Following the release of OCSDNet’s Open and Collaborative Science Manifesto, this blog post is part of a series which seeks to provide a more nuanced context for each of seven principles associated with the Manifesto. The series aims to highlight practical examples, network case studies and relevant literature to demonstrate the relevance of this principle in a variety of contexts.

Jump directly to case studies from the Network.


By: Denisse Albornoz and Becky Hillyer

In previous blogs, we have discussed the highly participatory process of creating an ‘Open and Collaborative Science Manifesto,’ with input and debates from scientists, development practitioners and activists from 26 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and North America.

Through the creation of this document, we sought to acknowledge our collective understanding, common values, and principles around how science can help us address complex development challenges around the world.  During the process, we learned that open science it is not a set of prescriptions – there is no ‘right way’ to do open science. Instead, it is a complex process of negotiation and reflection that will always be determined by the local histories, ideologies power structures of the context. This led us to develop seven common values we feel have the potential to form the basis for a more diverse and inclusive open science in development.

[Read A Manifesto to Reclaim Open Science, available in English and Spanish,  to learn more about this project.]

Sustainable Development and Open Science

One of the seven principles articulated within the manifesto acknowledges the importance of defining ‘sustainable development,’ as a key goal towards which processes of scientific knowledge production should aim to achieve.


As highlighted in the short video clip above, we believe:

Open and collaborative science strives to use knowledge as a pathway to sustainable development, equipping every individual to improve the well-being of our society and planet.

[Visit the Manifesto page here]

Of course, the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is not a new one and indeed can be traced back to the Brundtland Commission’s 1987 groundbreaking report Our Common Future . Within this report, authors noted that they focused their attention on “the areas of population, food security, the loss of species and genetic resources, energy, industry, and human settlements – realizing that all of these are connected and cannot be treated in isolation from one another” (1987). In other words, there was a distinct recognition, amongst development thinkers and practitioners, that complex global challenges could only be solved through a holistic consideration of environmental, social and economic factors, which are intrinsically interconnected.

Of course, over the years, this term has been taken up by development agencies and NGOs around the world, the most prominent iteration of which is currently captured within the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, despite the prominence of this discourse within the development field, ‘sustainable development’ is rarely discussed within the context of open science . Thus, this principle has been acknowledged within the OCS Manifesto as a way of bridging these fields.

How does this principle relate to Open Science?

Going beyond the tripartite definition of sustainable development as a recognition of environmental, economic and social factors for solving development challenges, OCSDNet further recognizes that the creation and/or use of local knowledge is a key prerequisite for achieving sustainable development outcomes. While Western-scientific knowledge is often upheld as the gold-standard of developmental achievements, a history of failed, outsider-driven development initiatives demonstrates that knowledge and solutions relevant in one context may not always be replicated in another.

Thus, the network acknowledges the need for communities, local institutions, and research experts to find ways to collaborate effectively to achieve sustainable development objectives and center different forms of socially relevant knowledge(s) and ways of knowing into the development process.

Once again, this is not a new realization. Through an acknowledgement of the challenges encountered through the use of top-down development infrastructures and institutions, many researcher-practitioners (such as Dr. Rajesh Tandon and Budd Hall’s work on community-based research and  socially relevant knowledge in HEI ) have been making use of participatory tools and forms of engagement since the 1970’s, which instead allow for a more ‘bottom-up’ approach to development (for context – see our previous blog on the importance of cross-disciplinary learning between Open Science and Development ). These tools have the opportunity to create spaces in which knowledge can be co-created between a multiplicity of actors and applied towards complex problem-solving.

Who are we reading?

Towards our mission of co-constructing a more inclusive Open Science, OCSDNet is committed to consulting and learning from Southern theories of well-being and development, which, ironically, are often excluded from development and scientific discourse. In doing so, and in solidarity with projects of decolonization, we aspire to formulate what Escobar calls “a non-eurocentric mode of thinking” (2010) around open and collaborative science and explore what this may entail for a more equitable global science.

These are some of the sources from which we have drawn our understanding of well-being and development to develop the manifesto:

  1. Amartya Sen – Human Capabilities Approach

Economist and philosopher Amartya Sen proposes a “capability approach” (1990), in which development is assessed in terms of capabilities that provide individuals the freedom to choose the kind of life one sees as meaningful. We see Open Science as a critical practice through which individuals can voice and produce knowledge about their interests and those of their communities, as well as collaborate with other sectors of society to co-create social networks and infrastructures that support and advance these needs. This view has deeply resonated and influenced the work of several sub-grantees at OCSDNet.

  1. Vandana Shiva – Feminist-Ecological perspectives on Development

Environmental activist and anti-globalization author, Vandana Shiva is a prominent proponent and critical evaluator of sustainable development. In her 2007 work, “feminist, ecological and third world perspective” on development , she poses the argument that women from the Global South should be at the forefront of biological re-thinking knowledge paradigms, intellectual property, and biosafety in order to address the recovery of culturally sensitive biological thinking and plural knowledge traditions to strengthen the well-being of their communities.

