Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Earlier we referred to the growing mistrust of science by society, to the increasing significance of ethical issues, to the questioning of the need for change, to the public’s fear of alienation and exclusion. These issues can all be addressed by making science a more open and democratic activity.

For the true ‘knowledge society’ to exist, a cultural change is necessary within science itself, which recognizes:

• That the knowledge possessed by the community in the form of values, beliefs, traditions, morality, feelings and behaviors is critical to the successful uptake of scientific knowledge

• That ‘lay knowledge’ and ‘scientific knowledge’ are equal, and necessary, partners in the process of innovation and adoption

• That true communication is not just about sharing information, but more about sharing meaning and achieving a common understanding.

Foreshadowing the rise in the democratization of science, the UNESCO World Conference on Science said:

Today, whilst unprecedented advances in the sciences are foreseen, there is a need for a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge. The scientific community and decision-makers should seek the strengthening of public trust and support for science through such a debate.

The Conference went on to declare:

The practice of scientific research and the use of knowledge from that research should always aim at the welfare of humankind, including the reduction of poverty, be respectful of the dignity and rights of human beings, and of the global environment, and take fully into account our responsibility towards present and future generations. There should be a new commitment to these important principles by all parties concerned.

A conference organized by the British Council concluded that science can, and should, become more open and democratic, and that citizens should be admitted as active partners and participants in the innovation process. It said efforts to promote a democratic science will encourage:

• openness

• transparency

• responsibility and accountability

• independent research and advice

• negotiation of appropriate technological trajectories

• meaningful dialogues

• development of skills and education policy

• forecasting and resolution of conflicts and crises

• equity in the distribution of knowledge and technological solutions.

In Open Science, we argue that the democratization of science is not merely desirable from a societal viewpoint, but also from a scientific one.
The community can bring to science many ideas and perspectives that will result in the science being more widely accepted, rapidly adopted or commercialized, and of greater value to more people than would otherwise be the case. Society can be a partner in the process instead of an uninformed, and occasionally reluctant and resentful, recipient.

Democratization will help to ease public fears about rapid and profound change, and help to allay concerns about loss of control or failure of ethical standards. It will reduce the risk of exclusion. In developing countries it will help bring knowledge to poor people far more quickly by engaging them in the process.

We also propose a charter for global science, technology and science communication in the 21st century, appealing to all the world’s scientific institutions, scientists, science managers, communicators and policy makers to renew the essential ideal – that science belongs to all humanity – and to join together in bringing it about.

It states:

1. Knowledge is the common heritage of all the world’s people.

2. The sharing of knowledge is as important as its discovery.

3. Science will be open. It will engage the community in a democratic dialogue, each recognizing the other as an equal partner in human advancement.

4. Partnership between all nations, developed and developing, in knowledge sharing is central to the peace, wellbeing, health and sustainability of humanity.

Source of Information : CSIRO-Open Science Sharing Knowledge in the Global Century 2010

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