SDG Logo

Open science is critical for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The best way to advance SDG research and ensure equitability and real-world impact is through open science practices.

In 2015, all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - an urgent plan of action to shift the world towards a more sustainable and resilient path of economic development while addressing the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. Human rights, gender equality, and the eradication of poverty are integrated throughout this plan and seen as indispensable requirements for sustainable development.

At the heart of the 2030 Agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which through their associated 169 targets provide an actionable plan. Universities have a key role to play in achieving these goals. As USask president Peter Stoicheff says in his message introducing the USask Sustainability Strategy 2021-2030: “... the world urgently needs universities to “leapfrog” so to speak, putting our knowledge to work in a more powerful and productive way.”

Indeed, USask researchers produce critically important research that could meaningfully advance the SDGs, especially in the Signature Areas of Research. But the results of research can only reach their full impact and potential if everyone everywhere has access to them: to build upon them and apply them in real world contexts. Unfortunately, many of the products of USask research are inaccessible, locked behind expensive publisher paywalls (in the case of publications), or simply not shared at all (in the case of all other products of research such as protocols, data, and working papers or reports). Making the products of research accessible is what Open Science is all about!

The federal agencies of research in the U.S. have declared 2023 the Year of Open Science with this definition:

“Open science is the principle and practice of making research products and processes available to all, while respecting diverse cultures, maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility, and equity.”

Committing to open science practices is critical to the achievement of the SDGs and does not only apply to scientific research but the outputs of research from all disciplines. UNESCO has a Recommendation on Open Science, and links open science practices to the SDGs:

“Open science has the potential of making the scientific process more transparent, inclusive and democratic. It is increasingly recognized as a critical accelerator for the achievement of 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.”

The Government of Canada has also encouraged Open Science practices with the goal of making federally funded science open to all through its Open Science Roadmap (2020). This builds upon the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications which requires all peer-reviewed publications resulting from Tri-Agency funded research be made open access within 12 months.

What are some things you can do to practice open science today?

  • Make your publications open access. Making research results openly available does not need to cost huge fees. This page on the Library Guide to Open Access provides advice on how to reduce or avoid authors fees for open access publishing.
  • Use HARVEST to make publications and other research outputs open. USask’s digital repository for research, HARVEST, provides a free and legal way to make publications, presentations, posters, reports, and other products of research open access. Digital repositories like HARVEST also ensure long-term preservation and discoverability for research outputs.
  • Make your research data open (where appropriate). Research data can be deposited for free in Canada’s Federated Research Data Repository (FRDR). More support in managing your research data is available on this Library Guide to Research Data Management (RDM).
  • Learn more about Open Science practices. Watch these sessions by USask librarian Kevin Read: What does it mean to be open? & Open-up your research. There are also many helpful modules on the FOSTER Open Science e-learning platform funded by the European Union.

How the scientific community responded to the COVID19 pandemic illustrates how effective open science practices can be: sharing new ideas and data immediately and transparently was critical to the rapid development of vaccines and treatments. To maximize the impact of research, it cannot remain accessible only to those privileged enough to work at wealthy institutions in the Global North. We must more equitably share the gains of research to achieve the important goals of sustainable development.

By D. Dawson, Science and Scholarly Communication Librarian

This post is to recognize USask SDG Week, March 6-10, 2023.