UNESCO sets ambitious international standards for open science

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.

For the first time, a universal definition

Until today, there was no universal definition of open science and standards existed only at regional, national or institutional levels. In adopting the Recommendation, 193 countries have agreed to abide by common standards for open science. By rallying behind a set of shared values and guiding principles, they have adopted a common roadmap.

With its mandate for the sciences, UNESCO is driving at the global level the shift to open science and ensure that it truly contributes to bridging the knowledge and technology gaps between and within countries.

Open science can be a powerful tool to reduce inequalities between and within countries and further the human right to enjoy and benefit for scientific progress, as stipulated in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

With this Recommendation, Member States have embraced the culture and practice of open science and agreed to report back every four years on their progress.

The Recommendation calls on Member States to set up regional and international funding mechanisms for open science and to ensure that all publicly funded research respects the principles and core values of open science.

The Recommendation calls on Member States to invest in infrastructure for open science and to develop a framework outlining the requisite skills and competencies for those wishing to participate in open science. These stakeholders include researchers from different disciplines and at different stages of their career.

Member States are encouraged to prioritize seven areas in their implementation of the Recommendation:

promoting a common understanding of open science and its associated benefits and challenges, as well as the diverse paths to open science;
developing an enabling policy environment for open science;
investing in infrastructure and services which contribute to open science;
investing in training, education, digital literacy and capacity-building, to enable researchers and other stakeholders to participate in open science;
fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for open science;
promoting innovative approaches to open science at different stages of the scientific process; and
promoting international and multistakeholder co-operation in the context of open science with a view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.

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