Category Archives: Africa

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

AOSP Frameworks guiding National Governments in Africa

As part of the deliverables of the African Open Science Platform, frameworks are being developed to guide governments in countries in Africa towards trusted and responsible data curation. The timeline for the frameworks:

  • 30 August 2018: Progress report (incl. framework on the framework) 
  • 31 October 2018: Submit final draft framework & roadmap 
  • 3-4 November 2018 (during TAB meeting in Botswana): Testing & reviewing of draft framework & roadmap
  • December 2018: Finalisation of draft framework & roadmap following input
  • 15 January 2019: Submit finalised draft framework & roadmap
  • Feb – Aug 2019: Possible participation in workshop/s to test draft framework, roadmap & recommendations
  • By October 2019: Published OA article in collaboration with AOSP

The draft frameworks will be subjected to various peer-review rounds following 15 January 2019. The developers of the frameworks/coordinators are:

  • Policy – Prof Joseph Wafula (Kenya)
  • ICT Research Data Infrastructure – Prof Benjamin Aribisala (Nigeria)
  • Capacity Building – Ms Ina Smith (South Africa)
  • Incentives – Dr Louise Bezuidenhout (UK)
  • Research Data Management for Librarians – Ms Thembelihle Hwalima (Zimbabwe)

Advocating for Open Science during the DST/ASSAf Roadshow towards the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting gives 500 to 600 outstanding young scientists the opportunity to discuss key questions in physics with 30 Nobel laureates. In 2019, the focus will be on cosmology, particle physics and quantum technology. Young scientists across Africa are encouraged to source funding and to also apply to attend this prestigious meeting.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will be seeking and supporting South African candidates to participate in the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting to be held from 30 June to 5 July 2019 in Lindau, Germany.

The 69th Meeting of Nobel Laureates will be dedicated to Physics. The meeting will be attended by Nobel Laureates in Physics and about 600 highly-talented young scientists from across the world.

As part of a Roadshow to create awareness, and to encourage young scientists to apply, AOSP participated and presented key notes on Open Science during the various interactions with the universities, creating more awareness of Open Science locally. The events were financially sponsored by the ASSAf International and National Liaison Office. Inquiries can be directed to Ms Edith Shikumo at edith@assaf.org.za

Deployment of Open Data Driven Solutions for Socio-Economic Value through Good Governance and Efficient Public Service Delivery, 30 August 2018

AOSP presentation during the third seminar in the Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) series. The seminars are hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The information collected and the recommendations made will be used to inform and influence government policy via the DST.

OPEN DATA FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC VALUE: ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

Presented by Ina Smith, African Open Science Platform
The African Open Science Platform project aims to understand policies related to open science and open data on the continent. The project also considers infrastructure, capacity building and incentives. Research data inform government policies and decisions, and government data inform research. Access to quality data is increasingly important. Without data, one is just another person with an opinion.

Governments use taxpayers’ money and therefore need to build transparency, accountability and trust, much of which can be achieved through the correct management of open data. An example of this was the follow-up to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Foreign national health and aid workers came to Africa and collected much data on the outbreak, which they took home with them when they left. Only after the outbreak was under control was there a call for good open data from researchers for use in possible future outbreaks. Collecting data is expensive, so re-using data and building on existing data is essential. Another example was the case of the high incidence of species substitution and mislabelling detected in meat products sold in South Africa. Unfortunately the complete research results were not made available to the public. Citizens have the right to see this type of data in order to make their own informed decisions.

Open data will streamline the dissemination of information, including the sharing of information between government departments. Open access will help democratise the country through the provision of equal access to all, and will provide information for better decision-making by policy-makers. Access to open data enables the targeting of resources, but deep understanding of how to curate valuable data resources is essential. To maximise the usefulness of data, it is essential that it is well curated, as open as possible, and as closed as necessary.

In order to address global challenges, international collaboration and the sharing of government data is very important. Unfortunately South Africa is lagging in this regard. The documents on the South Africa National Data Portal were uploaded in 2015 and nothing has been added since then. The Open Data Institute publishes some government information in their report Supporting sustainable development with open data, and also shows many examples of how data can help countries address socio-economic challenges.

Delegates were encouraged to attend International Data Week in Gaborone, Botswana from 5–8 November 2018. Information on the event is available at www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/.

