ICRI Fringe Event 2016

Title: Paths to Success for Open Science in Africa

Sponsors :

Themes :

  • Open Infrastructures
  • Open Science

ICRI 2016

The 3rd International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI) will be held from 3 - 6 October 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. We are proposing a “fringe event” to the conference, organised by the Sci-GaIA project and UCT e-Research Centre. Participation is entirely open, and will be discussed with the communities involved. See below for more information, and comment on the topic if you’re interested.


It should be noted that this fringe event is being organised both by a local Institute - the University of Cape Town - as well as an international project-based consortium (Sci-GaIA). This is by no means incidental: it is an interesting time in terms of research infrastructure in South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape. For one thing, a regional e-Infrastructure has recently been created - the Inter-university Data-Intensive Astronomy partnership. The Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3A) consortium has their e-Infrastructure project (H3ABioNet) also has a significant presence in the region.

The University of Cape Town has recently been awarded a centre as part of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure Initiative. A similar announcement was made about the data science platform proposed at Wits University. Along with the existing investments across the country, a coherent national platform is emerging, but it is still in its formative phase. Therefore, we hope that this fringe event can help inform the development of these important institutional initiatives.

However, the question of international scientific collaboration and open reserach platforms across countries still looms. How are events in South Africa driving the rest of the African continent if at all ? If we could look ahead 5 years, what kind of research infrasructures await, for example, the Next Einstein Forum fellows, or their prodiges, count on ? Are the research methods we teach and adopt in universities now compatible with the vision of Open Science, and is the infrastructure that supports that research ready for it ?

These are not issues for a particular institute or country. These are issues for the wider community and are part of a conversation which no single project or institute can answer, but need to be considered and discussed in the open.

Paths to Success for Open Science in Africa.

Recently, the Dakar Declaration on Open Science in Africa was made, recognising issues of access, reproducibility, re-usability, discoverability and impact of African scholarship. The declaration has been signed by several prominent university and research infrastructure bodies in Europe and Africa.

Research infrastructures – in particularly e-Infrastructures – can of course play a crucial role in the enabling of an Open Science paradigm. Indeed, many aspects of Open Science cannot be enabled without access to network, data, repositories and computational infrastructures, as well as platforms for the publication and re-use of scientific software.

However, to what extent are our current and planned research infrastructures actually able to implement our Open Science aspirations ?

Several related questions arise :

  1. What does current experience in using our research infrastructures say about motivators and inhibitors of the actual endeavour of Open research ?
  2. The European Commission has developed high-level roadmap on an Open Science Cloud - how is Africa situated with respect to this view ?
  3. How will e-Infrastructures being developed to satisfy the needs of specific research communities be able to accommodate sharing and interoperability with existing and peer infrastructures ?
  4. What role do e-Research centres play in enabling the full exploitation of the wide range of research infrastructures available to researchers ?
  5. To what extent are Open principles embedded in STEM curricula, and what can be done to improve this ?

There are many paths to success in opening science, but also many roadblocks.

Aim of the fringe event

This fringe event will tackle two main questions of Open Science as it pertains to Research Infrastructures, particularly e-Infrastructures :

  1. How are individual African scientists and students adopting open science practices ?
  2. What does the African research infrastructures ecosystem inhibit or promote open science ?

Organisation of the event

Our event will :

  1. Invite champions on various scientific fields in the region to express their challenges and solutions to issues facing them, during their open science endeavour
  2. Relate the recent UCT e-Research experience in enabling open science at an institutional and regional level
  3. Demonstrate a open science platform developed in the context of the Sci-GaIA project.
  4. Provide a space to investigate and critically examine the issues around open science, through a brainstorming and discussion session

Audience :

The event will be open to researchers, content creators, educators, developers and policy makers in research infrastructures, with specific use cases in fields including, but not restricted to bioinformatics, health, agent-based simulation, human language technologies, earth sciences, climate, weather etc.

There will be particular focus on infrastructure interoperability and reproducibility of research using collaborative platforms.

There will be invited speakers from research communities across Africa, including but not restricted to, the communities of practice supported by the Sci-GaIA project.

If you are at all interested in this event and would like to contribute or participate, please let us know