Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge

Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and the Knowledge Equity Lab at the University of Toronto Scarborough collaborated on an international webinar series in 2020 on Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge. The events were designed to support the UNESCO consultations on creating a 'Recommendation on Open Science,' an international normative document to be adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in November of 2021.

The webinar series was based on a brief titled 'Open Science Beyond Open Access: For and With Communities A Step Towards the Decolonization of Knowledge.' It has been prepared by Florence Piron (Université Laval), Leslie Chan (University of Toronto), Lorna Williams (University of Victoria, Lil’wat First Nation), Rajesh Tandon (PRIA India) and Budd Hall (University of Victoria). 

The sessions deliberated on questions such as why and how should science be ‘open’? And whether this openness also enables citizens globally to contribute to science, such as through citizen science or participatory action research projects.

Interestingly, the three dimensions of science openness—to publications and data, to society, and to excluded knowledges—are rarely considered together. In fact, they tend to be ignored by the proponents of one or the other. For instance, many action-research scholars do not really check if their work is accessible to society, since many choose to publish in “prestigious” journals or costly books published by for-profit publishers that only people linked to a university can access. Conversely, open access practitioners, most of whom are from the Global North, tend to ignore the plurality of knowledge or even the fact that some interesting and important knowledge could exist outside of mainstream science. It is desirable to include all three dimensions in UNESCO’s future Recommendation on Open Science.

The webinar series call for science that is based on values of co-operation, sharing, friendship, compassion, understanding and refusal to separate personal life and values from research. Science can support cognitive justice and situations where everyone contributes knowledge, regardless of their country, social class, gender and language. We call for science as a pluriversal and plurilingual open space—a science with and for communities and where knowledge is open and empowering.

This community space intends to share the recordings, transcripts, and reports from the various regional webinars. We will also be sharing materials on an ongoing analysis of the emerging themes of open science from the rich dialogues that took place across regions.

The webinar series took place in these various regions: