Category Archives: Africa

Brief feedback on the SA-EU Open Science Workshop, 15-16 May 2018, Pretoria, SA

Similar to many other African countries, the South African Dept. of Science and Technology (DST) has – in partnership with the European Union (EU) – started a dialogue on an Open Science policy framework for the country. Open Science is no longer an option since major world economies and industries are adopting this approach to advance innovation (Open Innovation), to tackle global challenges as defined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The first of the meetings took place on 12-13 December 2016, followed by a workshop on 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2017. An expert task team was assigned and compiled an interim report following input from all relevant stakeholders, to further direct the process and the drafting of a framework, supported by the DST steering committee. The report set the global and specifically South African context, demonstrating coherence between global aspirations and the South African National Development Plan 2013. Topic areas covering the major issues concerning Open Science were identified, incl. Open Data, Open Science and Open Innovation, Governance and Regulations, Skills and Training, Infrastructure, Funding, Metrics and Incentives, Citizen Science, Intellectual Property Rights, and Implications for Africa and the SADC.

The above topics were further unpacked during a second workshop on 15-16 May 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. Responsibilities, key stakeholders, funding requirements, the level of priority for each of the topics, and more, were discussed.

Dr J-C Burgelman, Head of the Unit Open Data and Science Cloud Policy, European Commission (EC) delivered a virtual presentation on Open Science and FP9, and progress made in terms of the European Open Science Policy. The 8 policy priorities identified by the EC include Open Data, Science Cloud, Altmetrics, Future of Scholarly Communication, Rewards, Research Integrity, Education and Skills, and Citizen Science. Progress made in terms of the priorities were shared, as well as possible future actions. Two documents were highlighted, which can potentially inform policy-makers elsewhere:

Dr Anwar Vahed explained the role of the CSIR (DST) implemented National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS) with the focus on DIRISA. NICIS comprises of the following:

  • Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) – focusing on computing services
  • SA Research and Education Network (SANReN) – focusing on network provision and services
  • Data Intensive Research Initiative of SA (DIRISA) – focusing on data management & data storage

High-performance computing capability, high-speed network capacity and a national research data infrastructure integrated hierarchically into globally connected systems and into local system systems, providing seamless access for the research and education communities, are important services for African governments to consider, to further advance collaborative research projects and the sharing of research data among researchers globally. Representatives from the three regional African NRENs attended this 2-day workshop (Dr Pascal Hoba from UbuntuNet, Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa – represented Dr Boubakar Barry from WACREN, and Dr Yousef  Torman from ASREN), to also benefit from this workshop, which followed the 1-day AOSP ICT Infrastructure Meeting in Support of Data Sharing, also attended by them.

Through sharing policy interventions and experiences, as well as initiatives such as lessons learned through NICIS, it is expected that a lot of progress can be made by countries across Africa.

The above dialogue is managed and funded by the SA Dept. of Science and Technology.

Reliable ICT Infrastructure a condition for research data sharing – African NRENs to play an important role

Whether it will be called a guideline, a roadmap or a framework – all participants during the AOSP ICT Infrastructure meeting held on 14 May 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa were in agreement that a document guiding African countries in preparing ICT infrastructures in support of research data sharing, will be of benefit to all. The one day meeting brought together key stakeholders. African regional NRENs (National Research Education Networks) attendees included Dr Pascal Hoba (Chief Executive Officer, UbuntuNet Alliance), Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa (Chief Executive Officer, NigerREN  & member of the WACREN Board, on behalf of Dr Boubakar Barry (Executive Director, WACREN), Dr Yousef Torman (Managing Director, ASREN) and Dr Leon Staphorst (Executive Director, SANRen).

The objective of this meeting was to help NRENs better understand the needs experienced by collaborative data intensive research projects, and for NRENs to consider future service delivery in support of research data. The three projects represented included H3ABioNet (Prof Nicky Mulder, Head: Computational Biology, UCT & Lead: H3ABioNet), GBIF (Dr Mélianie Raymond, Senior Programme Officer for Node Development, GBIF Secretariat) and Dr Jasper Horrell (representing the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, SA).

The GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) is a free open source software tool used to publish and share biodiversity datasets through the GBIF network. The IPT can also be configured with either a DataCite or EZID account in order to assign DOIs to datasets transforming it into a data repository. Dr Raymond during her presentation indicated that more portals, laptops/workstations and IPT installations for selected nodes are required to enhance the sharing and visibility of biodiversity data. Capacity building needs include training of researchers, students, lecturers and more in digitization, data cleaning, data publishing, and data analysis, towards more relevant and sustainable data use in support of decision making concerning biodiversity conservation.

H3ABioNet provides support for the H3Africa Human, Heredity & Health in Africa Consortium, which focuses on the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases, with the goal of improving the health of African populations. Prof Mulder shared the limitations that apply when sharing human data, and the importance of protecting the rights and privacy of human subjects when participating in research studies. The project follows a well-established workflow using open source software tools, at the same time having policies built into the various stages of working with the data. As with biodiversity, skills need to be constantly developed, and infrastructure needs to be maintained and upgraded. A challenge faced by funded projects is that collected data needs to be curated when projects come to an end, and it is for governments to discuss as to whether data is regarded as a national asset, and who will fund the long-term curation of the data.

According to Dr Jasper Horrell from the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDiA), key science on the SKA will be achieved by large-scale survey programs executed by globally distributed teams of researchers and through creating massive data. A cloud computing system that utilizes the OpenStack Infrastructure as a Service framework has been established by IDiA.  OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface. This ideal for the large amounts of data that is expected to be collected through the telescopes.

Regional NRENs represented indicated that they are in full support of working with AOSP on developing and populating a framework as part of service delivery to their research communities, and to also invite national NRENs in their respective regions to explore opportunities. Important elements to be included in such a document have been identified, and the group will continue as a working group, building on what is already in place through the SADC Cyberinfrastructure Framework, of which an overview was provided by Prof Colin Wright. This framework was approved by SADC ministers in June 2016, and the next step would be to revisit the existing framework and to adapt – where needed – for the whole of Africa, with input from key stakeholders across Africa. It was also clear that – through possible partnerships and lessons learned from KENET, IlifuDIRISA, Sci-GaIA and more, the design, development and implementation of ICT infrastructures in support of data sharing and curation can become a reality – sooner rather than later.

The AOSP ICT Infrastructure Framework will be tested during various stages and across different domains, before it will be finalized to be shared with African countries interested in advancing the sharing and responsible management of data.

Also view the following presentations:

The African Open Science Platform/Susan Veldsman

Framework and Roadmap towards an Open Science Infrastructure/Simon Hodson

Introduction to GBIF for the African Open Science Platform/Mélianie Raymond

Research Infrastructures H3ABioNet Case Study/Nicky Mulder

Data Infrastructure Development for the SKA/Jasper Horrell

Reflections on the SADC Infrastructure Framework/Colin Wright

Call for Participation in IDW2018

We would like to invite you to participate in International Data Week 2018, in any of the following ways:

About IDW2018

International Data Week 2018 (IDW 2018) will be held on 5-8 November 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana. Hosted by the Botswana Open Science and Open Data Forum, IDW 2018 will bring together data scientists, researchers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers and data stewards from all disciplines and geographies across the globe.

Co-organized by the ICSU World Data System (WDS), the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), the Research Data Alliance (RDA), University of Botswana (UoB) and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), IDW 2018 combines the 12th RDA Plenary Meeting, the bi-annual meeting of the research data community, and SciDataCon 2018, the scientific conference addressing the frontiers of data in research. To a greater degree than at IDW 2016 in Denver, Colorado, the events will be integrated, such that each day will feature an inspiring and engaging range of activities.