“The colonization of other species, other cultures, and all societies has threatened both biological and cultural diversity. The democratization of biology offers an opportunity to undo these colonizations and to create possibilities for the flourishing of diversity in nature and in our minds.” (Vandana Shiva, 2007:69)

  1. Arturo Escobar – Decolonising Development

Anthropologist, post-development thinker and decolonial scholar, Arturo Escobar has written extensive critiques of mainstream development projects and rhetoric. In his classic work, “ Encountering Development” (1995) , Escobar de-constructs the development discourse and denounces its top-down, technocratic and Euro-centric approach. He moves on to explain how knowledge and science have been used as a key mechanism for the dissemination of this rhetoric across the globe, and constantly reminds us that “other worlds are possible.” We draw inspiration from this idea to think of a world where “other sciences are possible,” particularly in a context in which a highly techno-centric and Eurocentric Open Science is thriving. His recommendations to situate development within local and plural histories, subjectivities and social locations are also relevant in terms of how Open Science continues to take shape and meaning around the world.

  1. David Millar – Endogenous Development

Agricultural scientist and development scholar, David Millar from the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana, defines   “endogenous development” (2008) as a “development from within that is both biophysical and socio-cultural in nature, based mainly, though not exclusively, on locally available resources, local knowledge, culture, leadership, and their cosmovision with openness to integrate outside knowledge and practice.¨ His nuanced take on development helps us think about the possibility of coexistence and dialogue between different knowledge(s) in relation to issues of poverty, globalization and science, and the need to revisit indigenous knowledges and worldviews in this process.

“Endogenous development aims at the local determination of development options: local control over the development process and the retention of the benefits of development within the local area.” (David Millar, 2008:640)

Access our reading list here for more literature and resources.

Case Studies from the Network

There are several projects within OCSDNet, that have specifically articulated the concept of ‘sustainable development’ as an underlying principle to guide the ways in which they practice open science and knowledge-creation processes. These projects include:

1. Climate Change Adaptation in Colombia and Costa Rica

A series of participatory workshops and focus groups were conducted in Colombia and Costa Rica as part of the project: ‘Improving Adaptive Capacity through Open and Collaborative Science.’ This project sought to offer opportunities for citizens to lead the research, hence challenging the notion of who a ‘scientist’ should be, and highlighting the importance of local knowledge and small-scale participation for sustainable development around climate change.

“Call it open science, post-normal science, citizen science or community science – it nonetheless boils down to one thing: empowerment. The aim of the project is to establish links between citizens and academia in order to face one of today’s biggest challenges: adaptation to climate change.”

[Read Small is Beautiful: Promoting community Empowerment in Colombia and Costa Rica; and learn more about this project here . ]
2. Action Research and Nature Conservation in Lebanon
This project shows the application of open science principles in addressing water conservation in rural areas of Lebanon, as well as SDG 6 on “ensuring access to water and sanitation for all”. Researchers from the American University of Beirut formed a multidisciplinary team of chemists, engineers and community development specialists whose research focused on environmental pollution. The village also formed a committee composed of local officials and volunteers of different genders, education levels, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The success of the project relied mainly on long-term trust between these actors and their equitable exchange of knowledge.

“Our relation with the community is based on mutual respect and our success in implementing a change was based on informative discussions of possible remedial solutions.”

[Read about: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Call for Action Research at the Nature Conservation Center at AUB (AUB-NCC); and learn more about this project here .]

3.Environmental Education and Open Science in Kyrgyzstan

This project applied open and collaborative research principles to a citizen-led art and science environmental education project. With activities such as student-driven science shows, do-it-yourself science tool classroom workshops, and training sessions for teachers to conduct water-quality experiments, the KMEECS project has been showcased as an innovative approach for science literacy and environmental education on the regional as well as global level.

“Citizen Science is a very young approach in Kyrgyzstan but it is slowly and steadily expanding its reach to the public. There is a high interest and motivation to promote, practice and develop environmental education and open and collaborative research for fostering local-level development.”

[Read about this project in “Through Water”: Promoting Open and Collaborative Research; and learn more about this project here.]

Further Reading


  1. Lessons from Colombia by OCSDNet: Learn about the links between Open Science and biodiversity management and conservation, political conflicts, and the integration of ancestral and indigenous knowledge(s) in the scientific process in Colombia.
  2. Combining Traditional and Scientific Knowledge in Colombia by Karisma Foundation: Learn about the biofertilizer project which uses a combination of traditional and scientific knowledge to identify efficient and relevant uses for byproducts of coffee processing and sugar cane production for the community.
  3. Contributions of Higher Education to SDGs by Dr Rajesh Tandon: Read reflections about the role of what Dr. Tandon calls ‘socially relevant higher education’ institutions in sharing knowledge as a public good and providing locally meaningful teaching, research, and service to its communities.
  4. FAO Webinar by Leslie Chan, Principal Investigator of OCSDNet: Catch this webinar on the challenges and opportunities of linking Open Access and Open Science with the Sustainable Development Goals. (See slides 16-18 for details).


Do you have other thoughts about how a more open and collaborative science can contribute to sustainable development? E-mail us at, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter (@OCSDNet). The Manifesto is only a step towards co-creating a more inclusive vision of science – we welcome your comments and feedback!