The adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science by UNESCO Member States is nearing its first anniversary on 23 November 2022. On 9 November 2022, Deep-time Digital Earth (DDE) Open Science Forum was convened in Salle II at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris to promote dialogue among earth and data scientists, and representatives of several international organizations and UNESCO Member States on how DDE could support the implementation of UNESCO Open Science Recommendation.

DDE is a big science initiative launched by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), one of the world’s largest scientific unions that is commemorating its 60th anniversary in 2022. The Forum is recognized as an activity within the framework of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD) being celebrated in 2022.

DDE promotes a data driven research paradigm for the generation of insights and knowledge critical for UN Member States to reach Sustainable Development Goals. The DDE Open Science Forum, co-organized by UNESCO, IUGS, IYBSSD and DDE, was the formal global launch of DDE as IUGS’ first ever big-science initiative.

Prof. John Ludden, President of IUGS opened the Forum and invited Dr. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director General (ADG) for the Natural Sciences in UNESCO to address Forum attendees. Dr. Nair-Bedouelle stressed the importance of the implementation of UNESCO Open Science Recommendation and welcomed the interest of DDE to contribute by promoting data driven research and development in the earth sciences. She called upon earth scientists to make their data, information and knowledge societally relevant and contribute to UN efforts to assist Member States to reach Sustainable Development Goals. She highlighted the need to focus on participation of women, small island development states (SIDS) and African scientists in the implementation of UNESCO Open Science Recommendation and she encouraged DDE to contribute to the training and empowerment of geoscientists, in particular in Africa, and especially women, in managing their natural resources.

Prof. Michel Spiro, Chair of IYBSSD, in his opening remarks described the importance of geology and other basic sciences in international cooperation for sustainable development. He explained the motives and reasons for the launch of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD) and expressed his pleasure in recognizing DDE Open Science Forum under the umbrella of IYBSSD.

Prof. Jennifer McKinley, Chair of the Governing Council (GC) of DDE, thanked UNESCO, IUGS and IYBSSD for joining hands with DDE in co-organizing this global launch of DDE. Prof. McKinley informed Forum participants that despite the constraints experienced by all parts of the world during the global pandemic, DDE has grown and made significant contributions to international cooperation in data driven research. DDE now includes 24 members, 27 working and task groups and a number of partner organizations contributing to implementing DDE projects and initiatives; DDE funded 3 projects in 2021 and is expected finance an additional 3-5 projects under a seed grant fund set up in 2022; the DDE Platform had been officially launched the day before the Forum during the 5th meeting of the DDE Governing Council (GC) and is now open for use by scientists from all parts of the world for data driven research; a research center of excellence (RCE) has been opened in Suzhou, China and is open to hosting post-doctoral fellows from all parts of the world. DDE welcomes UNESCO Member States to consider establishing RCEs in all parts of the world.

Following the opening remarks of UNESCO, IYBSSD and DDE representatives, 4, 1-hour technical sessions (see agenda by clicking this link -- FORUM AGENDA (PDF) to know speaker/panelist titles, institutional affiliations) were convened:


In session 1, on Implementing Open Science Recommendation with FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) principles, H.E. Ms. Ramata Bakayoko-Ly, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Cote d’Ivoire described the process that led to UNESCO’s adoption of the Open Science Recommendation. She then highlighted progress in implementation so far particularly in Africa, including in her own country, Cote d’Ivoire. Prof. John Ludden presented IUGS activities to commemorate the organization’s 60th anniversary in 2022 and their relevance to implementing UNESCO Open Science Recommendation. He informed the Forum of IUGS’ recognition of the first 100 geological heritage sites of the world; some of them could be venues for Open Science initiatives. Prof. Chengshan Wang, Chair of the Executive Committee of DDE described how DDE, since it started activities in 2019 has contributed to implementing the 4 pillars of open science as defined in the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation: he highlighted the launch of the DDE Platform for scientists to share data and knowledge under FAIR principles as landmark achievement of DDE. He outlined some DDE initiatives on infrastructure and capacity building through DDE RCEs and projects financed by DDE. During the discussion that followed the three presentations, a representative of the UNESCO Category 2 Centre, in Kinshasa, DRC invited DDE to consider establishing an RCE for Africa in that Centre.