In a hyper-connected world where the Internet is pervasive and web technologies are driving major changes in our lives, research has become more than ever before digital and international. With the theme of ‘The Digital Frontiers of Global Science’, this landmark event will be a rich week of science and data, featuring world renowned keynote speakers, plenary panels and discussions, and the presentation of high quality research and practical working sessions for international collaborations.  Focus topics will include:

  • Research issues in a global and digital age
  • Applications, progress and challenges of data intensive research
  • Data infrastructure and enabling practices for international and collaborative research

All areas of research are in scope, including the social sciences, humanities, and business and management sciences. Similarly, the applications of data outside of research will also be considered.

Thank you for your support to help make this event a success, putting the focus on data intensive research happening on the African continent.

On behalf of the IDW2018 Programme Committee

 

SciDataCon 2018 – Call for individual papers & posters – Closing Date: 31 May 2018

The deadline to submit abstracts for papers and posters for SciDataCon 2018, part of International Data Week, 4-8 November 2018, Gaborone, Botswana is 31 May 2018.

Call for Papers and Posters
https://www.scidatacon.org/conference/IDW2018/call_for_papers

Submit Abstracts for Papers and Posters
https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/submit/

Provisionally Accepted Sessions
https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/sessions/

Themes and Scope of SciDataCon
https://www.scidatacon.org/conference/IDW2018/conference_themes_and_scope/

Call for Papers
For SciDataCon we request that proposals should be submitted for research papers, practice papers, lightning talks and panel contributions:
https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/submit/

About the Sessions
In some cases, session organisers will be inviting proposals, but please note that you may submit a proposal to any accepted session if you think your proposal is a good fit with that session topic.

Abstracts must be submitted to an accepted session or to the General Submission session. You may consult the descriptions of accepted sessions at https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/sessions/

When submitting your abstract at https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/submit/ you will need to select the appropriate session.

Abstracts submitted to specific sessions will be reviewed for their individual quality and according to their appropriateness for that session. Abstracts submitted to the General Submission option will be reviewed for individual quality and, if accepted, will be assigned to an accepted session or grouped into thematic sessions.

Author Guidelines
Accepted abstracts will be available from the conference website and will form a persistent collection, so please consider the following recommendations carefully:

o Length: The proposal for a research paper should be 800-1600 words and for a practice paper 600-1000 words. For lightning talks or panel interventions 300-600 words are sufficient. These are guides and please use your judgement. We strongly discourage proposals of more than 1600 words.
o Summary: The submission must include a summary. The summary should be brief – 100-250 words, and certainly no more than 250 words.

Call for Posters
Posters will be an important feature of SciDataCon 2018. The organisers will endeavour to ensure that all poster presenters have an opportunity to give a lightning talk as well as participating in the poster reception. Posters can often be a more effective way of communicating key technical features of a paper and providing a visual summary that really engages the viewer.

About the Sessions
Abstracts must be submitted to an accepted session or to the General Submission session. You may consult the descriptions of accepted sessions at https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/sessions/

When submitting your abstract at https://www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/submit/ you will need to select the appropriate session.

Author Guidelines
• Length: A Poster Abstract should be 800-1600 words and no more than 1600 words in length.
• Summary: Submission must include a summary. The summary should be brief – 100-250 words, and certainly no more than 250 words.
• Subject: Describe the subject of the proposed poster in as much detail as possible. Describe the structure of the poster. Above all, let us know:

o why will this be an interesting feature of the conference?
o why is it particularly suited to a poster and/or demo session?
o why the poster or demo will catch delegates’ attention and why will they stop and listen to you?

Asha Law | Program Assistant, CODATA | http://www.codata.org

E-Mail: asha@codata.org
Tel (Office): +33 1 45 25 04 96

BioVision2018 and achieving the SDGs through a knowledge based society, 20-22 April 2018

The BioVision2018 Conference from 20 to 22 April 2018, Alexandria, Egypt, created excellent opportunities for scholars (incl. students) to engage in scientific dialogue across all disciplines, creating awareness of new trends. Through this conference the Library of Alexandria and the Egyptian scholarly community managed to take the building of a knowledge based society to the next level, with the conference attended by 2 500+ delegates, eager to learn and to engage with one another.

