The Open Science

An Open Letter

We, researchers, scientists, technologists, and concerned citizens from diverse disciplines and locations across the globe, urgently appeal to you: unlock the world’s science. We need to unleash the power of research and reassure the public's trust in science to usher in an ecologically sustainable world and avert an irreversible climate crisis.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperation of scientists with the commitment of governments and scientific publishers to make hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed articles and data publicly accessible, revealed the power of freely accessible knowledge. It accelerated the development of vaccines and treatments that saved millions of lives. The world witnessed the power of open science supercharging innovation to address global crises.

Now, humanity is confronted with the dangers of destabilizing the global ecosystem, which is an even greater threat than COVID-19 to our health and well-being. According to the established framework to understand Earth systems, human activity has pushed our Earth’s natural equilibrium beyond the tipping point for six of the nine planetary boundaries, representing areas such as global warming, biodiversity, and ocean salinity. We are moving into a set of new planetary operating conditions that will impact every life - directly as local ecosystems collapse, but also catastrophically on the social level as food systems and global supply chains break down. Mass migration, geopolitical insecurity, armed conflict, and new pandemics all become far more probable in such a world.

Although the fundamental mechanisms behind climate change are understood, most nations are not ready to abandon fossil fuels. The investment required for restructuring, and rebuilding our cities, mines, farms, industries, and transport systems to create a zero-carbon emission world is prohibitive for many nations. Yet, progress can be accelerated if universities, funding agencies and governments work together to put forward policy and legislation that accelerates and lowers the cost of deploying solutions at scale by providing unrestricted access to all publicly funded scientific research.

The return on investment originating from scientific research and education is amplified when it is openly accessible. We will better leverage the global investment in research, which today approaches $3 trillion annually. This funding produces around four million peer reviewed papers every year to capture the research findings. Most (61%) of this new knowledge remains locked behind paywalls, slowing down societal progress, holding back industries and entrepreneurs, delaying access of knowledge to practitioners, and losing the public’s trust in science! Liberating this knowledge will accelerate innovation across all sectors globally and bring timely solutions to all global challenges.

Open Science is a powerful catalyst, empowering the public to participate in choosing from the transformative options that scientific advancements offer society. Whether it involves embracing life-saving vaccines, adopting sustainable practices such as plant-based diets and circular food production, or embracing renewable energy technologies that redefine our lifestyles, open science offers accessible evidence, fostering confidence and building hope. By championing transparency and accountability, open science also serves as a shield for quality science and safeguards against misconduct and misdirection in science. Open Science includes, but is not limited to, making peer reviewed scholarly articles immediately accessible for free, providing appropriate access to research data as well as sharing the methodology and programming code used to conduct the research.

Exposing the scientific method to society has become more important than ever before. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives every human the right to “…share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. Open Science helps make this Human Right finally a reality.

There is no time. We have less than 30 years to stop emitting gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; to arrive at a safe landing of 1.5°C by 2050 requires us, in the rest of this decade; to reduce our current level of CO2eq emissions from 60 billion tons per year to about 40 billion tons per year, according to the latest IPCC report. If we fail, we will push the global ecosystem into a new, perilous and irreversible equilibrium. We must do everything possible to expedite the innovation cycle and accelerate the deployment of technologies and maintain the public’s trust in science that will drive acceptance of the solutions.

Mandating the open accessibility of publicly funded research is a tangible commitment governments and research funders can make that will have real impact and benefit.

Universities hold a social responsibility to serve citizens at large, not just a small fraction of scientists that are fortunate enough to access scientific knowledge. As institutions that exist for the public good, their purpose transcends the boundaries of academia. They play a vital role in actively contributing to the betterment of society. By embracing their broader responsibility, universities and research organizations have the power to drive significant societal impact, foster innovation, and tackle the pressing challenges that affect communities worldwide.

Thus, universities need to reallocate their financial resources away from restricted access publishing models toward covering only publishing services that offer full and immediate open access.

A quality publishing service does have costs. But the shift to open science significantly reduces publishing costs by introducing transparency and increases its value and equity by making access universal. With free market economics fostering competition for the highest quality publishing services, costs will come down. Universities would save around US$7 billion per year if they transitioned to open access today.

We call on all academic publishers to prioritize the public good, reinforcing trust in science by committing to the following fundamental principles and actions:

  1. Universal Access by 2030: Commit to transitioning all academic journals to fully open-access models by 2030.

  2. Uphold Peer-Review Quality: Preserve and champion the core values of scientific publishing, including registration, validation, certification, and conservation of scientific findings. Publishers bear the responsibility of protecting the integrity of peer review, ensuring it adheres to universally recognized standards of research ethics.

  3. Transparent Pricing Linked to Quality: Adopt transparent financial models that directly correlate the price of publication with the quality of services offered. This foundational principle, prevalent in other industries, is glaringly absent in academic publishing.

  4. Strengthen Trust in Science: Make all scientific findings openly accessible and promote transparent publishing practices. The opacity and economic flaws of traditional subscription models enable and embolden malpractice in academic publishing. A competitive environment, paired with transparent pricing tied to service quality, can effectively root out these side effects.

To governments, universities, research institutions, research funders, and industry leaders: The challenges we face are immense, but so is our collective will and potential to overcome them. By embracing Open Science, we can unlock a future without boundaries to scientific knowledge, where society is empowered to make informed decisions along the way, and where the power of collaboration across millions of scientists around the globe can propel us toward innovative solutions and a healthy society on a sustainable planet.

We (Frontiers Research Foundation) invite our fellow scientists, innovators, and the public everywhere to sign this open letter to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to accelerated and trusted Open Science. Together, we can shape a world where knowledge is freely accessible, solutions are rapidly shared, and humanity's brightest minds can collaborate without barriers for the betterment of all.

Sign the Open Science Charter

*By signing this petition, you agree to your name being added to the public list of co-signatories and to receiving email updates from Frontiers Research Foundation about this initiative (you can unsubscribe at any time). Your personal information will be processed in accordance with the Frontiers Research Foundation’s privacy policy.

Thank you for signing the charter which will be updated shortly.

Your support will help to unlock critically time-sensitive solutions for healthy lives on a healthy planet.

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