Science, at its heart, is a collaborative effort. Eureka moments grab the headlines and are hugely important, but they don’t come out of the blue. They emerge from years, if not decades, of testing, rejecting and refining ideas, meticulously building a body of knowledge. Progress would be extremely slow if we all had to start at the beginning, or unwittingly take paths that others have already taken.
This is the crux of the argument for open science. The first step is free access to research literature without fees or payment walls. My aim is for all Australian research to be open access, nationally and internationally, and for overseas research to be freely available for reading in Australia.
This year, in discussions with government, researchers, publishers and other stakeholders, I started the first steps towards a potential model. We are only in the early stages, and the details will take some time to emerge. But the appetite for change is strong, and I have no doubt that if we can implement an open access strategy, it will spur Australian discovery, innovation and prosperity.
As I wrote recently in Australian Quarterly, open science is a bigger, more transformative change. In addition to access to research papers, it also means sharing research data, code and software, and research infrastructure. You can think of him as scientists and researchers sharing history.
It has the potential to make science faster, more efficient, and more accurate. It allows researchers to test the results and draw on each other’s work to obtain an increasingly sophisticated image. It strengthens collaboration between disciplines, allowing new explanations and ideas to emerge.
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The COVID-19 pandemic provides a prime example of these benefits. In January 2020, researchers began sharing the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 virus with colleagues around the world. Edward Holmes, a professor at the University of Sydney, won the 2021 Prime Minister’s Award for Science for his role in this project, after working with colleagues in China and Scotland to unleash the genetic code, catalyzing work on a test and a vaccine.
Scientific publishers have also played their part in bringing research out of behind paid walls and making it accessible to everyone. It is the creation of shared knowledge in action.
We remain in the grip of the pandemic, but vaccines and therapies developed in record time through concerted and collaborative efforts will save countless lives and dramatically accelerate recovery.
Last week, the international community took an important step towards this vision, when 193 countries at UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the first international framework on open science.
The framework recognizes the urgency of interconnected global challenges, such as climate change and the pandemic, and recognizes the importance of science in providing solutions. It also recognizes that open science is more effective, improving quality, reproducibility and impact, and thus increasing confidence. Open science is also more equitable and inclusive.
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Until now, there has been no universal definition of open science, and standards only exist at the regional, national or institutional level. Countries have now agreed to adhere to common standards, values ââand principles and to report on progress every four years.
The recommendation calls on member states to put in place regional and international funding mechanisms and invest in open science infrastructure. Just as we aim to open up access to research in Australia, he calls on nations to ensure that all publicly funded research respects the principles and core values ââof open science.
I welcome this international collaborative approach. Open science is a big goal. Working together and sharing ideas as a global scientific community is the best way to push the boundaries of knowledge and discovery.