The conference addressed achieving the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was proud to be a Bronze Sponsor and co-organiser of the session on “How open data can contribute to achieving the UN SDGs”, through ASSAf managing the African Open Science Platform project, funded by the SA Dept. of Science and Technology, with direction from CODATA (ICSU). The session brought together experts on open data policy, with the focus of two of the presentations on health science. Through this session ASSAf managed to prioritise open science and open data in Egypt, Egypt being a major player in science advancement and innovation.

An introduction was provided to AOSP and the role of data in achieving the SDGs, with a presentation on the need for open science (incl. data) policy on national level towards addressing the SDGs, by Prof Joseph Wafula, who is also the Chair of the AOSP Technical Advisory Board. The presentations from the session on open science and open data in health are available as follows:

Dr Ismael Serageldin, founding director of the Library of Alexandria, is a valuable member of the African Open Science Platform project Advisory Council, and his visionary thinking of great value to the project. AOSP is looking forward strengthening ties and advancing the sharing of high quality research data in support of the UN SDGs between North Africa and the rest of Africa, connecting African research through data.

“The progress that you have made in such a short time is amazing. Congratulations. This is true science diplomacy in action.” – Prof Roseanne Diab

The photo below was taken following the presentation of the AOSP Open Science Session during BioVision2018. On the photo: Samar Kassim, Hanan Mounir (personal assistant to Dr Serageldin, Head of the Corporate Secretariat at the Library of Alexandria), Ina Smith, Dr Ismail Serageldin (founder of the Library of Alexandria & AOSP Advisory Council Member), Mohamed El Faham, Joseph Wafula.

Uganda Progress through a National Dialogue on Open Science and Open Data, 25-26 & 27 April 2018, Kampala, Uganda

Through the network established on the continent, the African Open Science Platform project managed to make huge inroads into open data/open science policy discussions with many countries. One of these countries is Uganda, which hosted a high-level Uganda Open Data/Open Science National Dialogue and associated meetings during 25-26 April 2018 (separate meetings on 27 April 2018). We are incredibly thankful to the principal organizer, Mr Raymond Katebaka, Secretary General of the African Union of Conservationists, as well as to Prof David Bakibinga (Professor of Commercial Law, Makerere University), for their major contributions in taking the existing conversation forward, bringing all important stakeholders in Uganda together. The African Open Science Platform was a proud funder of the event which was coordinated together with the African Union of Conservationists, with great support from the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST).

The meeting was well attended by more than 60 people, and included the Executive Secretary, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST); Assistant Commissioner, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance; National Environment Management Authority (NEMA); Ministry of Health; Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS); National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U); with some key researchers from Makerere University.

The workshop discussed Uganda’s draft Open Data Policy, and workshop sessions discussed research data issues, incl. strategy and stakeholders, barriers and incentives, policies, technical infrastructure and training. Valuable meetings were held with the Vice-Chancellor of the Makerere University, the Executive Secretary and team at UNCST, the Director of Research and Graduate Training, Makerere University, and the RUFORUM Secretariat. Opportunity was also given to participants to share their projects on open data, subject repositories, visualisations and the much needed cyber infrastructure needed. The conference also had the underlying theme of how Open Science can address achieving the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Through this work AOSP managed to prioritise open science and open data in Uganda.

One of the deliverables is a report to inform the way forward on a Uganda Open Science/Open Data policy. Needs were expressed in terms of data training and infrastructure, and AOSP is looking forward continuing working with Uganda in taking all forward.

Selected presentations delivered are available as follows:

Thank you to all the presenters, and specifically Nozuku Hlwatika, Susan Veldsman & Simon Hodson representing AOSP during this highly successful event.

