Comments made by France on the First draft of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

News from the Committee

In a statement, France commented on the first draft recommendation on open science published by UNESCO in October 2020. We wished to thank UNESCO for the high quality of this far-reaching document. We suggested, however, a number of directions where a balance should be readjusted as in issues specific to scientific publications, better coverage and consideration of disciplinary diversity and local approaches by higher education and research institutions.

France would like the text to place more emphasis on the principle of bibliodiversity [1]The principles of bibliodiversity have been drafted in 2017 by the Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity, which promotes the plurality of actors, economic models, formats and languages of scientific publication. Consideration must be given to the dangers of generalizing the publishing fee model. It would generate strong inequalities between the various research communities around the world, and drive towards the concentration of scientific publishing in the hands of a few large commercial players. Alternative models for financing open access publishing are already operating across the world and deserve to be further consolidated. The multilingualism of scientific production, which guarantees a better dissemination of knowledge in the society, should be encouraged, as called for in the UNESCO text.

France fully supports UNESCO’s definition of open access to scientific results. However, it stresses that legitimate limitations to this principle can only concern research data, and in no way scientific publications. Moreover, where there is a restriction on access to data, it may in some cases be lifted for specific users under certain conditions. In this respect, the notion of data sharing, as an alternative to openness, could be put forward in the Recommendation.

UNESCO’s first draft takes full account of the issues specific to open science infrastructures and services and France commends this. It supports the principles set out with regard to the sustainability of investments, governance by the community and collective funding by States, donors and non-profit organisations that reflect the diverse interests and needs of the academic world and society. It stresses that infrastructures must be primarily oriented towards the needs of their users, first and foremost researchers, whatever their discipline. Their operation requires not only technical capacity, but also human resources and sustained human resources and skills.

Finally, France would like the notion of reproducibility, which does not feature as such in the first draft, to be incorporated into the open science objectives, core values and guiding principles.

UNESCO initiated a consultation in July 2020 to develop a single Recommendation on open science and establish globally recognised standards that could guide legal and policy frameworks at the institutional and state levels. France, whose ambition is that research results should be accessible to all, contributed to this consultation.