The aim of this Recommendation is to provide an international framework for open science policy and practice. It outlines a common definition, shared values, principles and standards for open science at the international level and proposes a set of actions conducive to a fair and equitable operationalization of open science for all.

UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science


The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), meeting in Paris, from 9 to 24 November 2021,at its 41st session,

Recognizing the urgency of addressing complex and interconnected environmental, social and economic challenges for the people and the planet, including poverty, health issues, access to education, rising inequalities and disparities of opportunity, increasing science, technology and innovation gaps, natural resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, climate change, natural and human-made disasters, spiralling conflicts and related humanitarian crises,

Acknowledging the vital importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) to respond to these challenges by providing solutions to improve human well-being, advance environmental sustainability and respect for the planet’s biological and cultural diversity, foster sustainable social and economic development and promote democracy and peace,

Also acknowledging the opportunities and the potential provided by the expansion of information and communication technologies and global interconnectedness to accelerate human progress and foster knowledge societies and highlighting the importance of narrowing the STI and digital gaps existing between and within countries and regions,

Noting the transformative potential of open science for reducing the existing inequalities in STI and accelerating progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and beyond, particularly in Africa, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and small island developing States (SIDS),

Mindful of UNESCO’s global priorities, namely gender equality and Africa, and the need to mainstream all these aspects in open science policies and practices with a view to addressing the root causes of inequalities and providing effective solutions to that end,

Considering that more open, transparent, collaborative and inclusive scientific practices, coupled with more accessible and verifiable scientific knowledge subject to scrutiny and critique, is a more efficient enterprise that improves the quality, reproducibility and impact of science, and thereby the reliability of the evidence needed for robust decisionmaking and policy and increased trust in science,

Also noting that the global COVID-19 health crisis has proven worldwide the urgency of and need for fostering equitable access to scientific information, facilitating the sharing of scientific knowledge, data and information, enhancing scientific collaboration and science- and knowledge-based decision making to respond to global emergencies and increase the resilience of societies,

Committed to leaving no one behind with regard to access to science and benefits from scientific progress by ensuring that the scientific knowledge, data, methods and processes needed to respond to present and future global health and other crises are openly available for all countries, in accordance with the rights and obligations, including the exceptions and flexibilities, under applicable international agreements,

Affirming the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably those contained in Articles 19 and 27 and also affirming the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,

Recalling that one of the key functions of UNESCO, as stipulated in Article I of its Constitution, is to maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge by encouraging cooperation among the nations in all branches of intellectual activity, including the exchange of publications, objects of artistic and scientific interest and other materials of information, and by initiating methods of international cooperation calculated to give the people of all countries access to the printed and published materials produced by any of them,

Building on the 2017 UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session, which recognizes, among other things, the significant value of science as a common good,

Also recalling the 2019 UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) and the 1971 UNESCO Universal Copyright Convention, and taking note of the strategy on UNESCO’s contribution to the promotion of open access to scientific information and research and the UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 36th and 32nd sessions, respectively,

Also recognizing the importance of the existing international legal frameworks, in particular on intellectual property rights including the rights of scientists to their scientific productions,

Further acknowledging that the practice of open science, anchored in the values of collaboration and sharing, builds upon existing intellectual property systems and fostersan open approach that encourages the use of open licensing, adds materials to the public domain and makes use, as appropriate, of flexibilities that exist in the intellectual property systems to amplify access to knowledge by everyone for the benefits of science and society and to promote opportunities for innovation and participation in the cocreation of knowledge,

Further noting that open science practices fostering openness, transparency and inclusiveness already exist worldwide and that a growing number of scientific outputs is already in the public domain or licensed under open license schemes that allow free access, re-use and distribution of work under specific conditions, provided that the creator is appropriately credited,

Further recalling that open science originated several decades ago as a movement to transform scientific practice to adapt to the changes, challenges, opportunities and risks of the digital era and to increase the societal impact of science, and noting, in this regard, the 1999 UNESCO/ICSU Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and the Science Agenda – Framework for Action, the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, the 2003 Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing and the 2003 Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities,

Further recognizing the significant available evidence for the economic benefits and substantial return on investment associated with open science practices and infrastructures, which enable innovation, dynamic research and economic partnerships,

Agreeing that greater access to scientific process and outputs can improve the effectiveness and productivity of scientific systems by reducing duplication costs in collecting, creating, transferring and reusing data and scientific material, allowing more research from the same data, and increasing the social impact of science by multiplying opportunities for local, national, regional and global participation in the research process, and opportunities for wider circulation of scientific findings,

Recognizing the growing importance of collective science processes carried out by research communities using shared knowledge infrastructure to advance shared research agendas dealing with complex problems,

Considering that the collaborative and inclusive characteristics of open science allow new social actors to engage in scientific processes, including through citizen and participatory science, thus contributing to democratization of knowledge, fighting misinformation and disinformation, addressing existing systemic inequalities and enclosures of wealth, knowledge and power and guiding scientific work towards solving problems of social importance,

Acknowledging that open science should not only foster enhanced sharing of scientific knowledge solely among scientific communities but also promote inclusion and exchange of scholarly knowledge from traditionally underrepresented or excluded groups (such as women, minorities, indigenous scholars, scholars from less-advantaged countries and low-resource languages) and contribute to reducing inequalities in access to scientific development, infrastructures and capabilities among different countries and regions,

Also recognizing that open science respects the diversity of cultures and knowledge systems around the world as foundations for sustainable development, fostering open dialogue with indigenous peoples and local communities and respect for diverse knowledge holders for contemporary problem solving and emergent strategies towards transformative change,

Taking into account, in the adoption and application of this Recommendation, the vast diversity of the laws, regulations and customs which, in different countries, determine the pattern and organization of science, technology and innovation:

1. Adopts the present Recommendation on Open Science on this twenty-third day of November 2021;2. Recommends that Member States apply the provisions of this Recommendation by taking appropriate steps, including whatever legislative or other measures may be required, in conformity with the constitutional practice and governing structures of each State, to give effect within their jurisdictions to the principles of this recommendation;

3. Also recommends that Member States bring this Recommendation to the attention of the authorities and bodies responsible for science, technology and innovation, and consult relevant actors concernedwith open science;

4. Further recommends that Member States collaborate in bilateral, regional, multilateral and global initiatives for the advancement of open science;

5. Recommends that Member States report to it, at such dates and in such manner as shall be determined, on the action taken in pursuance of this Recommendation.

I. Aim and objectives of the recommendation

1. The aim of this Recommendation is to provide an international framework for open science policy and practice that recognizes disciplinary and regional differences in open science perspectives, takes into account academic freedom, gender-transformative approaches and the specific challenges of scientists and other open science actors in different countries and in particular in developing countries, and contributes to reducing the digital, technological and knowledge divides existing between and within countries.

2. This Recommendation outlines a common definition, shared values, principles and standards for open science at the international level and proposes a set of actions conducive to a fair and equitable operationalization of open science for all at the individual, institutional, national, regional and international levels.

3. To achieve its aim, the key objectives and areas of action of this Recommendation are as follows:

i. promoting a common understanding of open science, associated benefits and challenges, as well as diverse paths to open science;

ii. developing an enabling policy environment for open science;

iii. investing in open science infrastructures and services;

iv. investing in human resources, training, education, digital literacy and capacity building for open science;

v. fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for openscience;

vi. promoting innovative approaches for open science at different stages of the scientific process;

vii. promoting international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the context of open science and with view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.