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Towards a global knowledge commons


Summary of the sustainable development goals e-forum discussion

In September, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) e-forum discussion took place, jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and COAR.

Over the 12 days of the forum, participants engaged in discussions about the role of access to information (and open access) in sustainable development. Participants contributed numerous examples, illustrations, and case studies that demonstrate that access to information and open access improves peoples lives. Access to information and open access are cross-cutting issues that underpin most, likely all, of the SDG’s and should be seen as a critical element for being able to achieve them. Strategies for promoting access to information are diverse and depend to a large extent on the local environment. Clearly, advocating with national governments takes time, but can be successful. Despite our differences, the whole community could benefit from greater information sharing about experiences and success stories. The archive of the discussion is available here: https://dgroups.org/fao/ciard-econsultation/sdgs-impact-access-information-societies/.

We had four presentations during the forum from: Stuart Hamilton, Jean Claude Guédon, Leslie Chan and Ellen Namhila. The recordings of all webinars are available on the FAO website here: http://aims.fao.org/capacity-development/webinars. We also received a short pre-recorded video that Ms. Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning entitled, “SDGs and Access to Information” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6KMQV9VYg4&feature=youtu.be.

One of the important things that became clear in the e-forum was that open access repositories have a very important role to play in supporting sustainable development across the world. Not only do they provide access to knowledge and information published in (often) “out of reach” subscription-based journals, they also contribute to the development of local infrastructure and capacity building at institutions around the world. They ensure that local knowledge is preserved in the context where it was originally created. We should not underestimate the value of the distributed network we are building towards the creation of a more sustainable, open knowledge commons.

Yet there is still work to be done. The international journal system, in which most researchers highly desire to publish for the prestige, skews national research agendas towards issues of importance to Western Europe and North America. Several of the presenters talked about repositories as mechanisms for addressing this issue and creating a more equitable system. But this means expanding the role of repositories beyond just providing access, towards adopting value added services such as peer review.

In the coming months, we’d like to further expand on the ideas around open access repositories and such value added services in order to assess whether they are feasible and have merit to our community. Any further thoughts from the community on this are most welcome.

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