In session 2, on Geosciences contributions to emerging global environmental and development challenges, Prof. Qiuming Cheng, past President of IUGS and the holder of the UNESCO Chair on Digital Earth and Mineralogy provided a keynote address on “Geosciences for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. He emphasized that geological data has been critical for understanding evolution of climate, geographies, life and materials. He provided case studies to demonstrate the use of computer aided data analyses on distribution, availability and quality of mineral resources. Three panelists provided brief commentaries based on Qiuming’s keynote address and their own work. Sven Renner from the World Bank informed the Forum participants how his team on extractive industries, i.e., fossil fuels, minerals etc., increasingly rely on data to minimize carbon footprints of extraction projects: Olivier Peyret from Schlumberger, France, briefly spoke about the history of his company’s long-standing interest on data and measurement. He highlighted his company’s work with Open Science Data Universe (OSDU), which enjoys widespread acceptance in the industrial sector. Mike Stephenson, Director of DDE for Europe and the Middle East stressed that natural resources development in developing countries, particularly in Africa must become more data driven and the DDE Platform could help such countries to collaborate with scientists from developed countries. During discussions, ADG/SC, Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, welcomed and invited DDE and its partners to assist less developed countries in Africa to develop skills and capacities to benefit from data platforms such as that launched by DDE as well as others, including those established by private sector enterprises like Schlumberger.


In session 3 on DDE Platform: infrastructure, data sharing and data science tools, there were three keynote presentations. The first one from Prof. Jian Wang illustrated the value of the cloud-based DDE Platform to the entire DDE community of scientists. He provided examples to showcase the very high speeds and lower costs of computation of cloud-based platforms in comparison to that are based on others. In his view there is a lot of synergy between what DDE Platform could offer and the expectations of the implementation of the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation. Prof. Rob Hazen used his studies on “mineral ecology” and his research on predicting distribution of mineral species in land surfaces on earth and other planets as an example to illustrate how massive datasets in combination with cloud based analytical options generate new insights and knowledge that were unimaginable in the past. Prof. Junxuan Fan, in the third keynote presentation, showed how the combination of supercomputers, algorithms and massive fossil and stratigraphic datasets have made it possible to significantly improve the time resolution of biodiversity evolution during earth’s history. Simon Hudson, the CEO of CODATA, one the world’s earliest data driven international cooperation initiatives and a Vice-Chair of the international group of experts that drafted the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, expressed his interest in collaborating with DDE on FAIR data principles and their applications.


In session 4, on Geo-literacy: raising public awareness and societal relevance of geological sciences, Dr. Daven Quinn presented a keynote address where he noted that geological concepts are not always presented in a way that the public could understand and appreciate. He encouraged linking geo-science teaching at all levels address societal issues such as natural hazards and geological sites of interest. Geological knowledge and understanding are necessary for addressing human impacts and responding to climate change. This keynote was followed by 3 panelists expressing their own views on the theme of the session. Dr. Silvia Peppeloni, outlined the growing interest in geo-ethics, particularly in relation to sharing data and geosciences knowledge of importance to addressing and resolving issues linked to sustainable development. Patricio Villafane noted that not all countries have technologies to access the vast volumes of data that are being generated. He expressed the hope that Open Science initiatives like that launched by UNESCO would make data more accessible to scientists in less developed countries. He informed the Forum participants that DDE will launch a “DDE 2023 World Cup” competition for young scientists that would encourage young scientists to use the DDE Platform to answer specific earth sciences questions and problems. Guy Debonnet introduced geological sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Such sites, due to their popularity arising from being part of a UNESCO List could provide opportunities for popularizing geological knowledge among visitors and people resident near them.



In the closing session Prof. John Ludden, President of IUGS, summarized the principal outcomes of each of the 4 technical sessions. He expressed his satisfaction with the way the Forum had been organized and the quality of contributions from keynote speakers, panelists and participants. The Forum provided the long-awaited face-to-face interactions for DDE to inform a global audience of its progress and achievements during the last 3 years. He recalled the fact that following adoption of UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science by the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2021, one Member State suggested that to ensure early implementation of the Open Science Recommendation,” Deep-time Digital Earth”, a pilot project with the International Union of Geological Sciences should be considered as an international collaborative project. The DDE Open Science Forum has generated insights, ideas and partnerships that could be used to design and launch joint UNESCO, IUGS and DDE initiatives that could illustrate best practices for the implementation of the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation guided by FAIR principles. He concluded by expressing the hope that contacts and relationships developed during this DDE global launch would be consolidated and will lead to new DDE initiatives for the implementation of UNESCO Open Science Recommendation benefiting earth scientists in all parts of the world.