Acfas Colloquium Session: Diverse and Inclusive Approaches to Open Access Publishing

Speaking points

Dr. Mona Nemer
Chief Science Advisor of Canada

Acfas Colloquium Session: Diverse and Inclusive Approaches to Open Access Publishing

May 12, 2022

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Hello everyone. Let me start by thanking Acfas and the organizers of this conference for the opportunity to participate in this panel with my esteemed colleagues.


I would also like to acknowledge the participation of Ms. Liette Vasseur, President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, as Honorary Chair of the symposium. You will see that part of my speech is inspired by the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, adopted in November 2021.

Although science has always been international, this aspect has become increasingly important in recent decades.

Think of major physics projects and their infrastructures, or the sequencing of the human genome, or the development of many drugs.

Look at what we have been able to accomplish in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooperation between scientists from around the world has made it possible to understand the virus and its impacts on populations, and to develop solutions such as vaccines in record time.

Thanks to this scientific cooperation on a global scale, our collective capacity to advance knowledge is multiplied.

This globalization often leads us to use English as a common language of discourse.

Faced with this dominance of English in scientific publishing, and recognizing the value of the diversity of cultures and knowledge systems around the world, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, adopted in November 2021, invites member states to encourage, in particular, multilingualism in the practice of science, in scientific publications and in academic communications.

It is therefore important to promote, at home and elsewhere in the Francophonie, the use of French in the practice of science, in the dissemination of research results and in the dialogue between science and society.

When we visit laboratories in France, Germany, Japan, or Italy, we see that the local language is predominantly used in these places. This is also the case in Quebec and Canada.

Several other countries conduct and teach science in French. And scientists from the Francophonie contribute to the diversity of the scientific community on a global scale.

These scientists also have the ability to carry forward and represent the challenges and aspirations of their own community into the scientific community.

Hence the importance of their work being widely accessible to the international community, which is what open science sets out to accomplish: Making research results quickly accessible to as many individuals and groups as possible. Not doing so means that scientific discoveries and advances are only accessible to some and not others.

Disseminating knowledge also implies a dialogue between science and society.

This dialogue must be based on credible, peer-reviewed studies to which the population has access.

Over the past two years, we have seen the general public’s appetite for dialogue with experts to understand the science behind policy decisions.

To meet these demands, we need scientists who can speak to the public in French, and we need media that cover science in French and who can refer to scientific evidence and accessible publications.

Building this capacity requires a clear understanding of the realities of different disciplines as well as their means and mechanisms of dissemination.

It also requires us to consider whether the current system of scientific publishing adequately responds to the digital revolution, the growing importance of big data in many fields, and the reality of science in the 21st century.

It requires taking note of the profound disruptions in several sectors and creative industries where business models have undergone a transformation – sectors such as publishing, the media, the performing arts and music.

Increased funding is important, especially in times of transition, but ultimately, funding must support a serious, ambitious and realistic strategy to ensure the continuation of scientific publishing in a sustainable way. That is why my office, in collaboration with a group representing stakeholders, produced a roadmap for open science in Canada in February 2020.

Building this open science capacity in French also involves taking a look at the incentives in place that foster scientific publication, including in French, as well as the ways in which researchers are evaluated by their peers, institutions and funding agencies.

It also means promoting bibliodiversity. That is to say, we need to encourage the decentralization of scientific publishing in favour of new publishing models, another element put forward by UNESCO's Recommendation on Open Science.

Nevertheless, surprises may still be in store for us given the revolution that science dissemination is currently undergoing.

We are seeing scientific results shared on social networks.

The use of preprints, already well established in fields such as atomic physics and astronomy, has spread to many other fields including the life sciences.

Machine translation using artificial intelligence is making significant progress and could revolutionize the notion of the language of dissemination.

One thing is certain: it is essential for the vitality of Quebec and Canadian science to avoid remaining on the sidelines of international developments in the dissemination of knowledge.

Diverse and inclusive approaches to open access publishing are needed to secure our place on a global scale and to support the dialogue between science and society, which will be even more critical in the years to come.

Researchers and their institutions have already been consulted and overwhelmingly support these goals. We must now take action and we all have a role to play in ensuring the success of this transition.

Thank you for organizing this roundtable. I look forward to the discussion.