In the document, CODATA presents the issues to be considered in the UNESCO recommendation on open science: governance, robust funding and business models, management - especially for infrastructure and services - and investment in education and training.  

Open Science for a Global Transformation

CODATA coordinated submission to the UNESCO Open Science Consultation

Open Science for a Global Transformation was prepared by an expert group, coordinated by CODATA and including representatives from the ISC World Data System (WDS)GO FAIR and the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI).


1. Key aspects of a transition to Open Science: Summary as input towards the UNESCO Recommendation

Importance of a UNESCO Recommendation

A UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science is timely, important and urgent. Open Science is the mode or paradigm for science in the 21st century. There are numerous examples of Open Science practice, but they are unevenly distributed. There is a need for governmental intervention to support open science, to reduce inequalities of adoption and to mitigate some negative consequences.

We support a UNESCO Recommendation as a mechanism both to form and to reflect global consensus. It should aim to play an important advocacy role, to win hearts and minds, in scientific communities and in governments of member states. Furthermore, and most practically, it will serve as a reference to encourage concrete action, policy interventions and investment.

Key messages for the UNESCO Recommendation.

In the following sections of this document, we have emphasized (in bold) certain key statements or recommendations which we think are important messages for inclusion in the UNESCO Recommendation. The most important of these are presented below.

Open Science is best characterised as the necessary transformation of scientific practice to adapt to the changes, challenges and opportunities of the 21st century digital era to advance knowledge and to improve our world. This requires changes in scientific culture, methodologies, institutions and infrastructures. These changes are already present in many research domains and institutions, where their transformative effects can be witnessed, but they are unevenly distributed. One of the purposes of Open Science viewed as a call for transformation, is to ensure that ‘no-one is left behind’.

What is Open Science and why is it timely and important?

  • Open Science is a key enabler for a post-COVID global transformation of reasoned discourse and informed decision-making.
  • Open Science is a major advance and force to ensure full and equitable participation in the creation of knowledge, through approaches that are transparent, subject to scrutiny and critique, and verifiable.
  • Open Science has become an important transformative advance, with implications for policy, the funding, the evaluation and practice of science systems. Because Open Science implies changes in practice, in policy, and in the priorities of scientific infrastructure, it is important and timely that UNESCO is preparing a recommendation based on global consultation.

What are the objectives and benefits of Open Science?

  • Open Science aims to maintain and promote good practice and scientific reproducibility by maximising access to robustly described data, code and methods underpinning scientific conclusions.
  • Open Science aims to maximise the reuse and (re-)combination of data and code, and to maximise the benefits of investment in science and scientific infrastructure.
  • Open Science aims to maximise the benefit of science for society and the engagement of society with science.
  • Open Science, through responsible governance, allows and requires necessary and proportionate protection of data, its sources, and derived information. It categorically does not mean indiscriminate openness.
  • The UNESCO Recommendation should encourage research communities to agree on Open Science frameworks (which define community practices for data sharing (including ethics and Intelligent Openness), data formats, metadata standards, tools and infrastructure. The recommendation should also encourage governments, funders and other stakeholders to support this process.
  • Open Science has the potential to be a major force for positive change in LMICs as well as in economically advanced countries. LMIC Open Science and open data initiatives are needed to ensure that data is gathered, stewarded and analysed by LMIC researchers according to their own priorities and research objectives.

What are the neglected aspects of Open Science that need to be addressed?

  • The infrastructure, procedures and priorities established through Open Science measures have substantive political and socio-economic implications, which need to be considered whenever designing, developing and implementing Open Science infrastructure and projects.
  • It is imperative that the broader impact of Open Science is regularly monitored and mechanisms are in place to adapt to shifts in social and scientific circumstances.

Open Science Infrastructures: the technical infrastructures required for Open Science

  • Open Science requires investment in a federated and diversified information infrastructure that nevertheless follows certain core principles.
    • Every digital object of significance for science (whether a datum, a dataset, metadata, code, a publication etc) needs a persistent identifier (PID).
    • Data require rich metadata covering a broad range of attributes which allow the data to be assessed, accessed, understood, and reused.
    • Open Science depends on a global network of data repositories, the trusted organisations that take responsibility for the long-term stewardship of data for defined research communities.
  • Proper application of 21st century technology will require consensus within the open science community on mechanisms to certify automated and artificial intelligence-generated research outputs in respect of trustworthiness.

Open Science Infrastructures: optimal governance, funding and ownership arrangements

  •  Scholarly publishing needs fundamentally reenvisioning such that it is unambiguously put to the service of science as a global public good.
  • There is a need for a strategic vision and process to identify the services and ‘core resources’ for Open Science and to ensure that the funding streams and business models that maintain them are robust.
  •  Research funders need to recognise that to fund research and Open Science must mean to ensure also that the infrastructure to support it is dependable, reliable, and available for the long term.
  • Open Science infrastructure needs to be resourced and staffed in ways that recognise and reward the high level of expertise required to develop and update it.
  • Coordination of largely nationally-oriented funding is necessary to ensure that the global and international imperatives of science, and the infrastructure necessary for Open Science, are sufficiently addressed.
  • Market dominance is cause for concern in a world where so many services, including the tools of Open Science, are dependent on the ‘giants of the web’.

Capacity Building for Open Science

  • To take advantage of the opportunities and to use FAIR data and Open Science for good, requires significant investment in capacity building, education and training.
  • Priority investment is needed in the areas broadly defined as data science and data stewardship.
  • A core set of data science and data stewardship skills should be regarded as part of the foundational expertise of all researchers and incorporated into the ‘research skills’ curriculum (from at least undergraduate level, if not before).
  • Advanced graduate level training programmes are needed to develop the professions of data scientist and data steward, to support and enable 21st century Open Science.
  • It is essential to provide training in the ethos and ethics of Open Science.

Negative impacts of Open Science and how to address them

  • Research-performing organisations and research funders need to ensure that there is effective reward and incentives for good practice Open Science activities and outputs.
  • UNESCO must promote the development of effective governance measures in order to address inequality and prevent related predatory behaviours.
  • It is crucial that measures used for the governance of research materials be proportionate and reasonable, and that consensus-based criteria are identified and employed to define what proportional and reasonable mean in practice. UNESCO can play an important role in encouraging such conversations and enabling the identification and implementation of effective governance for Open Science.

What are the obstacles to reaching global consensus on Open Science and how can they be addressed?

  • There is an opportunity by means of the UNESCO Recommendation to chart out a roadmap and a set of shared, global Open Science Goals.

Open Science and COVID-19

  • The size and scale of the COVID-19 challenge, the urgency of effective science to inform evidence based decision-making, underline the need for Open Science and its components.

Table of Contents

Key aspects of a transition to Open Science: Summary as input towards the UNESCO Recommendation

Introduction: why is Open Science important and timely?

Data Together Organisations and Open Science

What are the objectives and benefits of Open Science?

Neglected aspects of Open Science

Open Science Infrastructures

Capacity Building for Open Science

Negative Impacts of Open Science and How to Address Them

A Global Consensus on Open Science: is it important and urgent?

What are the obstacles to reaching global consensus on Open Science and how can they be addressed?

Open Science and COVID-19

Appendix 1: the Data Together Organizations

Appendix 2: Members of the Expert Group