Category Archives: Conferences

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

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.

International Data Week 2018: The Digital Frontiers of Global Science, 22-26 October 2018, Gaborone, Botswana

The second edition of International Data Week (IDW 2018) will be held on 22-26 October 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana. Hosted by the Botswana Open Science and Open Data Forum, IDW 2018 will bring together data professionals and researchers from all disciplines and from all parts of the globe.

Co-organized by the ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), the ICSU World Data System (WDS) and the Research Data Alliance (RDA), this landmark event will address the theme of ‘The Digital Frontiers of Global Science’. In a hyperconnected 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.  Furthermore, the major societal and scientific challenges facing humanity in this digital age are profoundly global in character, requiring the participation of researchers from all countries and disciplines. The data revolution is also a major source of the scientific opportunities to address these issues but to realise these potentials the frontiers of science, data analysis and stewardship must be advanced.  Likewise, the data revolution must be inclusive, benefitting all,  and harnessing all energies: no parts of the world and no disciplines should be left behind.

The following themes will be encompassed within the conference’s scope:

  • frontier issues for research in a global and digital age;
  • applications, progress and challenges of data intensive research;
  • data infrastructure and enabling practices for international and collaborative research.

Like its predecessor, IDW 2018 will bring together data scientists, researchers from all disciplines, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers and data stewards.  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.  The event will be a rich week of science and data, featuring world renowned keynote speakers, plenary panels and discussions, the presentation of high quality research and practical working sessions for international collaborations.  IDW 2018 combines the 12th RDA Plenary Meeting, the biannual 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.

Botswana, Africa and the World
The meeting will be held in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana.  This is an excellent location for this compelling international conference:

The fundamental role of data for research, for economic development and ecological sustainability are recognised as important and are supported by the government, research institutions and community.
The government of Botswana has a strong and forward looking policy to support education, technology, development and research.
Botswana is active and well-integrated in regional (Southern African Development Community: SADC), African and international collaboration in various areas of research and in data activities.
The Botswana university and research sector is advancing greatly as a result of these policies and engagements.
Gaborone is easy to get to, with connecting flights for international participants from Johannesburg (JNB), Nairobi (NBO) and Addis Ababa (ADD), and boasts attractive venues and excellent quality, competitively priced hotels.
Botswana is one of the safest countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index:  Since independence in 1966, Botswana maintained a stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and ranking 35 (out of 176 countries) in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016
Gaborone offers a pleasant location and attractions; in the north of the country, there are unique UNESCO sites for participants who wish to visit before or after the conference.

The local and international organisers are:

Local Organising Committee
International Data Week will be locally led by the University of Botswana. The university will deliver the IDW through a committee comprising of a consortium of research institutions, public and private organizations.  This consortium includes, national Open Science and Open data Forum Department of Research Science and Technology (DRST), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), Botho University (BU), Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Information (BITRI), Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Botswana Fibre Networks (BOFINET), Department of Information Technology (DIT), Joint Minds Consult (JMC), Botswana Library Consortium (BLC), National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC).

ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA):
ICSU-CODATA was established in 1966. Its membership is comprised of National Academies, Science Councils, international Scientific Unions, and related organizations that care about data. Its focus is on creating both a culture and a framework of standards, agreements and protocols that enable data to be shared and reused.

ICSU World Data System (ICSU-WDS):
ICSU-WDS was established in 2008 (its predecessor bodies were established in 1957). Its membership is comprised of data repositories, data service providers, and their partners. Its focus is on identifying, creating, and sustaining institutions that provide stewardship, long-term preservation, and access to data.

Research Data Alliance (RDA):
RDA was established in 2013 by several funding agencies in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Its membership is comprised of individuals and organizations (private and non-profit). Its focus is on the detailed implementation of policies, practices, and technologies (i.e., infrastructure) that lower barriers to data exchange

Contact Information:

Upcoming CODATA 2017 International Conference ‘Global Challenges and Data-Driven Science’, 8-13 October, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Africa will be well represented during the upcoming CODATA Conference in Saint Petersburg.

Dr Ismail Serageldin, Founding Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, will give a keynote presentation at CODATA 2017. Dr Serageldin is also a member of the African Open Science Platform Advisory Council.  Read more.

Please email us should your paper be accepted for presentation at the conference!

Read more about the CODATA Conference.