Category Archives: Africa

Relevance of Open Data Towards a Sustainable Environment – SFSA 2018

Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) has become a highlight on the calendar of many South Africans and those from abroad. Attracting individuals from all fields of science, researchers, policy makers and students, the forum saw over 3 000 registrations. Science Forum South Africa aligns with the global World Science Forum, annually hosted by countries from all over the world. World Science Forum 2019 will take place from 20 to 23 November 2019, Budapest, Hungary.

It was during SFSA 2016 that the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) was first announced. During SFSA 2018, AOSP hosted a session titled “Relevance of open data towards a sustainable environment”, focussing on data in priority disciplines. The session was well attended, and the panel comprised of three speaker’s all from different African countries and fields. The first to present was Ms Eiman Karar, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Environmental Programme in Sudan. Ms Karar’s focus was on water data, highlighting the inequality to accessing water on the continent. Dr Mohamed El-Hadidi, Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics at the Nile University in Egypt focussed on genomic data. He illustrated how data from genomics could be used to address the sustainable development goals i.e. allowing plant breeders to access and identify variation in genomes that are useful for crop improvement, addressing sustainable development goal 2, namely “zero hunger”. The last speaker was Dr Suzanne Smit, an executive board member of the Urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research group based at Stellenbosch University. Her presentation was on planning, measuring and monitoring in building sustainable cities in urban Africa, which speaks to sustainable development goal 11. According to Dr Smit, data from the informal settlements are required to inform housing policies. Slums are dynamic, and more frequent and current data are needed from these areas to plan ahead.

The above presentations opened the way for a more focussed approach to be followed by AOSP during 2019. It is clear that lots of data intensive research are conducted on the continent, and that if high priority discipline specific areas can align and share data, science can be accelerated, finding solutions faster, pooling efforts together through possible collaboration in terms of infrastructure, data repositories, and more.

The audience was captivated and learnt more on the importance of data including opening it up. Presentations were followed by a brief question and answer session. During the closing session, it was indicated that AOSP’s pilot phase (2016-2019) would not end here, and will be followed by a phase two of the project. The announcement received huge applause and excitement from the room. The AOSP launch document was shared with the audience at the forum and made available online. Access the recorded live stream of the AOSP Phase 2 announcement here.

View the report from the AOSP Session during SFSA 2018.

Listen to the recording from the SFSA Closing Session, mentioning AOSP Phase 2.

Budgeting for Open Access

For Open Access to quality research to remain sustainable, institutions and libraries across Africa and the world are encouraged to budget in order to support Open Access, Open Science and Open Data. Open Access can only be sustainable if the library and research communities contribute back.

Ways in which institutions/libraries can support Open Access, Open Science and Open Data:

– Developers can report bugs in Open Source software, or contribute code to the developers of a specific software product, such as DSpace or OJS.

– Libraries can financially support initiatives such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (become a member). Unfortunately there are very few members from Africa this far. Membership fees are available at https://doaj.org/membership. Interested parties are requested to contact Lars Bjornshauge at lars@doaj.org.

– Libraries can support higher level initiatives for up to 3 years, such as the SCOSS initiative (SCOSS: A global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services). SCOSS advocates for helping Open Access initiatives such as DOAJ to become more sustainable.

On this page you can see which institutions are ordinary members and you can see which institutions are supporting DOAJ at a higher (SCOSS) rate: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_R14hfKZBYJOlxByUy-Uq6-vJg7fQ3WC3h1OV7qmBmU/edit#gid=0

A special list of institutions who have signed up for supporting DOAJ based on the SCOSS fees and other special commitments: www.doaj.org/scoss

In the case of DOAJ or SCOSS, potential new members can contact Lars Bjornshauge at lars@doaj.org

Please consider adding Open Access as a budget line item, so that we can continue to benefit from science as well as the software we use – freely available to all.

Webinar (free): Readying Your University to Open Data Compliance

Webinar hosted by PUSH – Presidents United to Solve Hunger. See African University Presidents who signed PUSH: Adekunle Ajasin University (Nigeria), International University of Rabat (Morocco), Stenden University (South Africa), Université Internationale de Rabat (Morocco), William V.S. Tubman University (Liberia).

In this webinar we will describe definitions of open access and open data, benefits that open data can bring, and why funders are requiring data sharing and data management plans. Also Utah State representatives will describe their policy and guidance to help faculty comply with funders’ data management and open data requirements.

