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Science International to agree international accord on open data

Science International is a new coalition of the major international science bodies – ICSU, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) – to bring its members’ combined international representation and credibility to act as a single global voice for science in the international policy arena. At its first meeting, to be held from 7-9 December in Pretoria, South Africa, the participating institutions will discuss the topic of big data/open data.

The objectives of “Science International” are:

  • To consolidate a fragmented global science policy making landscape, creating a single, recognised and authoritative global voice of policy for science.
  • To deepen strategic alignment amongst partner organizations and develop a platform to catalyse future high-impact initiatives.
  • To tackle one issue of relevance to global science policy each year and to follow up on its recommendations over the following two to three years.

Science International 2015: Big Data/Open Data

For the first edition of Science International, the four partner organizations have selected the issue of ‘Big Data/Open Data’.

‘Big data’ has emerged as a major opportunity for scientific discovery, while ‘open data’ will enhance the efficiency, productivity and creativity of the public research enterprise and counteract tendencies towards the privatisation of knowledge. In addition, concurrent open publication of the data underpinning scientific papers can provide the basis of scientific ’self correction’. For organisations, individuals and society to maximise the benefits of big data, however, will depend on the extent to which there is open access to publicly-funded scientific data.

In this regard, there are a growing number of calls from various actors, both within and outside the scientific community, and from inter-governmental bodies such as the G8, the OECD and the UN, for open access to publicly-funded scientific data, especially regarding data of particular importance to major global challenges.

Full exploitation of ‘big data’, however, will also depend on the extent to which national science systems are able to develop the capacity to use it, on avoiding the creation of new ‘knowledge divides’, and on deciding which data can be made open for use and re-use.

‘Big Data/Open Data’ will therefore be the subject of the first meeting of Science International, to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, from 7-9 December 2015. The meeting will be hosted by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and held in parallel with the first South African Open Science Forum and a planned G77 Ministerial meeting.

At the meeting, the Science International partner organizations will agree an international science ‘accord’ on Big Data/Open Data. The accord will be prepared by an expert working group jointly appointed by the partner organizations and will be presented in Pretoria at the G77 + China Ministerial meeting and the Open Science Forum.

The meeting will also recommend a global plan for data science capacity development, with an initial focus on Africa.


On 15-16 October, a meeting of the expert working group will take place in Paris, France. A webinar on 15 October, 14:00 (Paris time) will allow other members of Science International partner organizations to provide for feedback on the draft accord. Based on feedback from the webinars, a revised draft accord will be reviewed by the executive bodies of the Science International partner organizations.

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