The National Research Foundation (NRF) has recently announced the appointment of an initial three regional nodes of the African Open Science Platform (AOSP). The nodes were awarded after a competitive application process to the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) for the Northern African Node based in Egypt; the African Institute for Capacity Development (AICAD) for the East African Node based in Kenya, and to the UbuntuNet Alliance for the Southern Africa Node based in Malawi. The appointment will be for a five-year term, starting in June 2023. Additional regional nodes will be appointed in due course to cover all regions of the continent.
What the AOSP will do
The role of the AOSP regional nodes will be to:
- create linkages
- support, and promote efforts aligned with the implementation of open science programmes at a regional level,
- strengthen knowledge networks and infrastructure access, and
- enhance cooperation between regions and globally in support of the AOSP’s vision.
Among others, they are also expected to lead on programme delivery and implementation, coordination, capacity building, societal engagement in dialogue, and policy support and promotion of the UNESCO Open Science recommendations at national and regional levels.
According to the NRF, which hosted the AOSP since 2020, the science platforms are aimed to position African scientists at the vanguard 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.
The initiative is supported by leading science bodies in South Africa and other prominent regional networks. These include:
- the South African Department of Science and Innovation
- the International Science Council
- the Academy of Science of South Africa and other prominent regional networks.
In addition, the AOSP will tap into and strengthen international networks and developments. It will also exploit the existing momentum towards the operationalisation of the international framework for open science.
Compelling case for funding
Said the incoming director of the AOSP, Dr Tshiamo Motsegwa: “For the Global South, and the African continent specifically, the efficiency and productivity gains from Open Science present a compelling case for government research funding in the context of limited resources and competing priorities for the development of a facilitative and truly African-wide Open Science Diplomacy platform.” She said this will also enhance continental coordination, collaboration and making global linkages as well as developing an African science system fit for purpose”.
More importantly, the appointment of the regional nodes promotes some of the NRF’s main objectives one of which is to “increase public science engagement and to establish cutting-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness”. It also aims to nurture and stimulate South African research and innovation interests across the country and globally. This includes deepening partnerships with local and regional research institutions, business, industry and international partners to contribute to South Africa’s national development agenda.