Date & Time: Jan 16, 2019 10:00 AM in Central Time (US and Canada)

Register at https://auburn.zoom.us/meeting/register/1d65f2d9f925dc907c24e00bf0acd2b8

Webinar objectives are to:
Bring greater awareness of open data and data management requirements, as well as explain why data sharing is important to funders
Share funders’ and other organizations’ open data policies
Generate discussions that address the challenges of meeting open data requirements
Set the stage for cooperation among researchers, universities, funders, journals, and research associations which later will eventually develop policy alignment

Presenters
Anne Mims Adrian, PUSH Open Data Project Manager, Auburn University, Host
Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, USDA
Kevin Peterson, Executive Director, Sponsored Programs, Utah State University
Betty Rozum, Data Librarian, Utah State University

Launch of the future African Open Science Platform during SFSA2018, 12-14 Dec. 2018

We are incredibly proud to announce that the future African Open Science Platform will be launched during the upcoming SFSA2018 (12-14 Dec. 2018, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, SA) meeting. Please read more about the preparatory work done as part of AOSP at http://africanopenscience.org.za/. We also want to thank you for your contribution in taking this project forward, and for incredible support all over the continent!

It was at the SFSA2016 that AOSP was announced for the first time, by the then Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, which at the time said: “The creation of the African Open Science Platform is an excellent example of the tangible impact our Science Forum has already achieved in harnessing international partnerships to advance African science.  The Platform will play a critical role to assist African countries in developing the necessary capacities to manage and exploit scientific data for the benefit of society.  I am proud that our Department, and its entities the NRF and ASSAf, are contributing to this crucial mission.”

The role of AOSP is further acknowledged as part of the recently launched (Draft) SA White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (2018), when it says: “As part of its commitment to African STI cooperation, South Africa will also work to advance the open science agenda elsewhere on the continent and within regional frameworks. The strategic role of the African Open Science Platform, hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa, which promotes African-wide development and coordination of data policies, data training and data infrastructure, will be leveraged with the support of the DST and the National Research Foundation (NRF). In addition, South Africa is one of the founding members of the global Open Government Partnership (OECD) ….”

Read more about the future AOSP at the following: https://tinyurl.com/y7aw4oa4

AOSP during the upcoming SFSA2018 (12-14 Dec. 2018, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, SA)

We are looking very much forward welcoming all to the upcoming Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) 2018. Please encourage academics, researchers, citizen scientists and more to join.

View the programme by clicking here. Click here to register (registration is free).

The draft programme for the AOSP Session on 13 Dec. 2018, 11:00-12:30, Diamond Room, CSIR International Convention Centre: https://www.sfsa.co.za/round-2/

Relevance of open data towards a sustainable environment

Moderator

Susan Veldsman, Director Scholarly Publishing, ASSAf, SA

Panellists

The Open Africa Data Platform for Sustainable Water Management
Ms Eiman Karar, United Nations Environmental Programme, Sudan

Applications of Big Data Analytics in Bioinformatics and Biomedical Sciences
Prof Mohamed El-Hadidi, Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics, Nile University, Egypt

Planning, measuring and monitoring in building sustainable cities in an urban Africa
Ms Suzaan Smit, Researcher, Stellenbosch University, SA

Looking forward welcoming all soon!

 

Brief Feedback on Libsense Repository Workshop, 19-20 November 2018, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Role of NRENs in Support of Science

National Research Education Networks (NRENs – especially Level 4) in Africa, are more and more gearing themselves towards offering ICT related services to the research community – also as far as data-intensive research concerns. For data to be FAIR – findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable – it needs to be curated using trusted platforms. In addition to curation, access to High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters are required to benefit from services offered through the Cloud and recently, also on the Edge. A great deal can be achieved through coordination of resources and investment in shared infrastructure. In 2017 AOSP presented a paper and workshop during the UbuntuNet Connect Conference, inviting NRENs to also explore offering data related services. This was followed by an AOSP meeting between researchers and NRENs on 14 May 2018, Pretoria, South Africa. AOSP has identified stakeholders consisting of representatives from NRENs and researchers to propose a framework for an ICT Infrastructure, towards the sharing of research data, and towards implementing a tangible AOSP during the next phase. The group – under leadership of Prof Benjamin Aribisala – is working on guidelines, guiding both NRENs and governments, to be reviewed by experts during Year 3 (2019) of the AOSP project.

NRENs, Libraries and Institutional Literature Repositories

During the past Libsense Repository Workshop, the UbuntuNet Alliance managed to create a platform for librarians (specifically institutional literature repository managers) to engage with technical NREN staff, to see how they can support and collaborate with one another. It was a great event, and future collaboration looks promising, depending on commitment from both parties. This a first step towards librarians and NRENs collaborating towards extending and advancing institutional literature repositories, towards federation and integration, and towards becoming next generation institutional repositories (COAR). The focus was very much on institutional repositories, but the possibility exists that the repositories can be extended to also address the complexity involved regarding the curation of data sets. Different disciplines apply different metadata standards, and the metadata for data sets is far more complex (also captured as part of Research Data Management Plans, more and more required by funders globally). The curation of data sets also a challenge because of the Variety, Velocity, Volume and more.

