It was a real privilege to have been invited to give a keynote on “Open Science in Africa and for Africans: addressing the challenges” this morning at the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) 2022 conference held in Abidjan. The role of a keynote is to provoke and challenge, and so I took the opportunity to share some of the reflections and challenges that I have been struggling with over many years, and especially since I first met the inspirational CEO of WACREN, Boubakar Barry, some 18 years ago in Dakar, Sénégal at an event we participated in on Free/Libre and Open Source Software convened by Imfundo.
The six challenges on which I focused in the Keynote were:
- Whose interests does Open Science really serve?
- The rise of individualism: is it too late for communal science?
- Which models of publication best serve Africa?
- How valuable are Open Data, and for whom?
- The dangers of Scientism?
- Who pays?
Underlying my thoughts are two fundamental concerns:
- If you don’t have access to, or cannot use “Open Science”, can you really benefit from it? Does “Open Science” really empower the poor and marginalised?
- Is Open Science mainly a means through which the rich and powerful continue to maintain their positions of privilege? This is typified by the ways through which global corporations and companies persuade governments to make their data about citizens available as Open Data, so that these companies can then extract considerable profit from them.
The full slide deck in .pdf format is available here, and the slide below summarises my final thoughts about the ways forward.