IWA Publishing is pleased to announce a new initiative spotlighting the work of our latest cohort of Open Access Ambassadors

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as expressing the importance of Open Access publishing. 

Our next blog post comes from Willian Weber de Melo, a PhD Student of Civil Engineering at the University of Minho, Portugal. Connect with Willian on LinkedIn.

A big thank you to Willian for contributing! 

In recent years, the effects of climate change have become increasingly evident. Only in the first quarter of 2023, the USA simultaneously experienced a winter storm in the North and a heatwave in the South, a devastating flood hit a coastal city in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after a record-breaking rainfall of more than 680 mm in 24 hours, and a tropical storm caused huge losses in Madagascar and Mozambique. In addition, some European countries, the Horn of Africa region, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya are continuing to suffer from one of the most severe droughts in history. These extreme weather events are attracting attention due to their intensity and to the immense losses that they are causing. Therefore, it is urgent to develop tools that can anticipate the effects of climate change in our world, and which are essential to plan preventive and mitigating measures to protect vulnerable populations.

In this context, Open Access (OA) Science can be fundamental to providing accessible resources for countries struggling against climate change effects. By promoting more transparency in the scientific process, Open Science can democratize access to information by making outcomes available to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic conditions. Hence, Open Science can be a means of promoting climate justice, particularly for low and middle-income nations that not only have not significantly contributed to climate change but are also the most vulnerable to its consequences. Thus, it is unfair that those who contributed the least to the problem are also the ones who bear the highest costs. OA would ensure that countries which are unable to fund science to solve their specific challenges have access to knowledge produced by other countries, providing them with insights and strategies that can help to adapt to climate change.

Considering flood-related studies, several open-source hydrological and hydrodynamic software suites are available for estimating potential losses under different future scenarios. This type of methodological approach is essential for planning appropriate solutions tailored to the unique characteristics of each region, such as early warning systems, defence infrastructures and urban planning maps. The results of these methodologies are usually published in scientific journals, but not all of them are freely accessible. This limitation restricts the reach of such knowledge, even though their findings could aid in the resolution of similar problems in other parts of the world.

Moreover, repetition is a fundamental part of the scientific production cycle to validate new knowledge. If access to state-of-the-art techniques and technologies is restricted, it will take longer to confirm or refute this knowledge, slowing the pace of scientific development. One area that must be also addressed is that the implementation of open-source software solutions is as crucial as publishing it in OA journals. Otherwise, the knowledge provided by an OA publication would face another obstacle when attempting to implement it. To ensure that OA Science really contributes to democratising knowledge, it must also encourage the use of tools that are accessible to everyone.

Promoting OA can guarantee that knowledge is accessible to different stakeholders, including policymakers, journalists and the general public interested in the topic. The speed at which information is shared nowadays is astonishingly fast. In a fraction of seconds, an article published can be read anywhere in the world, given internet access. Thus, credible information platforms must make their content available to anyone seeking access. This becomes especially important in light of the impact that fake news and misinformation may have in our societies nowadays, as groups that deny the existence of climate change and other scientific facts continue to diffuse their ideas. Conspiracy theories and science denial publications are easily found on the internet, and are usually “OA”, whilst high-quality peer-reviewed knowledge remains restricted to those willing to pay for it. Hence, OA can also play a critical role in disseminating accurate information throughout our society, thereby reducing the impact of misinformation.

In summary, encouraging OA Science is of utmost importance in the fight against climate change. It can be a means to promote climate justice and, even if it clearly cannot offset all the costs of possible impacts, OA can at least provide knowledge on possible solutions for developing countries, which are among the most vulnerable countries even in less severe climate scenarios. Of course, access to knowledge without practical action will not solve our current climate situation, and effective measures are essential in order to improve our resilience against climate change, but investing in OA would increase the reach of cutting-edge solutions to those who can potentially benefit from them, reducing inequities due to climate change effects.

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