NRENs indicated that the following services can potentially be offered to researchers and libraries: hosting of repositories, digital preservation implementing LOCKSS, federated identity management, and more.

From the AOSP landscape study, more than 55 data repositories were identified. Libraries, data scientists and data repository managers are encouraged to work together, and to also register data repositories with re3data.org, towards a comprehensive understanding of what is happening on the continent.

A parallel meeting with VCs from universities across Africa was hosted by UbuntuNet, discussing ways universities and NRENs can strengthen collaboration towards addressing the challenges brought forward by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The presentations from the Libsense workshop are available at https://events.ubuntunet.net/event/19/ Presentations were further guided by the outcomes of the survey at https://www.dropbox.com/s/155fokahpl0tleb/UA%20Interim%20Survey%20Report_Final-20181119.pdf?dl=0, and also the COAR proposal towards New Generation IRs. See https://www.coar-repositories.org/activities/advocacy-leadership/working-group-next-generation-repositories/

Please note:

DSpace 7 to be released early next year, including next generation tools. https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/DSPACE/DSpace+Release+7.0+Status

Invenio 3 already offers new generation IR tools.

Focus on Data Analytics: AOSP reflections from the “Big Data Analytics: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice” Conference, 12-14 Nov. 2018, Cairo, Egypt

Ancient Egypt has been the source of many innovations. It was therefore appropriate to further explore how the Egypt of today can innovate through using data, in order to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT)). During the 3-day “Big Data Analytics: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice Conference” in Cairo, Egypt, the impact of data in the world we live in became a reality, through many examples shared by Egypt and industry leaders from across the globe. This international conference – which took place from 12-14 November 2018 in the Steinberger Hotel El Tahrir, Cairo – was hosted by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and organised and funded by the Serageldin Institute for Multi-disciplinary Advanced Research (SIMAR). Dr Serageldin is a member of the AOSP Advisory Council, and a passionate advocate for Open Access, Open Source, Open Data, Open Science, the African Open Science Platform, and more.

Although data acquisition, data cleansing, data storage and data management are all crucial activities part of the data curation lifecycle, it seems as if data analytics is the one stage which is highly challenging, currently in the process of rapidly turning to be the heart of the digital revolution. In his keynote, Michael Keller – Stanford University’s Vice Provost and University Librarian – shared examples of advanced analytical techniques such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Neural Networking – in the humanities and social sciences.

In his presentation on Blockchain, Prof Amr El Abbadi, Professor of Computer Science, University of California Santa Barbara, gave a fascinating presentation on the basic protocols used in Blockchain. Referring to building blocks created for records, linked using cryptography, timestamps and transaction data, Blockchain is expected to benefit many kinds of “transactions”, including data transactions, making the transfer of data associated information also more secure. It is still early days for Blockchain, but it is looking promising.

Ahmed Ossama, Innovation Senior Manager at Dell EMC, explained that until recently, data scientists designed algorithms based on the assumption that the data being analysed would be moved to a single, centralised repository such as a data lake or a cloud data center. Apart from data growing at incredible rates because of the Internet of Things (IoT), social media and more, data are very distributed, scattered across geographical regions that span the globe, imposing severe constraints on how data can be analysed using Artificial Intelligence in the form of Machine Learning and Deep Learning. Edge native analytics was shared as a solution to address this challenge towards analysing the data in a cost-effective and cost-viable manner. An example of the kind of data that can benefit from Edge Computing, is the data collected through sensors in Smart Cities, to be deployed in highly populated Smart Cities of the future. With Edge Computing, Cloud Computing-like services are brought to the network Edge, and Edge Analytics is expected to complement Cloud Analytics in handling Big Data.

The Internet of Things (IoT) envisions a world where everyday objects are transformed into smart entities using sensors/actuators and other computing technologies. These smart objects are expected to generate Big Sensed Data (BSD). AI techniques can be used in the different parts of the data pipeline, from the sensor network to the analysis of the data to the application. Machine Learning can improve data collection efficiency and reduce network overhead. Real-time data processing, such as complex event processing, and a set of event detection techniques were discussed. Application domains that can benefit include air pollution monitoring, precision agriculture and water quality monitoring.

