National and regional stakeholders, including government officials, researchers, and policy actors, converged to champion open science at the Kenya National Open Science Dialogue held on 20th September 2023 at the University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Historically, traditional scientific publishing methods have played a significant role in advancing human knowledge. They have provided a platform for researchers to share their findings, debate ideas, and build upon the work of their peers. However, this system, which served as the bedrock of the scientific community, has also inadvertently contributed to the commodification of scientific knowledge. Over the years, it has erected barriers that hinder the free flow of information, limiting access to a privileged few. The Global South has been particularly disproportionately affected, resulting in restricted access to research, perpetuating research inequalities, and hindering development efforts. This dependency on Western research has obstructed innovation, imposed intellectual property barriers, and exacerbated existing global inequities. Moreover, it contributes to a brain drain as talented researchers seek opportunities elsewhere.
But why is open science so crucial, and why should it be fervently advocated for?
Advocating for open science is vital to dismantling these barriers, promoting equitable knowledge-sharing, and ensuring that scientific knowledge benefits all nations and communities. It fosters global collaboration and equips us to address pressing global challenges. Recognizing this need, the Kenya National Open Science Dialogue, was held on 20th September 2023 at the University of Nairobi (UON). The dialogue, spearheaded by the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa), and the Public Library of Science (PLOS) marked an essential step in an ongoing series of workshops designed to ensure that national conversations on Open Science are represented in the regional Science and Technology (STI) policy. The hybrid event was a collaborative effort involving, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Higher Education and Research, Ministry of Kenya, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Commission of University Education (CUE), and the Kenya Libraries Information Services Consortium (KLISC). The Kenya National Open Science Dialogue brought together key stakeholders, including librarians, researchers, policy actors, and government representatives with an aim to achieve the following:
To enhance acceptance and adoption of Open Science and Open Access principles and practices for increased socioeconomic development and regional integration of the East African Partner States.
To widen and deepen the application of open science and open access principles and practices in the EAC regional Science Technology and Innovation system for enhanced production, dissemination, adoption and use of scientific data and information
Meet the Speakers
Dr. Roselida Owour, the Director of Research, on behalf of Dr. Beatrice Muganda Inyangala - Principal Secretary, the State Department for Higher Education and Research, Ministry of Education, Kenya
Mr. Kennedy Aseda, the Chief Technology Officer, on behalf of Prof. Meoli Kashorda- Executive Director of Kenya Education Network (KENET)
Dr. Peggy Oti-Boateng- Executive director of the African Academy of Sciences
Dr. Sylvance Okoth- Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the East African Science and Technology Commission ((EASTECO)
Dr. Peninah Musangi- Head Librarian at Amref International University and Treasurer at Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC)
Prof. Joseph Muliaro Wafula- Chair of Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) Kenya
Dr. Richard L.K. Glover- Scientific Director at African Science, Technology and Policy Institute (ASTePI)
Dr. Ana Persic- Programme Specialist for Science Technology and Innovation Policies and Open Science at the UNESCO
Ms Roheena Anand- Executive Director for Global Publishing Development at PLOS
National Stakeholders Perspectives
The key national stakeholder representatives carried the same sentiments, committing to foster open science as a catalyst for national development. In her speech, The Principal Secretary of the State Department for Higher Education and Research emphasized the Ministry of Kenya's dedication to promoting open science principles and practices. This commitment is a crucial step towards ensuring that scientific knowledge becomes a public good accessible to all Kenyan citizens. The Commission of University Education (CUE) addressed the challenges concerning the low implementation of open science mandates in universities. CUE is actively engaged in mitigating these issues, acknowledging the importance of open science in Kenya's higher education landscape. Dr. Peninah Musangi, representing the Kenya Libraries Information Services Consortium (KLISC), outlined KLISC's significant contributions to the advancement of open science in Kenya. KLISC is actively pursuing transformative agreements to establish an open-access ecosystem. They have played a vital role in creating institutional repositories in 38 member institutions, implementing open access policies in 28 of these institutions, and facilitating the establishment of open access journals through the OJS platform. KLISC has also embraced open infrastructure for researcher identifiers, enhancing the recognition of researchers and their work. KENET, the Kenya Education Network, was spotlighted for its pivotal role in supporting Kenya's research and academic community. KENET operates as a facilitator, granting access to open resources, conducting research, and fostering collaborations within the academic ecosystem. They provide high-speed, affordable, and reliable infrastructure, a critical component in advancing open science.
