African Reproducibility Network (AREN): Ambassadors bridging the gaps in open science adoption and advocacy across Africa

Led by Emmanuel Boakye, our African Ambassadors and colleagues have created a continent-wide reproducibility network to improve and advocate for open science practices and research reproducibility across Africa.

Written by the AREN team

The shift to more open and transparent research and communication is happening. However, are researchers really ready for the transition? Although several open infrastructures have been developed to support the adoption of open science principles, the bulk of global researchers do not know of their existence or receive the necessary training on how to effectively use them. This, coupled with a poor understanding of open principles, results in very few researchers (especially across the continent of Africa) actively engaged in open science advocacy and practice.

Despite recent efforts by notable advocacy groups seeing an improvement, there are several gaps that need addressing before we can fully impact the continent. The African Reproducibility Network (AREN) seeks to bridge these and other gaps towards achieving a fully open and FAIR African research ecosystem, as part of our mission to prepare African researchers to meet the increasing global demand for research to be more open and reproducible. Our vision is to build and support a vibrant community of open science practitioners who meaningfully contribute to open science advocacy and adoption across the continent.

As a community-led initiative arising from the eLife Ambassadors programme, AREN aims to organise synchronised training and workshops geared towards producing African researchers who can lead engagement efforts within their regions, research communities or institutions. Our train-the-trainer and interactive workshop models, involving open discussions and brainstorming sessions, will help demystify open science and reproducibility – bridging the gap between researchers and responsible open science on the continent. We want members to constructively critique the relevance and practicability of various aspects of open science in an African context and come up with viable or alternative solutions for their implementation and practice.

Through our interactive survey and feedback mechanisms, community members will have the opportunity to share the possible challenges, both personal and/or institutional, they may face while integrating what they have learnt into their research workflows. Our open discussion and brainstorming sessions will also foster a community-led problem-solving approach in developing solutions for issues identified by members of the community. We believe that it is in identifying and finding solutions to these problems that we can achieve real impact across the continent.

The network will create a free and readily available support system for researchers transitioning into open science. Our sessions will allow researchers in various regions on the continent with different specialisations to share what has worked for them so far when it comes to integrating open science in their research workflows, and help others learn how to adopt and use these principles, practices, and tools. AREN will provide resources and support, where possible, for members seeking to actively engage in open science advocacy in their regions or institutions, while sharing with them other avenues for training and development.

As stated in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, “There is no one-size-fits-all way to practice open science and to encourage different pathways to practicing it while upholding the core values.” Therefore, we believe that it is necessary for the diverse research community on the continent to be fully engaged in discussing and developing open science infrastructure, policies and implementation plans. This will ensure that, in seeking a fully open research ecosystem, all researchers as well as the research in Africa benefits.

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