UNESCO-PAS Webinar on “COVID-19 and OPEN Science” joined by ECOSF

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A webinar on “COVID-19 and Open Science” was jointly organized by the UNESCO Pakistan and Pakistan Academy of Sciences on May 11, 2020. The webinar provided a platform to exchange ideas and experiences on potential benefits of open science that could help global community to provide evidence-based decision-making and how Pakistan can take benefit from the Open Science. Prof. Zabta Khan Shinwari the Vice Chair for World Commission on Ethics of Science and Technology (COMEST) and member of Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) moderated the webinar discussion. On behalf of the ECOSF, President ECOSF Prof. Manzoor Hussain Soomro along with his team members; Mr. Khalil Raza and Mr. Ghulam Abbas Rahar participated in the webinar.

Ms. Patricia McPhillips Director UNESCO Islamabad in her opening remarks assured that UNESCO remains an active player in promoting science as a public good and the foundation to fight against the current pandemic. Ms. McPhillips also shared that UNESCO held its 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference with participation of 193 Members States for the development of an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science. This instrument on Open Science relies on an inclusive, transparent and consultative process involving all countries and all stakeholders, she said.

Prof. Qasim Jan President PAS in his remarks underscored the significance of Open Science to fight against the COVID-19. Prof. Jan shared that the PAS can play its role as central platform for open science to Pakistani scientific community, and he welcomed recommendations to solidify this initiative. He further called for global collaboration and sharing of scientific data for evidence-based decision-making during the pandemic.

Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman Higher Education Commission of Pakistan in his remarks underlined that access to knowledge and science with international collaboration is critical for the sustainable development. He further shared that HEC being a publicly funded organization provides an open access to knowledge, research and data. He concluded that open access is an important to achieve an inclusive society and efforts must be undertaken to reduce the digital divide in the country.  

Prof. Shahbaz Khan Director UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia Pacific in Jakarta underscored that concrete measures on Open Access and Open Data to bring citizens closer to science. Prof. Khan shared a number of initiatives undertaken by the UNESCO towards proposing innovative solutions and contributions towards addressing the COVID-19. He acknowledged the contribution of ECOSF and its President Prof. Soomro towards common objectives of UNESCO and ECOSF.

Maj. Gen. Dr. Aamer Ikram the Executive Director of National Institute of Health (NIH- Pakistan) shared that Government of Pakistan has prepared the National Action Plan to fight COVID-19. This document is an open document and accessible to all. He concluded that open science is vital for scientific collaborations, especially towards the vaccine or drug development for the corona virus.

Prof. Saeed Khan Focal Person, COVID-19, DOW University of Health Sciences Karachi, highlighted the significance of open science and how it has benefited Pakistan during the initial outbreak of this pandemic. The genomic sequence of this virus led to development of indigenous diagnostic kits in Pakistan. Prof. Khan called for integrated training and resource mobilization to help the young scientists, researcher and health professionals in combating the COVID-19.

At the end, participants were given an opportunity for Q&A and further discussion; wherein ECOSF also contributed.

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