UNESCO, Paris, 19-23 February 1996

Opening Address

by: J. C. I. Dooge

President of ICSU

ICSU has been a close partner of UNESCO since that organization's creation over fifty years ago, and it is a normal part of our close co-operation that we should address issues of common concern, such as the topic of this Conference, together. The objective and the form of the Conference are in complete harmony with the objectives and the spirit of both organizations. Needless to say, communication in all its forms is a sine qua non for scientific development. ICSU itself, and many of the activities on its programme, are mainly there to serve as a channel for interaction and co-operation between scientists in different disciplines and different countries. Therefore, any activity that aims at facilitating communications or removing obstacles to such interaction is especially well placed on the ICSU agenda.

The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) is an international, non-governmental organization created in 1931 with the principal objective of promoting international scientific and technological activity for the benefit and well-being of humanity. One of the ICSU Standing Committees with a specific mandate relating to communication is the ICSU Press, which was established in 1983 and is a service organ to assist ICSU family members and act as a source of advice and counsel in publishing matters. ICSU Press has also been charged by the ICSU Executive Board to give special consideration to publication problems that face scientists in developing countries. It is, therefore, gratifying to note that one of the five working groups is devoted to the problems of scientists in developing countries. It is also interesting to note that ethical aspects of the subject are to be discussed. The conclusions in this regard will be of interest to ICSU since we are currently discussing an extension of our work in regard to the ethical responsibilities of scientists. One ICSU Press initiative of relevance is the International Network of Scientific Publications (INASP), a project which supports existing and new developing country programmes involved in the distribution, local publication, exchange and donation of scientific books and journals. INASP receives support also from UNESCO. ICSU Press also organized in 1994 a workshop on Science Publishing in Latin America in co-operation with the ICSU Committee for Science and Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED), which is another collaborative activity with UNESCO.

In 1993, the ICSU Press carried out a preliminary study of the possible impacts of new communication techniques, notably the developments in the field of electronic publishing. Following a report on this study, the 24th General Assembly of ICSU, held in Chile in October 1993, requested the ICSU Press to maintain a watching brief on these developments to ensure that the best interests of the international scientific community are taken into consideration. The Conference that begins today is in direct response to that General Assembly request. When informed about the plans for the Conference, the ICSU Executive Board was especially pleased to take note of the fact that ICSU Press had approached UNESCO with an invitation to make the Conference a joint venture. This has enabled the organizers to draw on a large and extremely well-informed audience within the two organizations and I am confident that the group of experts and experienced scientists gathered here will produce a comprehensive statement of the problems and well-considered recommendations to the organizations and individual scientists that are the actors on the new publication stage. I have been informed that a report will be available well before the 25th General Assembly of ICSU to be held in Washington, DC, in September this year. I am sure that it will provide important input for deliberations in Washington on one of the most crucial questions that is now before the scientific community; the structure and governance of scientific publishing in the future; a future that seems to confront us with ever-increasing speed and ever-increasing complexity.

On behalf of ICSU, I congratulate all those who were responsible for putting together a remarkably strong programme and for having succeeded in bringing the world's leading specialists here to contribute to the programme and I wish the Conference all success in its deliberations, in its outcome, and in its follow-up.

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