Open Science in Africa – the Case for Open Science in Crisis Management

On the Thursday 23 May 2024, Dr Rania Elsayed (North African Open Science Platform Regional Node; OSC North-Africa) and Dr Loek Brinkman (INOSC) hosted an online meeting on how to stimulate the transition to Open Science in African countries, focusing on the relevance of Open Science in response to crisis situations. The meeting was attended by colleagues from Kenia, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Belgium, France, China, and The Netherlands.

Loek gave an introduction on how the International Network of Open Science Communities (INOSC) facilitates local Open Science Communities to engage researchers to adopt Open Science practices. Doaa Abdel Kader and Umar Ahmed, from OSC Egypt and OSC Nigeria, respectively, shared their experiences in setting-up and managing their local Open Science Clouds (OSCs).

Francis Crawley from the CODATA International Data Policy Committee (IDPC) gave a presentation on the role of data policy in Open Science for addressing crisis situations (such as in cases of health emergencies, natural disasters, and geopolitical conflicts). He pointed to the work of the UNESCO-CODATA Working Group on Data Policy for Times of Crisis Facilitated by Open Science (DPTC) in developing global guidance on how policies can be shaped to promote Open Science during crises, highlighting the necessity for policy alignment at institutional and (inter)national levels. In order to receive this alignment between science and societal outcomes, particularly in terms of crises, he discussed the need for aligning the work of researchers with the more expressed principles, values, and impact being pursued by the IDPC in the context of the Coalition for the Advancement of Research Assessment’s Working Group on ‘Ethics and Research Integrity Policy in Responsible Research Assessment for Data and Artificial Intelligence (CoARA-ERIP). This science-policy brief from the recent UN STI 2024 Forum provides a general global framework.

Simon Hodson discussed the overall work of CODATA in contributing to a global discussion on open science. Lili Zhang briefly discussed the work of the Global Open Science Cloud (GOSC).

In the subsequent discussion it became apparent that for African countries, a pragmatic approach was needed as well as a revision in funding paradigms if scientists would be motivated to work in Open Science frameworks. This included the need for practical examples and use cases clearly showing the benefits of open data, AI, and publication practices in order to communicate the added benefits and return-on-investment. Critical here was the incentive and reward systems that would move people to Open Science, not just in a broad international or even continental sense, but also nationally and sub-nationally, within research institutions and higher education facilities where such policies and practices can be stimulated, advanced, and evaluated. Local Open Science Communities may play a crucial role, not only by accelerating the uptake of Open Science practices, but also by providing input on policies and incentive structures from the researchers perspective.

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