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