AOSP High-level Stakeholder Meeting & Calendar for Sept – Dec 2018

As part of its commitment to African STI cooperation, South Africa – through the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) project – is working towards the advancement of the open science agenda elsewhere on the continent and within regional frameworks, along with many other stakeholders. AOSP plays a strategic role, through which African-wide development and coordination of data policies, data training and data infrastructure, are leveraged, with the support of the SA Dept. of Science and Technology and the SA National Research Foundation (NRF). Valuable networks were established this far, and there is great support for future collaboration among those networks.

AOSP is currently heading towards the end of Year 2 of its 3-year term. A landscape study has been conducted, frameworks are being developed, and we are looking forward to further engagement with more African countries in the third year of the project.

The SA Dept. of Science and Technology, alongside the AOSP Advisory Council, hosted a high-level stakeholder meeting on 3 and 4 September 2018. The meeting brought together individuals discussing a proposed Phase 2 of AOSP: The African Open Science Platform – The Future of Science and Science for the Future. Contributions during the meeting will be incorporated into the proposal document, after which it will be circulated for further review.

The following presentations from this meeting are now online available (as more become available, it will be added to the AOSP web):

On the AOSP Calendar October to December 2018
The last couple of months of this year promises to be very busy and exciting. We hope to see you at some – if not all – of the following events.

October 2018

Open Access Week, 22-28 October 2018, Everywhere
Read more at http://www.openaccessweek.org/

November 2018 

International Data Week 2018, 5-8 November 2018, Botswana
Registration is now open for all. The Early Bird option closes on 30 September 2018. AOSP will be presenting a session on capacity building in open science. Read more at http://internationaldataweek.org/

14th Annual Meeting of African Science Academies (AMASA-14), 12-14 November 2018, Benin
AOSP participation in a session focussing on Open Science. Read more about AMASA at http://www.knascience.org/index.php/amasa/about-amasa.

ASIS&T Annual Meeting, 10-14 November 2018, Vancouver, Canada
This is a meeting of the Global Association for Information Science & Technology Professionals. AOSP is the co-author of a conference proceeding, and will be participating in a panel discussion on Open Science: Development, Challenges and Practice in the Global Context. More information is available at https://www.asist.org/am18/

Science Granting Councils Initiative Strategic Meeting, 8 November 2018, Ivory Coast
AOSP participation in a session focussing on Open Science. This is a closed meeting. Read more about the Science Granting Councils Initiative at https://sgciafrica.org/en-za

CODATA-RDA Foundational School in Research Data Science, 22 October – 2 November 2018, Kigali, Rwanda
AOSP is a proud sponsor of a facilitator presenting at this event. Read more at http://www.codata.org/working-groups/research-data-science-summer-schools/kigali-2018

December 2018

e-Age18 Conference, 2-3 December 2018, Amman, Jordan
AOSP is exploring presenting a paper on data infrastructure services that can be provided by NRENs. See the Call for Papers at http://asrenorg.net/eage18/?q=content/call-participation

Science Forum South Africa (SFSA), 12-14 December 2018, Pretoria, South Africa
Read more at http://www.sfsa.co.za/ AOSP will be presenting a session on “The Future of Science and Science for the Future”.

Infrastructure and governance are key to collaboration: perspectives from the GBIC2 (biodiversity) meeting

More and more disciplines across boundaries are grouping themselves together to benefit from the research conducted by others, and to collaborate, strengthening each other, and addressing global challenges. Collaboration is key, and unless researchers and research institutions are going to collaborate more, all will remain to be in competition, and consequently compete for funding. Through diversity and pooling knowledge together, researchers can accelerate discoveries. Through having a global view and addressing challenges in tandem, a careful balance can be maintained.

To collaborate effectively, infrastructure and governance need to be in place. The GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) – along with the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) and H3ABioNet (Pan African Bioinformatics network) communities – are examples of data intensive projects/initiatives where collaboration already takes place on especially a regional level, but also on a global scale. As far as biodiversity concerns, Africa has many biodiversity rich areas, but unfortunately – because of countries with limited access and capacities/resources – data are often unavailable.

