ground over the past twenty years, but this progress remains fragile, under-resourced, and at times willfully or unintentionally blind to the fresh inequalities and pressures it can create—particularly for researchers and institutions in the global south.

For me, the greatest strengths of the UNESCO statement are its breadth and holism—unlike some declarations in this field, it speaks with an authentically international chorus of voices. It reasserts the need for cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary pluralism, and reminds us that openness is ultimately a means to more fundamental ends. The recommendation returns repeatedly to the importance of infrastructures and incentives, which need to be financed, sustained, and better aligned.

I couldn’t agree more!