A Decade of Open Science: Milestones in Achieving UNESCO’S Open Science Recommendations

The journal GigaScience celebrates its 10th anniversary with a look at the milestones it has reached and the milestones to achieve in the arena of open science .

Today, the first biological and biomedical “data” journal GigaScience celebrates its 10th year of being at the forefront of open scientific publishing. GigaScience was launched on July 12, 2012, at the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) conference in Long Beach, CA; and the journal’s team is currently at the 30th ISMB Conference in Madison, WI, to host a celebration of their first decade alongside the publication of an Editorial detailing their achievements in promoting open science and goals for the future. With the recent release of UNESCO’s recommendations for open science, GigaScience takes its 10th birthday as an opportunity to look back at what the journal has achieved among these recommendations and where the journal needs to direct its energies in the future. The editorial published today is part of a special series of commentaries that cover changes in a variety of scientific areas over the last decade, these include changes in open data, standards, conservation, imaging, women-in-science, and more. 

The year 2012 was labeled by some as the start of an ‘academic spring’, where organizations took huge steps to shake up centuries-old traditions of scientific communication. Scientific publishing, both in process and presentation, had been effectively locked in an ivory tower, with non-transparent publication decisions and access to information held behind financial firewalls that limited its availability to a select group of international researchers. The ‘academic spring’ had been heralded by the advent of open-access publishers, specifically BioMed Central (BMC) in 1999, followed by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) in 2003. In 2012, that start gained momentum in promoting open science via boycotts of closed-access publishers, influential policy papers signaling government moves towards open access, and the launch of a new generation of journals that were moving beyond that first important step of making published research open access to embrace wider open science principles.

These efforts have culminated in the biggest breakthrough of access-for-all with the ratification in November 2021 of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Open Science Recommendations. This set of recommendations specifically addresses UNESCO’s aim for “fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for open science.” Their recommendations cover not just scientific publishing, but also making scientific data, tools, infrastructure, etc. available to everyone, as well as adding outreach and inclusion of groups, such as indigenous people, that have typically been ignored in the decision processes and use of scientific information.  

GigaScience, after spending a decade on the front lines of open science, looks to the UNESCO recommendations as a map to see what milestones have been achieved and what areas we need to add to our future scientific publishing and communication processes. Today, on our 10th birthday, the GigaScience team has published an Editorial that gives the details of our successes, our partnerships with organizations who have led the charge in various other open science activities, and what work we need to do to achieve all of the UNESCO recommendations. We have already begun to make headway in some of these recommendations with our launch in late 2020, of our sister journal, GigaByte, that is addressing many of these barriers. A major way these are being tackled is through the use of a built-for-purpose publishing platform that has much of the processes automated, the ability to easily include a host of dynamic interactive tools within the paper, the availability of articles being accessible in different languages, and more. We are quite proud that these new efforts have just been recognized by GigaByte being shortlisted as a finalist for the 2022 Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers Awards for Innovation in Publishing. The winner is to be announced at the ALPSP Awards ceremony in Manchester, UK on September 16th, 2022.

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