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.