Advancing science depends on the unhindered circulation of knowledge, such that a novel idea from one researcher or group of scientists can spark new thinking by scientists elsewhere, and can be examined in the light of existing evidence or applied across different fields to generate multiple new ideas or applications.
Likewise, ensuring that everyone can benefit from scientific advances demands that knowledge can be easily shared and readily applied, without barriers to access or structural inequalities that may hinder participation in science.
As countries worldwide seek to manage and contain the COVID-19 pandemic, access to scientific knowledge is all the more crucial.
The events of recent months have also reminded us of the persistent inequalities and structural discrimination in our societies, and within science systems, that restrict equitable participation in science and act as a barrier to scientific knowledge and its benefits.
We…acknowledge our responsibility to re-commit to action that supports equality and justice by advocating necessary changes in science systems throughout the world (Heide, Daya)Daya Reddy and Heide Hackmann, 9 June 2020, Statement on combating systemic racism and other forms of discrimination
In this context, the 2020 International Open Access week, which begins today, has selected as its theme ‘Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion’.
International Open Access week is a moment to focus attention on making ‘open’ the default option for scientific research, and the theme this year calls for a re-examination of the systems behind the open sharing of knowledge, to explore who is missing or excluded from the structures in place, and whose interests are being prioritised. Working towards openness and equity in knowledge systems is a year-round task, but the international week is an opportunity to zoom in on how the structures to open up science can be built around equity and inclusion.
The ISC is supportive of these actions, and the call from the international week’s organizing team for ‘concrete action’ resonates with many of the Council’s ongoing activities.
The African Open Science Platform, which is hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, is being designed to convene and coordinate the interests, ideas, people, institutions and resources needed to advocate and to advance open science in and for Africa through the creation of a federated system for depositing, finding and reusing data.
Open Access is also a central question for the ISC’s project on the future of scientific publishing, which is currently concluding a first phase of consultation with ISC members. Discussions with our network have revealed that while there’s great demand for open access to the scientific record, attention must be paid to the way that openness is achieved, in order to redress existing inequalities in access to the scientific publishing system, and to uphold the interests of the scientific community.
The call for open access to the record of science is also made clear in the ISC’s recent draft working paper ‘Open Science for the 21st Century’, which was drafted as a response to the UNESCO global consultation on open science.
“Global solutions require global involvement from the community of science and global access to its publications, both by readers and authors, irrespective of income. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a powerful example of multiple scientific collaborations across the range of scientific disciplines. Open access to scientific research is integral to the future of such collaboration.”Open Science in the 21st Century, Draft ISC Working Paper, June 2020
The ISC’s members are also getting involved in the international week, and a selection of activities is provided below:
- The Royal Society has made all of its journal content open access for the week.
- The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is facilitating a webinar series in the frame of an open access week.
Daniel Nyanganyura, Director of the ISC’s Regional Office for Africa, will speak during the webinar on 23 October.
Are you an ISC member running a special event for International Open Access week? Get in touch with Anne Thieme to share your event here.