Africa embracing open science through a workshop presented in Accra, Ghana

One of the outcomes of the African Open Science Platform (AOSP) is to better understand the continent, and how it can utilize open science to make research and the accompanying data sets, more accessible, visible, and beneficial for researchers worldwide. For data to be reusable, it should be curated in a trusted way, and then shared openly. ASSAf – through its connections with the Association of African Universities (AAU) – was invited to present a workshop on Open Science during the 14th AAU General Conference in Accra, Ghana. Prof Joseph Wafula – Chair of the African Open Science Platform Technical Advisory Board – presented the AOSP initiative during a plenary session, and it was followed by a two day workshop during which delegates were invited to share progress made on national, institutional and project level. All delegates agreed that the AOSP project would be of great benefit to all, assisting with identifying needs in terms of policy, infrastructure, incentives for data sharing, and capacity building. Dr Simon Hodson – Director of CODATA – presented a workshop on formulating an open science policy on national as well as institutional level, and how to go about to address the challenges, involving various key stakeholders. Participants from all over Africa actively participated, and the contributions were vibrant and insightful. It is clear that Africa is realizing the importance of curating its research and data, and that it is willing to do so. Africa also understands the importance of contributing open data, and aligning it with what is happening on international level.

Day 1 of the workshop (view program) was attended by approximately 46 delegates, while the workshop on formulating an open science policy (day 2) was attended by 24 representatives from approximately 10 African countries. Critical thinking was applied in responding to questions such as: What elements need to be included in an OS/data policy? What could the institution say about these issues? What would the process be for developing and adopting a data policy? What are the key dependencies? How would you go about it? The various groups reported back on their thinking.

We would like to thank the Research Data Alliance (RDA) for making this workshop possible, through a generous financial contribution.

The workshop was followed by the first meeting of the Technical Advisory Board. We would like to acknowledge the following preliminary members of this board, which might evolve as the project progresses. The current members are:

Prof Joseph Muliaro Wafula (Chairperson)
Director: ICT Centre of Excellence & Open Data – iCEOD, JKUAT (Kenya)

Dr Anwar Vahed
Director: DIRISA (SA)

Dr Audrey Masizana
Head of Department Computer Science/ Senior Lecturer/Researcher, University of Botswana (Botswana)

Mrs Nodumo Dhlamini
Director: ICT Services & Knowledge Management, Association of African Universities (AAU) (Ghana)

Ms Andiswa Mlisa
AfriGEOSS, Capacity Building and User Engagement, Group on Earth Observations (Switzerland/SA)

Prof Benjamin Aribisala
Chairman: ICT Advisory Committee, Head of Department: Computer Science, Lagos State University (Nigeria)

Mr Lazarus Matizirofa
Acting Executive Director, Knowledge Management Corporate (KMC), National Research Foundation (NRF)(SA/Zimbabwe)

Dr Daniel Nyanganyura
Director: ICSU Regional Office Africa (SA/Zimbabwe)

Dr Joseph Mwelwa
Founder & Director, Joint Minds Consult (Botswana/Zambia)

South African National Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

Dr Arona Diedhiou 
Research Director, Institute of Research for Development at Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble (Côte d’Ivoire/France)

Ms Noasilalaonomenjanahary Ambinintsoa Lucie
Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forest (Madagascar)

Ex Officio:
Ina Smith (ASSAf), Susan Veldsman (ASSAf), Simon Hodson (CODATA), Nozuko Hlwatika (ASSAf)

Members of the AOSP Technical Advisory Board, 8 June 2017, Accra, Ghana
From left to right: Joseph, Anwar, Richard (representing Daniel), Simon, Joseph, Zukie, Ina, Audrey, Susan, Nodumo, Lazarus