In November 2021, all 193 United Nations Member States adopted the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Recommendation on Open Science (UNESCO, 2021a), which signaled a shared commitment to globally recognized standards for open science. However, as with other normative instruments established by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as UNESCO, the ways in which local, national, and regional leaders will implement the recommendation can and will vary (Finnemore, 1993). Top-down and bottom-up coordination across international stakeholders in the research system is critical for the framework to be effective in driving global policy implementation and enabling sustained research culture change. Such international coordination necessitates an understanding of the complex economic, socio-political, and cultural dimensions that exist among these stakeholders and may influence local implementation efforts and norm-setting (Martinsson, 2011; Nilsson, 2017). This mixed methods study explores leaders’ sensemaking of emergent global norms for open science through public discourse during the development of UNESCO’s recommendation. The central research question is: How did institutional leaders make sense of emergent global norms for open science during UNESCO’s multistakeholder initiative? The study is situated at the intersection of systems thinking, global norms, and sensemaking, using a social constructionist lens. A synthesis of study findings draws two conclusions: That there is evidence in the discourse of accelerating self-organization toward open science among Member States who responded to UNESCO’s call for commentary on the draft recommendation; and that there is also evidence in the discourse of a degree of instability around prospective norm diffusion and internalization of the Recommendation on Open Science (2021a) related directly to matters of implementation. The tension between emergence and instability is well documented throughout the literature across complex systems, global norms, and sensemaking. Therefore, the study supports the ongoing exploration of global norms development and, specifically, the critical progression from norm emergence to norm diffusion. Given the theoretical coherence of complex systems, global norms, and sensemaking as evidenced throughout the findings, the novel integrative analytic frame that was developed during the design of this study may support other global norms development studies.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Leadership; Decision making; Discourse analysis; Open scholarship

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Laura Hyatt