Many examples on how data analysis is used in Egypt and the Arabic language (through word embeddings) have been shared. Khaled AlAttar, Vice Minister for Digital Transformation, Automation and Administrative Development (MICT), demonstrated how Big Data is used to transform the policy-making process (data-driven policies) in Egypt, in support of the Egypt National Development Plan towards the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063. Data is evidence, to inform policymaking in social equity programmes, healthcare and universal coverage as well as policies related to economic activities, incl. the country comparative analysis.

The power of data truly came to life when it was shared how emoticons on social media are used to adapt systems to meet users’ needs. Sensitivity to emotions increasingly drives advertisements, learning processes, software coding, productivity and more.

In biomedical sciences, in order to draw a reasonable biological conclusion, genomes of thousands of individuals need to be studied. Biologists and computer scientists must get on board of Big Data. Recently the rapid advancement in next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies generate humongous amounts of DNA data. Data analysis is becoming very expensive and challenging compared to the cost of data generation (cost of data generation 5x less than data analysis). Storage is also a challenge, e.g. the size of a single human genome is 140GB. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) (public repository for biological data), contains petabytes of data, and increases annually by 15 petabytes. It is estimated that by the year 2020, annual growth will be around 44 trillion zettabytes. Challenges in terms of Big Data concern Volume, Velocity, and Variety. Biological data can be classified mainly into DNA and protein sequences, gene expression data, protein-protein interaction, and pathways data. As current bioinformatics algorithms and techniques won’t be able to handle such a rapidly growing huge varied data, Big Data platforms can be a key solution to overcome challenges.

The above just a selection from the many highlights of the past conference. The presentations from the conference are to be uploaded to the conference web soon. See https://www.bibalex.org/quantitativeanalysisconference/Home/StaticPage.aspx?page=14

The paper presented on behalf of the African Open Science Platform is online available: Research Data towards a Sustainable World.

Thank you to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Serageldin Institute for Multi-disciplinary Advanced Research (SIMAR) for the arrangements, support and more. It is an important step towards a better understanding of the needs to be addressed through a future African Open Science Platform (AOSP), aligning policy, capacity building, incentives and infrastructure to allow for advanced data computing, incl. analysis.

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Useful Links:

ProgrammableWeb https://www.programmableweb.com/

IBM data technologies https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/smart/za-en/

DeepDive http://deepdive.stanford.edu/

GoodTables http://goodtables.io/

Kaggel https://www.kaggle.com/

P300-base Brain Image Viewer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a28Abkw7A7Y&list=PLQGWPROIVZ3ij1Fh5aZFOSbFmy5StBzgy

TOBi https://www.vodafone.co.uk/chatbot/

Egyptian Knowledge Bank http://www.asrt.sci.eg/index.php/ekb

HoloClean https://holoclean.github.io/gh-pages/index.html

Tamr https://www.tamr.com/

Trifacta https://www.trifacta.com/

CAPMAS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Agency_for_Public_Mobilization_and_Statistics

Brief AOSP Feedback on IDW2018, 5-8 November 2018, Gaborone, Botswana

International Data Week 2018 brought together more than 800 participants from 64 countries and 6 continents, with top numbers from Botswana, South Africa and the United States.

The African Open Science Platform (AOSP) – managed by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) – was part of the organising committee, and also managed to fully/partially sponsor 30 delegates from Africa in some way. We were further very proud to sponsor the colourful African beaded lanyards the 600 paid-up registrants received when the conference started, and hope you will use it in innovative ways to always remember this conference! One of our delegates tweeted on Twitter: “I have been to many, many conferences, and this “lanyard” is the best! So pretty!” Thank you for your appreciation.

Thank you to our host – the University of Botswana – and main organisers (CODATA, RDA, WDS, and University of Botswana), and all delegates, for an excellent event. From the outset IDW2018 was aligned with the mandate of AOSP – which is to create awareness and advocate for high quality research data to be curated in a FAIR way. At the same time AOSP managed to establish many new networks globally, and became aware of even more Open Data initiatives on the continent. IDW2018 truly fulfilled our expectations in terms of the purpose of what an international conference should be about, among many others:

  • Sharing and testing innovative ideas;
  • Exchanging existing and new information among experts and upcoming researchers, passing on expertise;
  • Extending “international” to also include Africa, connecting North and South;
  • Making governments part of the conversation;
  • Having keynotes sharing the new frontiers of science with all;
  • Engaging in dialogue and challenging ideas/thinking;
  • Connecting scientists from Africa with one another, but also with people from outside Africa, to collaborate in taking the curation of research data forward, and
  • Giving many excellent researchers the opportunity to express and share great experiences and initiatives – giving all a much needed voice through this very important platform.

