UNESCO, Open Science, Open Access and Scientific Publications

By : Carlo Vinicio Caballero Uribe MD
Editor en Jefe Global Rheumatology by PANLAR https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9845-8620

05 May, 2022


"At the end of last November, UNESCO adopted the first international framework on Open Science. This document was signed by all 193 countries present at the 40th General Conference of the organization, which aims to improve the transparency and accessibility of scientific findings"

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Carlo V Caballero Uribe MD

At the end of last November, UNESCO adopted the first international framework on Open Science. This document was signed by all 193 countries present at the 40th General Conference of the organization, which aims to improve the transparency and accessibility of scientific findings(1).

According to UNESCO, 70% of scientific publications are currently fee-paying, but in the past two years, the proportion has dropped to 30% in the case of publications about coronavirus, which for the organization is evidence that science can be open.

For the first time, the document includes a universal definition of open science. It is defined as follows:

“an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible and reusable for everyone, to increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society, and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community”.

Open science comprises all scientific disciplines and it builds on the following key pillars: open scientific knowledge, open science infrastructures, science communication, open engagement of societal actors and open dialogue with other knowledge system (2).

In this unanimous statement, member States commit to:

“establishing regional and international funding mechanisms for ensuring that publicly funded research is undertaken based on the principles and values of open science, as a tool to reduce inequalities between countries and leaving no one behind with regard to access to science and benefits from scientific progress".

Regarding scientific publications (peer-reviewed journal articles and books, research reports and conference papers, among others), the document states that they:

“may be circulated by publishers on open access online publishing platforms and/or deposited and made immediately accessible in open online repositories upon publication, that are supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency or other well-stablished not-for-profit organization devoted to common good that enables open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability and long-term archiving”(2).

The document states that a paywalled method of publication, where immediate access to scientific publications is only granted in exchange for payment, is not aligned with their recommendations and that any transfer or licensing copyrights to third parties should not restrict the public’s right to immediate open access to a scientific publication (2).

The recommendations are oriented towards the recognition of science as a public good governed and owned by the community. Latin America has a long tradition of promoting open access through repositories such as Scielo, Redalyc or directories such as Latindex, which now places it as one of the strongest regions in the world in terms of providing open access to publications, under the conditions referred to in the document.

These institutions, together with the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) have issued a joint declaration to support the UNESCO declaration. Some noteworthy aspects of the document according to CLACSO(3) are:

  • Inclusion: All scientists and other open science actors and stakeholders, regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career state, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status, or any other grounds, have an equal opportunity to access and contribute to and benefit from open science.
  • Equity: Open science should build on long-term practices, services, infrastructures, and funding models that ensure the equal participation of scientific producers from less privileged institutions and countries.
  • Universal participation: Full and effective participation of societal actors and inclusion of knowledge from marginalized communities in solving problems of social importance.
  • “Bibliodiversity” and multilingualism: Encouraging “bibliodiversity” and multilingualism in the practice of science, in scientific publications and in academic communications.
  •  Publication model: Support non-commercial publishing models and collaborative publishing models with no article processing charges or book processing charges. 
  • Cooperation: Promote the creation and development of shared infrastructure of open science and non-commercial open science infrastructures.
  • Compensation: Aligning incentives for open science. Evaluation systems should consider the wide breadth of missions within knowledge creation environment; these missions come with different forms of knowledge creation and communication, not limited to publishing in per reviewed international journals.
  • Strengthening of existing efforts: Build on existing efforts to improve the ways in which the scientific outputs are evaluated, such as the 2012 San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, with an increased focus on the quality of research outputs rather than quantity, and by fit-for-purpose use of diversified indicators and processes that forego the use of journal-based metrics such as the journal impact factor.

The current publishing ecosystem has several barriers to access and different pressures on the system that must be corrected(4). Organizations that have to find smart ways to fund projects that, although free for end users, entail a cost for authors and institutions; pressures on researches who must publish their work in accredited journals, preferably in English as the lingua franca of science today, well placed in the different rankings in order to remain in the competence; the pressure of publication models that appear to be open access as they do not charge the reader, but do charge the authors and institutions that are unable to pay. The universities and organizations that must adjust their production to meet an increasing number of requirements demanded in these rankings that end up putting pressure on the journals in their editorial strategy oriented to meet quantitative requirements (e.g., impact factor, quartiles Q1, Q2, etc.) rather than qualitative(4,5).

We believe that this statement is a powerful step in the right direction. However, all the points listed require creative solutions from the scientific community. If we want an inclusive, equitable, with universal participation, multilingual, “bibliodiverse” and non-commercial open science, we have to promote, from all institutions and organizations of the ecosystem, a radical change in the ecosystem’s incentive system so that all actors are oriented to comply with this vision of open science promoted by humanity through UNESCO, so that it does not end as a statement of good intentions.                                                 

PANLAR has understood for some years that we are heading towards a paradigm shift and that there was a need to create projects in line with the changes in the ecosystem of scientific publications. This is how the idea of Global Rheumatology arose as a journal for the new times, a diamond open access, multilingual, continuous publication, non-profit and financed by the institution to give visibility to the production in rheumatology in the Pan-American area, which has been gaining a place in the ecosystem of scientific publications and has recently been included in DOAJ, the leading directory of open access journals worldwide(6,7).



  1. “UNESCO sets ambitious international standards for open science”. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-sets-ambitious-international-standards-open-science
  2. “Draft Recommendation on Open Science” (full text). Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000378841
  3. “Declaración de apoyo a las Recomendaciones sobre Ciencia Abierta de la UNESCO”.  Available at: https://www.clacso.org/declaracion-de-apoyo-a-las-recomendaciones-sobre-ciencia-abierta-de-la-unesco/
  4. Global Rheumatology. “Obstáculos para la difusión de la ciencia en América Latina”. (Podcast).
  5. “Open science, done wrong, will compound inequities”. Nature 603, 363 (2022) doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00724-0
  6. Caballero Uribe, CV. “Global Rheumatology by PANLAR, una idea a la que el tiempo le ha llegado”. Global Rheumatology [Online]. Pan-American League of Associations of Rheumatology (PANLAR). 2020 Jun 12. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.46856/grp.11.e004
  7. Directory of Open Access Journals. Available at: bit.ly/3M1rLne.
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