Delegates from 176 nations attending the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) have heard a strong plea that they should support campaigns to secure open access to scientific information.
"Open access has now been clearly identified as a win/win proposition to bridge the digital divide," said Shu-Khun Lin, founder and director of the Swiss-Based Molecular Diversity Presentation International, a non-profit organisation for the deposit and exchange of molecular and biomolecular samples.
Lin was addressing the Wednesday plenary session of WSIS on behalf of what he described as "the world open-access movement", as well as the summit's civil society working group on scientific information.
This working group, which is chaired by Lin's fellow chemist Francis Muguet, was largely responsible for the inclusion in the Declaration of Principles, due to be adopted at the end of the WSIS, of a clause seeking endorsement of open access as a publishing strategy (see UN meeting urged to back open access science).
"It is clear that open access is going have a significant long-term positive impact on technological development everywhere," said Lin. "We expect that the summit recommendations will substantially accelerate this trend, over the whole spectrum of society, and over the whole world."
He said that open-access strategies would enable industrialised countries to make significant savings by reducing the costs of scientific publishing, and would allow developing countries to access the knowledge that such countries produce.
The next step, said Lin, was to persuade all those who fund research that is reported in scientific journals — including governments, research agencies, philanthropic foundations, and private companies — to ensure that authors publish their results in open-access journals.
It was also important to implement "practical programmes and mechanisms" to provide financial support to open-access and open-archives initiatives, and to build up open-access infrastructures.
"Last but not least, we would appreciate moral support at the highest possible level to appeal to the conscience of all scientists [to support open access] for the benefit of all humanity," Lin concluded.