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:
- Investing in the European Future we Want: Report of the Independent High Level Group on Maximising the Impact of EU Research and Innovation Programmes
- European Open Science Cloud Declaration
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
Dr Simon Hodson provided an overview of open science development on a global level. He discussed the rationale behind the need for open science and data to be FAIR, and shared examples of developments in donor and journal policies. The SA Open Science policy aligns with the vision of the African Open Science Platform project, forming part of an international ecosystem driving science and innovation. View the presentation by Dr Hodson at the following:
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.