‘Huge gaps’ in African open science movement, new network warns

Reproducibility network aims to support researchers to share science openly, improving its applications and public support

March 3, 2024
Streets of the medieval medina of Tetouan, north Morocco
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African universities should embrace the open science movement to unlock important research benefits but “huge gaps” still need to be addressed, the founder of a new community-led body has warned.

A new member of the international family of reproducibility networks, the African Reproducibility Network (Aren) was formed in 2023 to bridge the gaps in open science advocacy and adoption across Africa.

Emmanuel Boakye, who heads the organisation, told Times Higher Education that the ethos of open science was particularly relevant to African countries.

“The whole idea of open science is to increase access, to make everything open where everyone can know what’s going on,” he said.

“In Africa, what many researchers lack is this ability.”

Mr Boakye said a lot of good research was being done in the continent, but it needed the open science movement to take off so that more people could access it and make the research more transparent.

Open science is important to Africa in ensuring that the work that is being done by researchers is made known by the research community in Africa and by the global community. If funders are aware of the work that is being done, they will be encouraged to expand in those areas,” he said.

“While they are not aware, then funding priorities may be in different areas.”

Aren’s goal is to provide African researchers with the necessary support and resources, through training and workshops, to enable them to meet the growing global demand for heightened openness and reproducibility in research.

Although Mr Boakye said there had been an uptick in activity in the area in recent years, he cautioned that the continent still had a long way to go to catch up on other parts of the world.

“Africa has been doing very well when it comes to open science, although there are huge gaps that are present that need to be addressed and there is still some work that needs to be done.”

Among these gaps, a lack of infrastructure was highlighted as a key problem in development, as was the sheer research diversity of Africa.

“We know that Africa is a very large continent,” said Mr Boakye. “There are differences in terms of how research is done institution-wise and country-wise so we want to make a continent-wide open science community where anyone anywhere could come together and have discussions and collaborate.”

Aren aims to create a platform across Africa where all those interested can come together and work on projects.

Mr Boakye said he wanted open science to become a “mainstay” across the continent, but for that to happen it “all boils down to institutional buy-in”.

“If institutions see open science to be extremely important in terms of the research that is being done globally, I think they will want to start putting in place policies that make open science a requirement and incentivise making it a normality.

“That is not something that exists right now. Although we have countries that are currently working on these things, it’s not something that is common practice, and there’s a long way to go still.”

Proponents hope that open science, as well as improving the accessibility of research, will improve its reliability by supporting other scholars to seek to replicate experimental findings.


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