Open Science

Advocating and advancing open science are fundamental to the work of achieving the ISC’s vision of science as a global public good.

Openness is at the heart of the scientific endeavour as a distinct form of knowledge based on evidence and tested against reality, logic and the scrutiny of scientific peers. The record of science, its evolving stock of knowledge, ideas and possibilities is an essential part of the human inheritance. But the influence and the use of science have become so pervasive that it cannot solely be contained within the global community of professional scientists. Science must continue to evolve, becoming more accessible and more accountable to citizens and societies.

The modern movement for open science embraces several, diverse perspectives. The ISC frames an inclusive definition of open science as:

Science that is open to scrutiny and challenge, and to the knowledge needs and interests of wider publics. Open science makes the record of science, its evolving stock of knowledge, ideas and possibilities accessible and free to all, irrespective of geography, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic circumstance. It makes the data and evidence of science accessible and re-usable by all, subject to constraints of safety, security and privacy. It is open to engagement with other societal actors in the common pursuit of new knowledge, and to support humanity in achieving sustainable and equitable life on planet Earth.


The first project, Open Science in the Global South, aims to position scientists and science systems in the Global South at the cutting edge of data-intensive open science, through the development of efficiencies of scale, the creation of critical mass through shared capacities, and amplify impact through a commonality of purpose and voice at regional levels.

Regional collaboration that develops ‘platforms’ or ‘commons’ could be a creative response to poorly funded science systems. These platforms could provide and manage access to data, computational hardware, connectivity and the tools and concepts required for effective practice, in training and capacity development, and in data-intensive application activities directed towards productive scientific, societal and economic outputs and outcomes that are regionally relevant.

The second project, Towards a UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, will see the ISC work collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to develop an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science.

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Anticipated impacts

  • Positioning scientists and science systems in the Global South at the cutting edge of data-intensive open science, through the development of efficiencies of scale, the creation of critical mass through shared capacities, and amplifying impact through a commonality of purpose and voice at regional levels.
  • To allow scientific information, data and outputs to be more widely accessible (Open Access) and more reliably harnessed (Open Data) with the active engagement of all the stakeholders (Open to Society).

Towards a UNESCO open science recommendation

At the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, 193 Members States tasked UNESCO with the development of an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science in the form of a UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science to be adopted by Member States in 2021.

The Recommendation is expected to define shared values and principles for Open Science, and identify concrete measures on Open Access and Open Data, with proposals to bring citizens closer to science. It commitments facilitating the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge around the world. The Recommendation will be developed through a regionally balanced, multistakeholder, inclusive and transparent consultation process.


Key milestones

✅ In early 2020, the ISC supported UNESCO in amplifying the global call, encouraging ISC members to participate in the survey.

✅ Simon Hodson (Executive Director of CODATA) was appointed vice-chair of the UNESCO Expert Advisory Group on Open Science and had a major role in preparing the draft text.

✅ In September 2020 the ISC published a draft discussion paper entitled Open Science for the 21st Century.

✅ The ISC has published the results of the survey carried out in 2020.

Towards a Global Consensus on Open Science – an online expert meeting on open science and intellectual property rights was held on 23 April.

✅ The ISC and its Members participated in the intergovernmental special committee meeting (category II) of technical and legal experts from 10 to 12 May 2021. The meeting focused on the final report of the UNESCO Secretariat, which contains a draft of the Recommendation on Open Science.

✅ The ISC delegation to the UNESCO Special Committee meeting on Open Science, 6-12 May 2021 published a statement, which explores how the recommendation and potential cascading interventions by Member States could develop along two divergent pathways. ISC Members are invited to download the statement and republish on their websites and in their scientific journals.

Open Science in the Global South

In collaboration with CODATA, the Council has been working with its Regional Offices and other partner organizations to create regional Open Science Platforms that will convene and coordinate regional interests, ideas, people, institutions and resources needed to advance data-intensive, solutions-oriented research in the Global South. They are intended to create critical mass through shared capacity, and to amplify impact through their shared purpose and voice. The Platforms will function as federated systems, providing connective tissue between dispersed infrastructures and actors, bringing them together in advancing datadriven science in the Global South for social and economic benefit.

A pilot study for a Pan-African Open Science Platform (AOSP) was launched in December 2016 with the support of the South African Department of Science and Innovation and in collaboration with the Academy of Science of South Africa and the South African National Research Foundation.

Inspired by the African example, there are now parallel initiatives in the process of development in Asia and the Pacific and in Latin America and the Caribbean. The potential for a successful South-South network of regional platforms, closely connected to analogous developments in the Global North, augurs well for healthy global collaboration as equals rather than as in the donor-recipient model of the recent past. The ISC will seek support for such a network. A Global Open Science Commons may be a practicable and desirable longer-term outcome.


Key milestones

✅ In April 2020, the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa agreed to host the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) Project Office for the next 3 to 5 years. South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), key institutions in Africa, and the International Science Council (ISC), the AOSP (Science for the Future, the Future of Science) makes the case for bold action to mobilise the scientific community in Africa in responding to the challenges of the digital revolution. The new paradigm of Open Science is a powerful driver for scientific research and scholarship and its application to social, economic and global environmental priorities.

✅ A director for the AOSP has been recruited to take the project forward.

✅ In June 2021, CODATA launched the GOSC (Global Open Science Cloud) initiative, which aims to encourage cooperation, alignment, and ultimately interoperability, between existing and emerging Open Science Clouds (OSCs).  CODATA is currently putting together the working groups and case studies, which will start their work properly in September 2021.


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