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 Report from the Multi-stakeholder Events


Report by Dr. Francis MUGUET

Director of the Scientific Information Development Laboratory of ENSTA

18 November 2005

Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen

Our report, where only some aspects can be mentioned, concerns the following multi-stakeholder events : Open Access to Scientific Information, event of the Scientific Information Working Group 4 ; Free Software, event of the Working Group on Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks5; several events6 organized or co-organized by the Education & Research Family7 Engineering, Knowledge Society and the challenges of the 21st century, event of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations8 ; Impact of the high bandwidth networks on the exchange of scientific and technical contents, event organized by the Khawarizmi9 center; ICTs and scientific knowledge sharing organized by the Tunisian Assistance Association for Scientific Research on the Net 10.

Let us focus, in a few minutes, on the essential :
First of all, concerning Open to Scientific Information, it must be underlined, which is often ignored from the public as well as those who are governing us, that scientists are donating for free accounts of their costly research to journals, and their works are evaluated and validated for free by their peers.

However, the cost to access those journals is exorbitant, creating a digital divide at the content level.

As it has been underlined by one of the contributors, in Medicine, the lack of Open Access to scientific journals has certainly resulted in the loss of many human lives.

However, we are not only killing people, we are also killing jobs. It happens to be so, when companies small or large, are deprived from resources financed by public or philanthropic funds in order to contribute to economical growth. Countless opportunities of technological developments are lost at inception. It is therefore quite a paradox to request Science to be the ultimate recourse in order to meet the challenges of a world in serious trouble, without implementing Open Access, in a quick and efficient manner.

This absurd and hazardous situation was born from an historical evolution that shall not last during the new Information Society that shall become a Knowledge Society of Shared Knowledge.

The remedy to this situation is quite simple: it suffices to change current evaluation criteria that are constraining scientists to publish in old prestigious journals that have become preys of financial interests. One requirement in order to obtain funding for research investigations should be publishing through free and open resources. Considerable savings shall be realized in developed countries, while shall be removed this vice that chokes completely scientific efforts in developing countries. It is a win/win situation.

Concerning Education, it is rather obvious that Open Access to educational resources constitutes a key to worldwide development, in all domains of human activity, while respecting cultural and linguistic diversity.

Removing barriers that prevent to gain access to software tools that are themselves needed to access content is an obvious and urgent necessity. It is also necessary that interoperability, free from any right, should be made possible.

Concerning the implementation of the Summit recommendations, Multi-Stakeholders Partnerships are often quoted. The time has come when the United Nations should consider the question of providing them with an international legal framework. A specific proposal in that direction does exist11. This should make it possible to limit excesses by certain quasi-monopolies. This should foster also the creation of healthy partnerships in the service of sustainable development as well as multi-stakeholders governance.

As a matter of fact, one of the most original features of the Summit has been the birth and recognition of the Digital Solidarity Fund12. as a voluntary, alternative, multi-stakeholder financing mechanism. In this context, it has been proposed yet another new alternative financing mechanism13. It is based on the concept of natural obligation. Companies and entities that are realizing substantial savings thanks to the use of Free Software should feel obliged to voluntarily donate a percentage of those savings, which could then be used to finance Free Software projects to bridge the digital divide.

Therefore, with the help of those initiatives and proposals, and if the Civil Society that contributed to the long preparatory process is truely included in the follow-up coordinating body, this Summit will possibly constitute a major evolution landmark in the history of the United Nations and of this troubled world.




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