The proposed draft International Data Week Gaborone Statement – one of the many outcomes of the conference – is in the process of being finalised. Major outcomes for AOSP included – among many others – the opportunity to further add to the landscape study and the database of networks, and to create awareness on AOSP – also among delegates from outside Africa. The AOSP frameworks on policy, infrastructure, capacity building and incentives were further presented and tested for the first time during the AOSP Technical Advisory Board Meeting, and valuable feedback was received. A video will be compiled following interviews conducted with participants, responding to the question “What are the socio-economic benefits of Open Data and Open Science for Africa and the world?” The video will form part of the AOSP Advocacy Toolkit, used to create further awareness for the need for policy and more by African governments. Presentations, recordings and photos as well as keynotes are expected to be made available at http://internationaldataweek.org/ soon.

Dr Serageldin (keynote speaker and also a member of the AOSP Advisory Council)  – during his announcement of the conference theme – said: “Our societies need more than knowledge, they need wisdom. The knowledge produced by the Natural Sciences, requires the insights of the Social Sciences, and the wisdom of the Humanities.” We therefore need each other, Open Science and Open Data not only connecting African scientists, but also connecting disciplines and scientists from all over the world with one another, towards collaboration to accelerate science.

Both the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and AOSP are looking forward working with all in taking Open Data and Open Science forward along with key stakeholders globally. In the words of Pasteur, also quoted by Dr Serageldin: “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and it is the torch which illuminates the world.” We cannot illuminate the world if data, information, and knowledge are not open and transparent, cannot be tested/verified, and are unavailable for others to build on existing data, information and knowledge. Finally, all to lead to wisdom, so that we have a better understanding of how we can make our world more sustainable for future generations, addressing priority disciplines on the African continent and elsewhere, such as food security, infectious diseases, clean water and climate change.

On behalf of ASSAf and AOSP, thank you for the opportunity we had to be part of this very important event, and to engage and meet with so many of you! We are looking forward staying in touch and towards future collaboration!

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Other ASSAf/AOSP presentations/activities/involvement during IDW2018:

  • 2 Nov Workshop: The Role of Librarians in transforming the world through Open Data and Open Science
  • 3 & 4 Nov: Meeting of the AOSP Technical Advisory Board
  • 5 Nov: Open Science in Africa – Opening Session
  • 6 Nov Panel Discussion: The international dimension of a sustainable and FAIR-enabled European Open Science Cloud
  • 6 Nov Panel Discussion: WDS Capacity Building CODATA RDA
  • 6 Nov AOSP Session & Presentation: Skills-development in an increasingly data-driven science environment: an African perspective
  • 7 Nov Gala Dinner Funder Message on behalf of AOSP
  • 8 Nov 2018: Chairing session on: Data Revolution for Local Impact – Data Policy and Innovation Use Cases from Tanzania
  • 8 Nov 2018: Receiving message of appreciation on behalf of AOSP
  • 9 Nov 2018 WDS Data Repository Workshop: African Open Science Platform

Presentations for the above are available at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DOcsA0OEuJDl3OIagfIPD35NZuUMcOM2  

Presenters during the AOSP Session Skills-development in an increasingly data-driven science environment: an African perspective

IDW2018 in the media:

African Open Science Platform: a vision of Agenda 2063

Source: October 2018 – AlphaGalileo is the world’s independent business to business service of breaking research news for the media

Agenda 2063 envisions an African continent that is peaceful, prosperous and integrated. The emerging view is that the continent would have developed elaborate intra- and inter- information systems and processes to exploit the digital revolution for the attainment of Agenda 2063 and for translating its benefits for the African people.

The Africa of the future would be comprised of countries whose institutions are well resourced and well-coordinated with operational infrastructural capabilities to facilitate efficient flow and exchange of information for development and effective decision making.

A key driver to achieving Agenda 2063 is an African Open Science Platform where the African science community freely shares their research activity, outputs and data in a well-coordinated Open Science framework, supported by a well-coordinated funder framework.

Several Open Science activities are underway across Africa. Through the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) initiative, it is expected that a great deal will be gained if, in the context of developing inter-regional links, mechanisms for collaboration, exchange of good practice and coordination can be established. A multi-state, inter-regional Open Science and Open Data initiative will help achieving the OECD policy principles, but also the objectives of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.

The three year pilot project (phase 1) is currently heading towards the end of year two. A high-level stakeholder meeting has been held on 3-4 September 2018, to explore a proposal towards the implementation of an actual African Open Science Platform, incl. an Africa Data Institute, supported by funding, infrastructure, policies, training and more.

Read more about the African Open Science Platform project at http://africanopenscience.org.za.

Inquiries: susan@assaf.org.za or ina@assaf.org.za