Dr Ana Persic introduced the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, the first international standard setting instrument on open science, which provides an internationally agreed definition and a set of shared values and guiding principles for open science. PLOS talked about the need to increase equitable participation in open science and detailed their collaborative efforts within Africa's scholarly communication ecosystem to promote and enhance the adoption of Open Access and Open Science on a broader scale.
Regional Thematic Open Science Activities
Various regional stakeholders, including academic institutions, research organizations, and international bodies, contributed valuable insights and perspectives highlighting the challenges and opportunities associated with open science in East Africa. Dr. Glover's presentation, based on a UNESCO-commissioned study conducted between April and September 2021 with updates in August 2023, offered critical insights into the state of open science systems and structures in Eastern Africa. A significant highlight from his findings is the urgent need for increased financial resources and investments in open science infrastructure and activities. The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) emphasized the need for African journals and platforms to enable researchers from the continent to publish their research openly, showcasing how open science is shaping Africa.
Representing the African Open Science Platform (AOSP), Prof. Muliaro stressed the significance of making science available and the potential benefits, including more citations, media attention, collaborations, job opportunities, and funding possibilities. AOSP also recommended best practices to promote an open science culture. It plans to promote the development and provision of Open Educational Resources (OERs) to further enhance open education in the region.
As per the objectives of the dialogue, the participants shared their perspectives on the challenges and practical actions that governments, researchers, and academic institutions should take to support the advancement of open science principles and practices in Kenya.
Read more on the: Challenges that exist in the implementation of open science
Read more on the: Next steps for implementing National Open Science initiative
In culmination of the dialogue, the gathered representatives of policy actors from the Republic of Kenya made a resounding statement of intent.
Statement of Intent
“We, as the Representatives of policy actors from the Republic of Kenya, intend to adopt Open Science in Kenya and are willing to address any unintended challenges that arise from it. We will set up a working group to realize a national Open Science Policy. We will work with the national policymakers and present it to the government and potential implementing partners who will fund the process in support of the adoption of Open Science. It is in this spirit that we will continue to support the adoption of Open Science with leadership from the Higher Education Policy Actors.”
East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO)
The East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) has been established as a semi-autonomous institution of the EAC by the 5th Extra-ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State held on 18th June 2007, in accordance with Chapter 16, Article 103 (a) of the Treaty on the Establishment of the East African Community, where the Partner States undertook to promote cooperation in the development of Science & Technology within the Community. EASTECO has an overall function of coordinating and facilitating the activities of the EAC Partner States and national science and technology institutions to promote the development and application of science, technology and innovation in all its aspects.
Public Library of Science (PLOS)
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.
For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.
Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa)
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.
For more information, visit https://www.tcc-africa.org/
University of Nairobi (UON)
The University of Nairobi (UoN), established under Kenyan law, is the premier institution of higher education in Kenya and the region. Home to approximately 45,000 students and 4,000 staff, UoN tackles global challenges through diverse research efforts. It ranks high among African universities according to Webometrics and Times Higher Education, boasting a vast network of global research partners. Renowned for nurturing leaders in public and private spheres, UoN prioritizes research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The institution commits to producing knowledge that addresses urgent global issues, with interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation through research centers. Students and scholars engage in groundbreaking research alongside esteemed faculty, contributing to novel insights. UoN welcomes aspiring individuals to join for an enriching academic journey, fostering personal growth and impactful global contributions.
For more information, visit: https://uonbi.ac.ke/
Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC)
KLISC was established in 2003 with the main objective of collective subscription to electronic resources to cope with the increasing cost of information resources. The consortium draws its membership from University Libraries, Research institutions, Public/National Libraries.
For more information, visit: https://klisc.or.ke/
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. It has 194 member states and 12 associate members, as well as partners in the non-governmental, intergovernmental and private sector. Headquartered in Paris, France, UNESCO has 53 regional field offices and 199 national commissions that facilitate its global mandate.
For more information, visit: https://www.unesco.org/en