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UNESCO General Conference Adopts Recommendation on Open Science

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science has been adopted at the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference on 23 November 2021, making it the first international framework on open science. This follows a resolution from the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019, where 193 Member States tasked UNESCO with the development of an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science.

In developing the Recommendation on Open Science, UNESCO gathered contributions through Multistakeholder Consultations. A global online consultation on Open Science was conducted between February and July 2020 in the form of an online survey, which was open to all stakeholders and was available in English, French, and Spanish.

ALLEA participated in the design of this survey, which was coordinated by the International Science Council. As part of the UNESCO Open Science Partnership, the ALLEA Open Science Task Force also responded to the UNESCO Multistakeholder Consultations on Open Science with a statement submitted on 15 December 2020, which you can find here.

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science complements the 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Research. It also builds upon the UNESCO Strategy on Open Access to Scientific Information and Research and the new UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources.

 

Aim of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

The aim of the UNESCO Recommendation is to provide an international framework for open science policy and practice that recognises disciplinary and regional differences in open science perspectives, takes into account academic freedom, gender-transformative approaches and the specific challenges of scientists and other open science actors in different countries and in particular in developing countries, and contributes to reducing the digital, technological and knowledge divides existing between and within countries.

The Recommendation outlines a common definition, shared values, principles and standards for open science at the international level and proposes a set of actions conducive to a fair and equitable operationalisation of open science for all at the individual, institutional, national, regional and international levels.

To achieve its aim, the key objectives and areas of action of the UNESCO Recommendation are as follows:

i. promoting a common understanding of open science, associated benefits and challenges, as well as diverse paths to open science;
ii. developing an enabling policy environment for open science;
iii. investing in open science infrastructures and services;
iv. investing in human resources, training, education, digital literacy and capacity building for open science;
v. fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for open science;
vi. promoting innovative approaches for open science at different stages of the scientific process;
vii. promoting international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the context of open science and with view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.

 

Read UNESCO Press Release

Read the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

Read the Report on UNESCO’s Global Online Consultation on Open Science

Read ALLEA’s Recent Statement on Equity in Open Access

Learn more about ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force

 

Shaping the Future of Peer Review

ALLEA, the Global Young Academy (GYA), and STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers) published today the summary of a series of cross-sectoral workshops on the future of peer review in an open, digital world.

Experts from across the world, representing different cultural and disciplinary traditions of peer review, convened virtually in November 2020 to discuss the future of peer review in an Open Science environment. Participants explored which models can best serve and reward the research community in both an enhanced and sustainable way.

Peer review is an essential element of scholarly communication and documentation processes and contributes to ensuring the quality and trustworthiness of modern research. The traditional models of peer review are, however, challenged by new digital modes of publication, and the wider range of research outputs envisaged as part of the move towards Open Science.

The workshops comprised a broad array of experts and actors including researchers, research funders, universities, publishers, libraries, the Open Science community and trade bodies. Main themes and areas for further consideration that emerged during the discussions included:

  1. Clarifying peer review and the roles of different actors in the system
  2. Building capacity for peer review: training, mentoring, inclusion and diversity
  3. Leveraging technology to deliver enhanced peer review
  4. Changes should be motivated by a strong evidence-base, collected through research, pilots and experimentation

Read the full summary.

ALLEA launches Open Science Task Force

ALLEA has launched a task force dedicated to open science and chaired by Luke Drury (Royal Irish Academy). The ALLEA Open Science Task Force will contribute to the development, coordination and implementation of Open Science policies and initiatives with an emphasis on issues relevant to the European Research Area.  

The group will draw on the expertise of ALLEA’s national academy members in promoting science as a global public good that is as open as possible and as closed as necessary and paying close attention to specific considerations of the social sciences and humanities.  

The task force will:  

  • work together with the Global Young Academy in assisting the creation and implementation of the European Commission Open Access publishing platform;  
  • contribute to the expert consultations on the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science; 
  • liaise with other pertinent stakeholder organisations on Open Science. 
  • amplify the voice of the European Academies in this policy area

Past work on Open Science 

ALLEA has actively contributed to the open science debate since the early 2000s through various initiatives and working groups. Recently, it published the ALLEA Response to Plan S , the open access proposal initiated by European funders, as well as the policy paper Towards Implementing the European Open Science Cloud 

For more information on the rationale behind the task force, check out Luke Drury’s op-ed on the ALLEA Digital Salon.  

Why Open Science Is Here to Stay

Openness is one of the defining characteristics of modern science and scholarship. The idea that there should be some secret esoteric knowledge reserved for initiates has long been banished from serious research and survives only in some non-academic fringe groups. Even research in industrial R&D facilities is now routinely published, if only in the form of patent applications. The one major and sad exception is of course some military and security research, and there are also a small number of cases where fully open science is not appropriate, for example, in environmental research to protect endangered species or in medical research to protect patient confidentiality.

The fundamental concept is noble and powerful. Ideas, theories, and their supporting intellectual frameworks should constitute a common good of all humanity, freely shared for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. This concept is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, in article 27.1 that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” This framing of science as a cultural activity from which nobody is excluded and to which everyone can contribute, and from which everyone can benefit without in any way reducing the benefit available to others, defines it as what economists term a pure public good.

 

“Ideas, theories, and their supporting intellectual frameworks should constitute a common good of all humanity, freely shared for our mutual enjoyment and benefit.”

 

The reality however is different. Large parts of scholarly publication have been captured by commercial bodies whose primary interest is shareholder value and not the common good. The sharing of data is partial, inconsistent, and inadequately resourced. Science is too often confused with innovation and valued only for its immediate utility. Openness is paid lip service, but is often not properly rewarded in research evaluations, funding decisions and career progression. If we want open science to realise its full potential, there is an urgent need to reform processes and attitudes as well as to invest in sustainable infrastructures and organisations to support it. The necessity of such change has been dramatically brought home by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the traditional structures of science have been exposed as too slow and sclerotic to deal with a rapidly changing scientific and policy landscape.

 

“The necessity of such a change (towards open science) has been dramatically brought home by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the traditional structures of science have been exposed as too slow and sclerotic to deal with a rapidly changing scientific and policy landscape.”

 

At the same time, however, we have to recognise that many features of the traditional system are there for good reasons, and that moving to a more open and agile system is not without risk. Managing change in a complicated and interconnected system is challenging and raises many issues, some legal, some ethical, some practical as well as more philosophical ones concerning the purpose, nature and conduct of scholarship itself. It is vital that the academic community actively participates in discussing these issues using the full range of analytic tools developed in our various disciplines as well as our lived experience as researchers.

Europe is not unique in this regard, and science being universal, this discussion has to be cognisant of the global context. However, it is also the case that some issues have a special salience within the European context. For all these reasons, ALLEA feels that it is appropriate to establish a special task force on Open Science to address these challenges, to allow ALLEA to respond in a coherent and timely manner to developments, and to amplify the voice of the European academies within this global debate.

 

Luke Drury, Chair of the ALLEA Open Science Task Force and ALLEA Board Member.