Zine Sapula, of the North-West University Libraries (Potchefstroom Campus), attended the Sci- GaIA: Festival of Open Science’s User forum & Final Event on 24 March 2017. Sci-GaIA is an EU Horizon 2020 funded project that focuses on and advocates the development of Open Science e-infrastructure on the African continent. The conference attendees consisted of a diverse group of individuals from various fields of expertise and backgrounds, all of whom share a passion for Open Science. NWU was represented in numbers by researchers and students, especially from the Vaal Triangle Campus.
Speakers’ presentations included progress reports on what Sci- GaIA e-infrastructures projects have thus far been developed in Africa, for example the Sci- GaIA Open Science platform which can be accessed by all participating institutions via a federated authentication process. The platform allows users from registered organisations to re-produce, re-use and publish their research and link it to their researcher’s ORCID ID. E-infrastructures projects that are currently in the pipeline for several African countries, and the challenges they face in implementing Open Science initiatives, were also discussed.
South Africa’s commitment to Open Science was also evident, as can be seen by the number of Open Science projects, such as SA Identity Federation (SAFIRE) and the African Research Cloud (ARC) (of which NWU is a founding member). Dr Anwar Vahed presented an overview of the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA), which is a national platform that currently provides researchers with Data Management Plans. DIRISA, at this stage, is developing a Data Deposit tool which will in future enable researchers to store their data. However, researchers using DIRISA will be required to offer open access to their data for re-use by other researchers. Another South African initiative, funded by NRF, is in the pipeline. Known as the African Open Science Platform, the initiative is managed by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and its aim will be to promote the value of Open Data for communities.
Significantly, the conference presentations (see slides) further detailed how African research communities can use Open Source technologies and Open Science platforms to distribute their research and engage with the wider science community. The benefits of opening up research were outlined as follows:
- Communities will benefit by accessing and re-using the data.
- Will connect researchers and facilitate collaboration.
- The research output, or data, will potentially receive more citations.
- Will increases researchers’ visibility.
- Gain improved H-index and altmetrics ratings.
Article written by Zine Sapula.