The main objective of the past GBIF meeting (GBIC2: the 2nd Global Biodiversity Information Conference, 24-27 July 2018, Kopenhagen, Denmark) was to discuss future governance of the international biodiversity key stakeholders towards developing a network for all biodiversity information and data: what data does the GBIF community have/should GBIF get, how could data be combined, standards to apply, repositories, taxonomies, intellectual property, etc. The meeting was in agreement that – in order to advance biodiversity science – occurrences observed should be made immediately accessible in an interconnected way, working towards a vast resource base of digitally accessible data that can be searched and harvested. Organized views should be produced so that open data can be used meaningfully and immediately, without any delay.

Maria Uhle from the Belmont Forum provided a funders’ perspective. She provided some guidelines with the biodiversity community towards applying for funding:

  • Be realistic when applying for funding, and don’t promise the moon. Convince the funder that what you will do is critical.
  • Leverage and do not duplicate research. Establish innovative partnerships. Biodiversity for example connects with climate change.
  • Get the right people together to solve a problem, from all over the ecosystem. Scale & innovate to solve problems.
  • Identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Be aware that there are different cultural approaches towards solving research problems.
  • Lean into each other’s’ strengths – don’t duplicate for example what the RDA is doing.
  • Communication is key, and coordination is paramount.
  • If funders can agree on a basic Research Data Management plan, it will become less of an obstacle.

The meeting also brought other funders to the table, among others Dr Don Doering (JRS Biodiversity Foundation) and Dr Roalnd Roberts (Division of Biological Infrastructure, National Science Foundation, US).

According to Donald Hobern (GBIF Executive Secretary), up to now, the GBIF network made use of relatively cheap infrastructures built on a small scale. The purpose of this meeting was to get all stakeholders together, to find ways the community can work together better and more. The ideal would be to make biodiversity occurrences observed and found immediately accessible in an interconnected way, and have a vast resource base of digitally accessible data that can be searched and harvested. Organized views of observations should be produced so that data can be used meaningfully and immediately. Tools that allow people to get meaningful views are required to answer critical questions. Biodiversity data from all parts of the world are important, and also from African countries, which have many biodiversity rich areas. Currently there are 2 GBIF nodes based in Africa, with 22 African participants part of the network. Read more at https://www.gbif.org/the-gbif-network/africa

Towards an AOSP (African Open Science Platform) ICT Infrastructure Framework

The work done by the GBIF network and others will help to inform the generic AOSP ICT Infrastructure Framework, in terms of ICT and data sharing needs experienced by researchers on a discipline specific level. The AOSP approach is however more generic, providing guidance to governments on what is required when preparing for effective data sharing.

A working group under Prof Benjamin Aribisala, assisted by Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa who also attended the AOSP ICT Infrastructure meeting on 14 May 2018, has been established to explore existing work done this far, and to propose a roadmap towards implementation by governments. Prof Aribisala is also a member of the AOSP Technical Advisory Board.

This group comprises of the following, bringing the perspective from the NREN/ICT Infrastructure side, as well as the researcher side (incl. biodiversity):

Prof Benjamin Aribisala (Lagos State University & participant in Sci-GaIA project)
Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa (NigeREN)
Dr Anwar Vahed (DIRISA)
Dr Sumir Panji (H3ABioNet)
Dr Bruce Becker (EGI Foundation & previously Sci-GaIA project)
Dr Renier van Heerden (SANREN)
Prof Jean Ganglo Cossi (GBIF)

Various opportunities have been identified for the proposed framework to be reviewed and to be tested during Year 3 (November 2018 – October 2019) of the AOSP project. The first opportunity will be during the upcoming Technical Advisory Board meeting on 3-4 November 2018, prior to the International Data Week 2018 conference – both to take place in Gaborone, Botswana. We want to thank all involved in taking this very important project forward.

African Open Science Platform Mailing List

Higher Education/Research Intensive Libraries play an important role in supporting researchers in terms of Research Data Management, Data Repositories, Open Science and Open Data in general, and are important key stakeholders.

If you are interested in staying up to date on new developments in this field, in order to communicate relevant information to researchers at your institution, but also to better align library services offered, please feel free to join the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) mailing list:

african-open-science-platform@googlegroups.com

To become a member, please send a request to: nozuko@assaf.org.za . This list is for all, and supports collaboration to advance science. To reduce the workload and duplication of emails, we will in future send relevant emails mostly via the AOSP mailing list. All most welcome to join!