Open science and research

UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

Open science can make the scientific process more transparent, inclusive and democratic. It is increasingly recognized as a critical tool in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and a true game changer in bridging the science, technology and innovation gaps, and fulfilling the human right to science. UNESCO’s Recommendation on Open Science broadens the definition of open science.

unesco open science

The UNESCO's Recommendation on Open Science provides an international framework for open science policy and practice. It recognises disciplinary and regional differences in open science perspectives.

The recommendation 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. It contributes to reducing the digital, technological and knowledge divides exist between and within countries.

Here we provide a brief summary of the UNESCO Recommendations on Open Science, drawn from the original document.

UNESCO's open science pagesThe UNESCO recommendation outlines:

  1. A common definition for open science
  2. Core values and guiding principles for open science
  3. Recommendations for priority areas of actions

The open science definition presented in the recommendation is very broad. According to UNESCO, the four pillars of open science are:

  1. Open scientific knowledge; scientific publications, open research data, open educational resources, open source software and source code, and open hardware
  2. Open science infrastructures; virtual and physical
  3. Open engagement of societal actors; crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, scientific volunteering, citizen and participatory science
  4. Open dialogue with other knowledge systems; indigenous peoples, marginalized scholars, and local communities

Core values of open science

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science lists core values that are integral for open science.

  1. Quality and integrity
    Open science should respect academic freedom and human rights, and support high-quality research by bringing together multiple sources of knowledge. It should make research methods and outputs widely available for rigorous review and scrutiny, and be transparent in evaluation processes.
  2. Collective benefit 
    As a global public good, open science should benefit humanity as a whole. To this end, scientific knowledge should be openly available and its benefits universally shared. The practice of science should be inclusive, sustainable and equitable, also in opportunities for scientific education and capacity development.
  3. Equity and fairness 
    Open science should ensure equity among researchers from developed and developing countries, enabling fair and reciprocal sharing of scientific inputs and outputs. It should provide equal access to scientific knowledge to both producers and consumers of knowledge regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status, or any other grounds.
  4. Diversity and inclusiveness 
    Open science should embrace a diversity of knowledge, practices, workflows, languages, research outputs and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of the scientific community as a whole. It should champion diverse research communities and scholars, as well as engage the wider public and knowledge holders beyond the traditional scientific community, including indigenous peoples and local communities, and social actors from different countries and regions, as appropriate.

Guiding principles of open science

The following guiding principles for open science provide a framework for enabling conditions and practices within which the above values are upheld, and the ideals of open science are made a reality.

  1. Transparency, scrutiny, critique and reproducibility
    Increased openness should be promoted in all stages of the scientific endeavor, with the view to reinforcing the strength and rigor of scientific results, enhancing the societal impact of science and increasing the capacity of society as a whole to solve complex interconnected problems. Increased openness leads to increased transparency and trust in scientific information. It reinforces the fundamental feature of science as a distinct form of knowledge based on evidence and tested against reality, logic and the scrutiny of scientific peers.
  2. Equality of opportunities 
    All scientists and other open science actors and stakeholders, regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, 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.
  3. Responsibility, respect and accountability 
    Responsibility for all open science actors should form the basis for good governance, along with public accountability, sensitivity to conflicts of interest, vigilance as to possible social and ecological consequences of research activities, intellectual integrity and respect for ethical principles and implications pertaining to research.
  4. Collaboration, participation and inclusion
    Collaborations at all levels of the scientific process, beyond the boundaries of geography, language, generations and resources, should become the norm. Collaboration between disciplines should be promoted, together with the full and effective participation of societal actors and inclusion of knowledge from marginalized communities in solving problems of social importance.
  5. Flexibility
    Due to the diversity of science systems, actors and capacities across the world, as well as the evolving nature of supporting information and communication technologies, there is no one-size-fits-all way of practicing open science. Different pathways of transition to open science need to be encouraged while upholding the core values and principles presented in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.
  6. Sustainability 
    To be as efficient and impactful as possible, 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. Open science infrastructures should be organized and financed upon an essentially not-for-profit and long-term vision. They enhance open science practices and guarantee permanent and unrestricted access to all, to the largest extent possible.

Recommendations for Member States

To achieve the objectives of this Recommendation, Member States are recommended to take concurrent action in the following seven areas, in accordance with international law and taking into account their individual political, administrative and legal frameworks.

  1. Promoting a common understanding of open science, associated benefits and challenges, as well as diverse paths to open science.
  2. Developing an enabling policy environment for open science.
  3. Investing in open science infrastructures and services.
  4. Investing in human resources, training, education, digital literacy and capacity building for open science.
  5. Fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for open science, universities, research institutions, publishers and editors, and scientific societies across disciplines and countries, to change the current research culture and to recognize researchers for sharing, collaborating and engaging with other researchers and society, and to support, in particular, early-career researchers in particular to drive this cultural change.
  6. Promoting innovative approaches for open science at different stages of the scientific process.  
  7. Promoting international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the context of open science and with a view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps. has discussed UNESCO’s open science recommendation with three articles (in Finnish):

Have a look at other international recommendations and policies on open science and open scholarship

League of European Research Universities (LERU)

League of European Research Universities suggests a culture change in the way stakeholders in the research, education and knowledge exchange communities create, store, share and deliver the outputs of their activity in order for universities to embrace open science principles, policies and practices.

LERU logo

European Union Open Science Policy

Open science is a policy priority for the European Commission and the standard method of working under its research and innovation funding programmes as it improves the quality, efficiency and responsiveness of research.

Benefits of Open science

European Open Science Cloud

European Open Science Cloud is built to offer the infrastructure for European research and development activities.


Go to Open Scholarship page

Culture of Open Scholarship

Culture of Open Scholarship refers to e.g. responsible researcher and research assessment, services needed for open science and research and citizen science.

An Aalto pen lying on the page of a study book, students working in the background / photo by Aalto University, Aino Huovio
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