UNESCO Draft Recommendation on Open Science

In the UNESCO General Conference of November 2019 a Recommendation on OER was accepted by the Member States. In the same conference, it was decided to prepare “an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science, in the form of a recommendation”. A Draft Version of this Recommendation was recently published. The Draft proposes a definition of Open Science, its objectives, a framework of shared values and principles, as well as an analysis of work that needs to be done before societies can benefit from the vast potential of Open Science.

In a previous blog I have explained the different instruments UNESCO distinguishes between. A Recommendation is the instrument with the least non-committal approach to compliance for a government that has signed it.

What is the content of the Draft recommendation?

In a preliminary report fo this Draft, the following abstract can be found (emphasis added by me).

This first draft Recommendation on Open Science defines shared values and principles for Open Science, and identifies concrete actions to:

  • facilitate a more equitable, transparent and democratie production, dissemination and uptake of scientific knowledge around the world;
  • bring science closer to society;
  • contribute to closing the gaps in science, technology and innovation existing between and within countries.

It sets a common international policy framework for Open Science, reinforcing the human right to science and science as a global public good. While outlining its key objectives and elements, Open Science is defined as an umbrella concept that combines various movements and practices aiming to:

  • make scientific knowledge, methods, data and evidence freely available and accessible for everyone;
  • increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society, and
  • open the process of scientific knowledge creation and circulation to societal actors beyond the institutionalized scientific community.

This first draft Recommendation argues that the scientific outputs should be as open as possible, and only as closed as necessary, mindful of the issues relating to security, privacy and respect for subjects of study.

The text identifies the richness of Open Science actors acknowledging their respective benefits from and responsibilities in the transition to Open Science. It also calls for equity and inclusion in ail stages of the scientific process and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the outputs of science.

Finally, the first draft Recommendation spells out a number of recommendations to the Member States in the following key areas of action:

  • promoting a common understanding of Open Science;
  • developing an enabling policy environment for Open Science;
  • investing in Open Science infrastructures, services and capacity building for Open Science;
  • transforming scientific culture and aligning incentives for Open Science;
  • promoting innovative approaches for Open Science at different stages of the scientific process, and
  • promoting international cooperation on Open Science.

The text makes it clear that while paths towards Open Science may differ in different parts of the world, reflecting the specific Science, Technology and Innovation situations and capacity, Open Science requires a profound change in the scientific culture across the borders, moving from competition to collaboration and from having to sharing.

Some backgrounds

Comparing these recommendations with those from the OER Recommendation, they have a large resemblance, although in the latter more emphasis was placed on cost effectiveness. This is not surprising, looking at the description of Open Science in this Recommendation:

The term ‘Open Science’ refers to an umbrella concept that combines various movements and practices aiming to make scientific knowledge, methods, data and evidence freely available and accessible for everyone, increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society, and open the process of scientific knowledge creation and circulation to societal actors beyond the institutionalized scientific community.

The following key elements are listed as comprising Open Science:

  • Open Access
  • Open Data
  • Open Source/Software and Open Hardware
  • Open Science Infrastructures
  • Open Evaluation
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Open Engagement of Societal Actors
  • Openness to Diversity of Knowledge
    • Openness to Indigenous Knowledge Systems
    • Openness to all Scholarly Knowledge and Inquiry

In the regional consultations, leading to this Draft, regional differences came to light in some specific priorities areas. Challenges were identified as prerequisites for a fair and just transition to Open Science. In Western Europe and North America, the need for aligning incentives for Open Science, including by reviewing the current systems of scientific evaluation and rewards based on the principles of Open Science, has been identified among the key priorities. Other priorities include the promotion of new generation of innovative collaborations, including with societal actors beyond the scientific community; respect for bibliodiversity; harmonization of data protection policies and investment in shared and coordinated open science infrastructures taking into account regional and disciplinary specificities. The current Recognition and Reward initiative in Dutch Research Universities fits in perfectly when being involved with Open Science becomes part of this.

UNESCO’s Member States are scheduled to adopt the final draft during their next General Conference in November 2021.

 

 

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