Brussels, 17 Jul 2003
The international council for science (ICSU) has launched an 'agenda for action' on 'science in the information society' and has called on governments to endorse it at the world summit on the information society in Geneva in December.
The group claims that 'the essential role of science and scientists in building the information society should be clearly acknowledged' at the summit and in any subsequent action plan.
The key theme of the agenda for action is the need for universal access to scientific knowledge, which the council claims is vital to ensure that the least developed nations are not left behind in the new knowledge based economy.
Professor Jane Lubchenco, president of the ICSU, said: 'Scientific knowledge carries enormous potential for helping the world address the UN millennium development goals, and the use of information and communication technologies [ICT] opens up unprecedented opportunities to accelerate this process.
At the same time, scientists and governments must work together to address the very real risk that the so called 'digital divide' will continue to expand and reinforce the division between rich and poor, north and south.'
Along with access to scientific data, the agenda also highlights the importance of transparent decision making and governance based on scientific research, improvements in education and training, and addressing policy issues related to scientific information.
The agenda for action proposes a number of concrete initiatives. One is the need to ensure that all universities and research institutions have affordable and reliable high speed Internet connections 'to support their critical role in information and knowledge production, education and training.
The council also argues that any legislation on database protection should guarantee full and open access to data created with public funds, and that standards for technological interoperability would lead to the most effective use of information and data.
The ICSU also calls for support for urgently needed research on the use of information technologies in key areas such as geographical information systems, telemedicine, and the socio-economic value of public information and open access systems.
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