Comment by one of the participants:

“Although, I was only able to attend the last session, I felt that the dialogue triggered our thoughts on open data, and provided a platform to talk, participate and make critical efforts towards an open data policy in Uganda.Thanks for the opportunity and lets keep the dialogue going-on in anyway possible.”

Photo below: Meeting of Conveners of the National Dialogue on Mainstreaming Open Data with Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, 26/04/2018 — with Raymond Katebaka, Susan Veldsman, Simon Hodson, David Bakibinga at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Libraries as important stakeholders in data management: AOSP participation during SCECSAL XXIII, Entebbe, Uganda (23-28 April 2018)

Librarians are important stakeholders in providing research data support to scientists, because of the many skills they offer, their focus on providing and disseminating access to high quality research information resources, of which data sets one of many. ASSAf – through the AOSP project – contributed to raising awareness amongst librarians during the bi-annual SCECSAL XXIII Conference, hosted by the Uganda Library and Information Association, from 23 to 28 April 2018, in Entebbe, Uganda. In addition to a paper being presented on “The Role of Librarians in transforming the world through Open Data and Open Science”, ASSAf (AOSP) also hosted a workshop on Open Science for librarians, addressing library roles in terms of:

  • advocating for science and data to be open and transparent;
  • recommending data repositories for researchers to re-use existing datasets;
  • managerial and curation role in terms of managing institutional research data sets, and lastly,
  • integrating research data management training as part of information literacy skills training.

As with all areas, roles are evolving, and more can be added to the above. The Accord on Open Data in a Big Data World acknowledge the contribution librarians can make, and librarians agreed that more needed to be done in terms of embracing open science and open data, towards achieving the UN SDGs.

Valuable networking took place, and AOSP is looking forward welcoming more librarians across the continent to this conversation, also through AfLIA and IFLA.

Please get in touch with your library, and enquire about research data support. Also encourage librarians to become part of the conversation.

Making the African Voice heard – opportunities for collaboration through open data

The 11th RDA Plenary brought together data scientists, experts and practitioners engaged in the advancement of data-driven science and economy from across the globe. During the opening of the session, Hilary Hanahoe (Secretary General RDA) compared the work done by members of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), being aligned, and similar to that of a well-conducted orchestra, working towards the same goal. Opportunities and challenges of a global ecosystem of best practices, standards and interoperable data infrastructures fostering cross-disciplinary knowledge and innovation, were discussed – among many others. The theme of the conference was “From data to knowledge”.  Knowledge in the end to lead to innovation and more. For research data to have the desired effect,  digital research assets have to be transformed to a digital enterprise to be successful, and support is needed from funders, private sector and governments.

If Africa wants to become and remain a global player, it will have to invest in data management as well as actively participate in global discussions such as the Research Data Alliance (RDA) Plenary discussions. The challenges faced by Africa are different from challenges faced by Europe, the USA, and well-resourced countries, and although different, all are connected and impacts on the other. Where Africa currently has conversations about data used to solve physical health problems in the form of Malaria and Ebola, better resourced countries are discussing using data to mirror brain activity to address mental diseases such as Alzheimers (read more about The Human Brain Project, a H2020 FET Flagship project which strives to accelerate the fields of neuroscience, computing and brain-related medicine.). Well-resourced countries also have open science/open data policies in place, where Africa has only started the conversation, hoping to create more awareness of the importance of open science/open data policies on national and institutional level. African countries at the forefront – discussing national Open Science/Open Data policy – include: South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia.

A major take-away from this very important event was that there are great opportunities for collaboration, and the upcoming International Data Week 2018 conference would be ideal for researchers from the north to join and explore possible partnerships with researchers from the south. During a brief introduction of the African Open Science Platform project, this was also the message communicated to the audience. AOSP is looking forward to continue this conversation during the upcoming IDW2018 conference, but also through contributing a data science capacity building framework in partnership with a newly proposed RDA Working Group, part of the Education and Training Interest Group.