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Welcome to the Science Summit at UNGA76, a major contribution to advancing Science for the UN SDGs. Online from 14- September - 5 October 2021.
ISC will organise the second edition of the UNGA76 Science Summit around the 76th United Nations General Assembly (SSUNGA76) in September 2021. The objective of the virtual meeting will be to raise awareness of the role and contribution of science to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It will demonstrate initiatives that provide models for global science mechanisms and activities in support of the SDGs, particularly in science infrastructure and capacity building. Science is and will enable sustainable economic, environmental, and societal development. Science is more than a funding prioritisation exercise: science is impacting all areas of policy-making and is playing a more critical role in how policy objectives are achieved and the consequent benefit to people everywhere, including responses to global challenges.
Engagement with policy leadership is more important than ever: UNGA76 is a unique forum for science to demonstrate how policy and political leadership can benefit from innovation. Central to this is the role of nonstate actors and the multilateral fora, which increasingly determine how priorities are set. Science needs to be part of this dialogue and inform outputs through thought leadership, evidence, insights, analysis, and innovation.

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Friday, September 24 • 2:00pm - 2:45pm
(REF OS24) Open Science, Invention Machines and achieving the SDGs

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Ecosia is a general-purpose search engine that plants trees with profits. That such ‘community interest companies’ fund societal causes may resonate increasingly with consumers, especially given the difficulties of competing economies to embrace a necessary change in their priorities. Are we not fighting over the deckchairs on the Titanic?

Open Science can accelerate the advancement of knowledge and help humanity with its problems. Open Science can also power Invention Machines, that can convert Open Science into Closed (patent-protected) Technology. It has been postulated that Invention Machines will result in the consolidation of intellectual property in the hands of large corporations. Is this not further compounding our problems?
And what of an Invention Machine powering invention for community interest companies?

Open Science
Scientists have long published in journals to share their discoveries, to enable their peers to review their work, to be cited, and to promote further discovery. Open Science promotes the additional disclosure of all related data, samples, software, and lab notebooks including the failures as well as the successes, to accelerate further discovery.

Open Science is strongly linked to Open Access: the free dissemination of research rather than peer-created and peer-reviewed literature requiring subscription to journals or sitting behind paywalls. Proponents of Open Science have proposed the FAIR data principles for all scholarly output: notably that it should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (ref). FAIR is about machine-readability, given that research efforts systematically use computers. Accessible is ‘Accessible under well-defined conditions’ and neither obligatorily Open nor free, this to allow the participation of more actors to FAIR.
Open Science and FAIR will power Social Machines (ref.1) that ‘will dominate science in the near future’ (ref.2).
Invention Machines
Social Machines network human intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI) to do what neither can do alone. AI receives mixed press and is alternately described as the saviour and nemesis of society, however in terms of furthering science it is a no-brainer.

However, AI is a game changer: whilst it has long been said that ‘copying one person is plagiarism and copying many people is research’, AI can copy almost everyone. In science speak, AI can stand on the shoulders of almost everyone.

Humans are required to feed and nurture Social Machines whilst the AI can mine Big Data, finding links, piecing together puzzles, and solving problems: Social Machines can also be Invention Machines (ref.3).
Does Open Science power Closed Technology? Patent protection is society’s reward for a contribution to knowledge that includes a technical solution to a problem. The word patent derives from the Latin ‘patere’, meaning to lay open: the knowledge needs to be shared as part of a deal that sees the owner of the patent awarded an exclusion right, typically lasting 20 years. The owner can ringfence an invention or license it. The patent system was designed to encourage innovation for the benefit of society. Originally conceived to reward a ‘flash of genius’, whether serendipitous or born from hard work, the judgement of whether there had indeed been a ‘flash of genius’ was changed to ‘non-obviousness’ for the needs of the chemical industry. This was required to justify invention from massive screening processes.

Patent law does not presently preclude the use of AI. AI is certainly more than a screening process, but does the information industry stand to earn more than a fair reward for its contribution to knowledge when so many of the building blocks used have been Open and FAIR? Is this Collective Intelligence or Collecting Intelligence?
Openness is commonly referred to as ‘sharing’. It is attached to the notions of social responsibility and the common good.

It is often said that data is the new oil. Unlike oil, sharing data, information and knowledge means copying it; however, like oil, sharing can equate to giving it away. Sharing is not share-and-share alike and need not be fair.

It has been postulated that the cost of Invention Machines will see the future consolidation of Intellectual Property (IP) in the hands of major corporations (ref 4).
Is this a fair deal for society? And is this in society’s interests? Can we put our faith in Big Tech and Big Pharma?

Do we understand what we are getting into? Technologies can be created and implemented before the related science is understood, before public awareness or public debate about the consequences, and long before any legislation is considered. Who would have imagined that innocent Facebook ‘likes’ can now be used to define a person better than they can themselves, and how personal profiles can be used nudge opinion à la Cambridge Analytica?

What of the promises of Open Science, that ‘together we can cure disease’? The promise that the Internet would generate a ‘long tail’ of innovative niche companies would appear to have failed. Are not the Internet and the Network Effect rather building monopolies?
And what of data, economics, and democracy (refs.5a 5b) And what about mitigating climate change? ‘That the now dominant capitalist economic system is unsustainable is not in doubt’ (ref.6). We need change of the right kind.

and achieving the SDGs
Machiavelli is often quote about the difficulties of the introduction in a new order of things (ref.7). We need change ASAP. To create a ‘new world order’ is not for tomorrow (ref. 8). Even changing patent and/or tax law (ref. 9) are doubtless longer-term projects. Many people want to know what they can do now (ref. 10). Many entrepreneurs have created companies providing a social and/or environmental impact and consumers can support them.

Community Interest Companies (CIC) are an existing instrument in many jurisdictions. They compete in market economies, can borrow, and make profit, but must give at least a part of their profits back to their customers. Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees is a brilliant example.
Making money somewhat flies in the face of reducing consumerism and consumption, but privileging resale, reuse, repair, refurbishing and recycling? In terms of the necessities of information and food could society not be better nourished? Consumers will not want to pay over the odds, but the CIC model may become increasingly attractive to consumers and entrepreneurs alike.
And an Invention Machine for CICs? Could not Citizens and CICs build a Social Machine for their and all our benefits. The system could be free to use but at least some information would not be Open. Durham Zoo is a proposal for getting started.

avatar for Richard Absalom

Richard Absalom

Durham Zoo
Richard Absalom leads Durham Zoo, a project to design and build a citizen search-and-innovation engine for social good. A Chartered Engineer (UK), Richard worked previously as a patent examiner in computing and nanotechnology at the European Patent Office. Richard is an independent... Read More →
avatar for Dap Hartmann

Dap Hartmann

Associate Professor, Delft University of Technology
Dap Hartmann (1960) has a PhD in Astronomy (Leiden, 1994).From 1994-1998 he was Visiting Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.Subsequently, he worked as a researcher at the University of Bonn and at the Max Planck Institut für Radioastronomie... Read More →
avatar for Mutembei Kariuki

Mutembei Kariuki

CEO, Auni.ai
Mutembei Kariuki is a Kenyan Tech entrepreneur working to bring the benefits of AI to solvingchallenges in Africa at a start-up called Auni.ai and Fastagger Inc. He previously worked with the GermanDevelopment Cooperation, GIZ as the Make-IT in Africa Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative... Read More →

Friday September 24, 2021 2:00pm - 2:45pm CEST