The Regional Open Science Dialogue in Southern Africa workshop hosted by TCC Africa, Public Library of Science (PLOS), Association of African Universities (AAU), Africa Open Science Platform (AOSP), University of Pretoria, and University of Capetown.
by Joy Owango, Tawana Kupe, Olusola Bandele Oyewole, Nokuthula Mchunu, Rhoda Wanyenze, Susan Veldsman, Mweneni Shahungu, Roheena Anand, Rakeshnie Ramoutar-Prieschl, Peggy Boateng, Rafols Ismael, Madara Ogot, Lucienne Abrahams., Ellen Tise, and Clifford Nxomani
Pretoria, South Africa- Higher Education stakeholders in Southern Africa gathered for the Regional Open Science dialogue, which was held from 25-26 April 2023 at the University of Pretoria.
In June 2022 the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Library Services hosted the first step of a collaborative programme on Open Science Education and Awareness, with an inter-institutional Open Science workshop in collaboration with the Training Centre in Communications (TCC Africa) and PLOS (the Public Library of Science) and the University of Cape Town. The 2022 workshop enabled a structured and impactful engagement of Open Science key stakeholders (Open Science leaders and key players) within higher education institutions in South Africa, a crucial step towards ensuring successful implementation of the South African Open Science policy, while leaving no one behind. This engagement is now being expanded regionally to Southern Africa Higher Education Institutions and their stakeholders.
The Association of Africa Universities (AAU), TCC Africa and PLOS have been hosting an ongoing series of high-level Open Science dialogue workshops targeting institutional leadership in AAU member regions and universities. The main objective of these dialogues is to raise knowledge and awareness on the importance and best practice of Open Science and Open Access, and increase the number of Open Science mandates within higher education institutions. This hybrid workshop follows two others in East (Tanzania) and North (Egypt) Africa.
The Southern African Open Science dialogue aimed to achieve the following outcomes:
Promote the effective adoption of Open Science and Open Access principles and practice among members of the Association of African Universities and respective governments
Increase education and awareness on Open Science and Open Access in the Association of African Universities (AAU) member academic community and respective governments
The event, with more than 700 registered participants, was inaugurated by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the host university, Professor Tawana Kupe from the University of Pretoria.
The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Health Sciences shared their notable advances towards Open Access and Open Science. These include publishing theses and dissertations in repositories, publishing preprints, study protocols; and removing the financial barrier to publishing. Their researchers benefit from the University of Pretoria Library APC (article processing charge) support which can pay up to 60% of the APC. In addition, the Faculty’s Research Office has tested APC support for outputs published in DHET( Department of Higher Education and Training) accredited journals.
Rethinking Research Assessment and Incentivization in Open Access and Open Science
Open Science has the potential to transform research in Africa by making it more accessible, transparent, and impactful. However, to date, most research and higher education institutions still often rely on traditional measures of success for academic reward systems discouraging researchers who engage in Open Access and Open Science practices. The first day of the workshop featured an interactive session where the participants brainstormed on actionable steps that institutional leadership in institutions, funding agencies and policymakers could make towards promoting Open Access and Open Science practices in Southern Africa.
The participants listed thoughts and ideas on practical actions that governments, researchers and academic institutions should take on rewards and incentives, answering the following questions:
How should governments define rewards and incentives?
What are the practical actions Higher Education leadership should take on rewards and incentives?
What practical actions should governments take on rewards and incentives for researchers who adopt open science?
As an academic, if I publish Open Access, what benefit should I get from it?
Is Open Science in Southern Africa now a measurable criterion for research excellence, and can it be replicated in the wider continent?
Infrastructure Investments to Support Open Science in Africa
On the second day of the workshop, the participants explored the infrastructure needed to support Open Science in Africa, research integrity and the need to establish policies and regulations that promote Open Access and Open Science practices and protect the rights of researchers who engage in open research.
The participants listed thoughts and ideas on challenges and practical actions that governments, researchers, and academic institutions should take to support the Open Science Infrastructure, addressing Research Integrity: ethics, legal, data protection and intellectual property issues, as well as infrastructural investment.
Dr. Lucienne Abrahams- Director LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand.
Ms. Ellen Tise- Chairperson of the Board, South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLIC)
Dr. Clifford Nxomani- Deputy CEO, National Research Foundation, South Africa
About the Organizers
University of Pretoria
The University of Pretoria, is a multi-campus public research university in Pretoria, the administrative and de facto capital of South Africa. Since 1997, the university has produced more research outputs every year than any other institution of higher learning in South Africa, as measured by the Department of Education's accreditation benchmark. Fifty-three UP researchers are in the top 1% according to the Web of Science Index of 2019.
The University of Capetown is a public research university in Cape Town, South Africa. Established in 1829 as the South African College, it was granted full university status in 1918, making it the oldest university in South Africa and the oldest university in Sub-Saharan Africa in continuous operation. UCT is consistently the highest-ranked African university in the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
The Africa Open Science Platform (AOSP) was established in 2017 with the aim to position African scientists at the cutting edge of data-intensive science by stimulating interactivity and creating opportunity through the development of efficiencies of scale, building critical mass through shared capacities, and amplifying impact through a commonality of purpose and voice.
Founded in Rabat, Morocco on November 12, 1967, The Association of African Universities (AAU) is an NGO based in Accra, Ghana. The mission is “to enhance the quality and relevance of higher education in Africa and strengthen its contribution to Africa’s development”. While serving as the “voice of higher education” on the continent. With over 400 member institutions across Africa, AAU provides a forum for cooperation and exchange of information on higher education and research policies, creating spaces for research, reflection, consultation, debates, co-operation, and collaboration on issues pertaining to higher education.
PLOS is a nonprofit, open-access publisher empowering researchers to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. Since our founding in 2001, PLOS journals have helped break boundaries in research communication to provide more opportunities, choice, and context for researchers and readers.
The Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa) is the first African-based training center to teach effective communication skills to scientists. TCC Africa is an award-winning Trust, established as a non-profit entity in 2006 and is registered in Kenya. TCC Africa provides capacity support in improving researchers output and visibility through training in scholarly and science communication.
This blog post was co-authored by Ms.Kevina Zeni from Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa), Ms. Anwani Nekhumbe and Prof Tivani Mashamba-Thompson University of Pretoria Faculty of Health Sciences, and PLOS.