The scientific debate in the media and society

Dra. Lilian Nassi-Calò[1]

The right to access the benefits of scientific progress is an understudied and underdeveloped human right, despite being recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1] and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man [2].

This right acquires special relevance nowadays, considering the accelerated and continuous scientific and technological advances and their impacts on society, economy, democracy and people’s rights, and more recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic that impacts every country in the world.

Going back to 2017, I highlight the importance of the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Research in that year [3] as a way to support the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with particular attention to SDG 9, such as a means of strengthening science, technology and innovation and making the best use of their benefits.

This “Science Recommendation” was adopted by some 195 Member States in November 2017, meeting at the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session.

The overall objective is to strengthen science itself, ensuring other interests, including the peaceful use of knowledge and other benefits that science can produce. This framework addresses all science, technology, and innovation altogether, including scientific publications and research results with practical applications. It addresses all disciplines of science, including the social sciences, and the conduct of research and innovation in all environments, including the private sector and citizen science.

In August 2019, the Workshop on the Human Right to Science: Latin American perspectives was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina [4].

UNESCO placed the Right to Science and Access to Knowledge as one of its main lines of action in the LA&C region. On the one hand, it aimed to consider the right to science from a Latin American perspective, contributing to the global debate. On the other hand, it sought to install the discussion in the regional agendas of human rights and scientific policies for development at the regional level. Moreover, the main objective was to begin to create a critical mass of experts, institutions and organizations that, from a multidisciplinary perspective, could help to develop the right to science in LA&C under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [5].

Preceding the 41st General Conference of the United Nations, which will take place in November this year, member countries agreed on the foundations of the Open Science Recommendation, which is based on three pillars: (1) making scientific knowledge open, accessible and reusable for all ; (2) increase scientific collaboration and information sharing for the benefit of science and society; and (3) opening up the process of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation and communication to society beyond the scientific community [6].

If any of us had any reservations about the universality of these pillars, I believe they became evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. The international collaboration between researchers, who immediately shared their results, allowed the creation, testing, and production of vaccines and therapies against Covid-19 in less than a year, an unthinkable timeframe until now.

BIREME, as the Pan American Health Organization’s Specialized Center for scientific and technical information, remains resolute in its mission to provide knowledge, evidence, and information for decision-making.

The Introductory Course on Scientific Communication in Health Sciences, available on the PAHO/WHO Virtual Public Health Campus [7], is the Portuguese version of the course developed in 2019 in Spanish [8], in collaboration with the Area of Publications of ​​the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (KM/EIH), which was only possible thanks to the partnership with the General Coordination of Information and Documentation of the Secretariat for Administrative Affairs of the Ministry of Health of Brazil.

Science, these days, is at the center of public debate and in the media. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, the news reported results of studies on the new disease in the form of preprints, and explained – studies that had not yet been validated by experts – and thus, the theme “science evaluation” became public and no longer restricted to academia. It was common to hear people commenting, about an article reporting the results of a study, whether the number of samples was sufficient for the study to be considered reliable or not, and once again, the theme “research reliability”, previously restricted to specialists, was discussed among lay people.

We are, perhaps without realizing it, following what Open Science establishes, by extending the scientific debate to the whole society, beyond the academic environment.

It can be said that the “popularization of science”, among countless initiatives by researchers, institutions, media and funding agencies dedicated to this purpose, was motivated by the open access movement, which allowed everyone to read scientific articles , found by searching the Web for a diagnosis received, or any other question about health, technology, philosophy, or history. The knowledge produced by scientific research is for public knowledge, not just for academia or specialists.

In line with the 2017 UNESCO Science Recommendation, in this particular aspect, the objective of the Pan American Health Organization, through BIREME, is to improve the quality and increase the quantity of reports resulting from scientific research and clinical observation.

This basic course on scholarly communication is the first step we are taking in this direction, to enable health professionals, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students in health science careers to correctly write scientific articles, following the normative systems, observe authorship criteria and ethical standards, and increase the probability of having these articles accepted for publication in journals.

We intend to soon launch an advanced course, focusing on the steps that occur after manuscript submission: peer review, publishing and indexing, science assessment, availability of research data in repositories and other relevant topics.


[1] Coordinator of Scholarly Communication in Health at BIREME/PAHO/WHO



[1] The Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and its Applications. Conference: Experts’ Meeting on the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and its Applications, 3rd, Venice, Italy, 2009. Available from:

[2] Inter-American Commission on Human Rigts. Organization of American States. American Declaration of the Rigths and Duties of Man. (Adopted by the Ninth International Conference of American States, Bogotá, Colombia, 1948). Available from:

[3] UNESCO. Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers. Revised Recommendation 2017. Available from:

[4] UNESCO. Workshop on Human Right to Science: Latin American perspectives. 2019. Available from:

[5] United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Agenda. Available from:

[6] UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. Available from:

[7] Campus Virtual de Saúde Pública. Curso Introdutório de Comunicação Científica em Ciências da Saúde – 2021. Available from:

[8] Campus Virtual de Salud Pública. Introducción a la Comunicación Científica en Ciencias de la Salud – 2019. Available from:


About the course

The general objective of the course is to train participants in the main concepts that rule scholarly communication, and specifically:

Target Audience: The course is aimed at healthcare professionals and technicians, researchers, scientific editors, undergraduate and graduate students of healthcare careers, and other interested parties.

Duration: The course is based on self-learning and has no tutoring. Participants can learn at their own pace by reviewing concepts and themes, consulting supplementary material and assessments included in all Modules. The estimated total workload for the effective development of the entire course is approximately 20 hours. At the end of the course, those who pass 70% of the test exercises will receive a certificate. You can redo the exercises as many times as necessary to obtain approval.

To learn more and register for the course, which is completely free, please visit For the Spanish version,