UNESCO sets international open science standards

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Some 193 countries attending UNESCO’s General Conference have agreed to abide by common standards for open science.

The first international framework was adopted in the hope of making science more equitable and inclusive, as well as enhancing international scientific cooperation.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus how open science practices such as open access to scientific publications, the sharing of scientific data and collaboration beyond the scientific community can speed up research and strengthen the links between science policy and society. 

‘The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science will drive the wider adoption of open practices, encourage greater endorsement of open science and ensure that research findings are beneficial to all.’

Around 70 per cent of scientific publications are locked behind paywalls – but, over the past two years, this proportion has dropped to about 30 per cent for publications on Covid-19 specifically. 

Until today, UNSECO says, 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 and to adopt a common roadmap.

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 respect the principles and core values of open science. 

It also requires investment 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 prioritise 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 multi-stakeholder co-operation in the context of open science with a view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.

Member States have agreed to report back every four years on their progress.

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