UNESCO promotes South-South collaboration on COVID-19 knowledge sharing

UNESCO and its partners organised a webinar to share the COVID-19 Universal REsource gateway (CURE) with interested stakeholders in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, on 6 May 2020.
The right of access to information has become more relevant than ever in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing peer reviewed scientific research and innovation is crucial in finding a vaccine, formulating effective public health measures and addressing post pandemic realities. This calls for scientific research and information about innovations to be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. It is also essential that principles of openness and inclusiveness are supported.

The recent webinar was organised to showcase the COVID-19 Universal REsource gateway (CURE), as an example of an Open Access initiative. Prof. Devika Madalli of the Indian Statistical Institute stated “… the gateway will harvest verified openly licensed information on the whole life cycle of the pandemic from multiple sources and present them in one user-friendly site.” Several participants highlighted the importance of such a gateway and the need to adapt it to needs of subregions to reflect diverse language resources on the virus and ongoing local research efforts.

The CURE gateway, a joint initiative between UNESCO, the Indian Statistical Institute and the Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America, Caribbean, Spain and Portugal (Redalyc), also showcases the importance of south-south cooperation in promoting Open Access.

The CURE gateway and other AI-powered systems which automatically collect online information on specific subjects will eventually be integrated into the Global Open Access Portal (GOAP) that gives a worldwide view on Open Access and initiatives and advocate for successful policies to promote Open Access to scientific information.

Participants also discussed the relevance and potential new features of GOAP such as a non-commercial Open Access workflow, which would “[save] significant costs in journal production in favour of non-profit publishing and…keep journal publishing in hands of the academic and non-profit sector”, said Prof. Arianna Becerril Garcia, Executive Director of Redalyc. Prof. ARD Prasad from the Indian Statistical Institute also shared a learning channel feature of the Open Access Portal, which would incorporate short educational videos on Open Access.

At the end of the webinar, Mr Hezekiel Dlamini from the UNESCO Cluster Office for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka highlighted how the CURE gateway and other features of the Global Open Access Portal reinforce South-South cooperation and support. Mr Bhanu Neupane, from UNESCO Headquarters, invited interested experts and institutions to join efforts to contribute towards the improvement of the Open Access Portal.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, UNESCO will continue to advocate for Open Access and build the capacities of Member States to take concrete measures towards universal access to information and knowledge, including through Open Solutions, such as OA and Open Data.