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UNESCO Takes the Lead in Developing a New Global Standard-setting Instrument on Open Science

28 November 2019

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© Getty Images / Zinkevych

Open Science is increasingly referred to as the “Science for the Future” and the “Future of Science”. By making science more accessible, the scientific process more inclusive and the outputs of science more readily available and relevant for society, Open Science could be a game changer for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). During their General Conference, which came to a close on 27 November 2019, UNESCO Member States have tasked the Organization with leading a global dialogue on Open Science, to identify globally-agreed norms and to create a standard-setting  instrument.

There is currently no global framework covering all aspects of Open Science. However, as the movement grows globally and the number of Open Science operational, policy and legal frameworks at different levels proliferates, it is important to ensure that all countries in all regions have a voice on Open Science, to truly ensure that Open Science practices contribute to reducing the science gaps between the “haves” and “have-nots”. 

UNESCO, as the UN Agency with mandate for Science, is the legitimate global organization enabled to build a coherent vision of Open Science and a shared set of overarching principles and shared values. It is for this reason that the 193 countries gathered in Paris for the 40th session of the UNESCO’s General Conference, decided to embark in a multistakeholder, consultative, inclusive and participatory process to define a new global normative instrument on Open Science - the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. This process is expected to take two years and to lead to the adoption of the recommendation by UNESCO Member States in 2021. 

For UNESCO, Open Science is not only an issue of science being open to the research community, as in “open access” and “open data”, but refers to a science open to society. Open Science can contribute to democratizing science by increasing scientific collaboration and access to networks, strengthening scientific culture, enhancing the involvement of citizens in research activities and increasing the access to scientific data and information for communities, policy and decision makers. Open Science can be a powerful tool to reduce inequalities between and within countries and to advance the realization of the human right to science as stipulated in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

In this context, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science will define Open Science and point to concrete measures on Open Access and Open Data with concrete proposals for action to bring citizens closer to science, and concrete commitments for a better distribution and production of science in the world. The process of drafting the Recommendation will be regionally balanced, highly inclusive, collaborative and multi-stakeholder. 

The Open Science Recommendation will be inscribed in the follow up to the 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Research and it will build on the UNESCO Strategy on Open Access to Scientific Information and Research, the UNESCO Global Open Access Portal and the new UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources.