Reliable ICT Infrastructure a Condition for Research Data Sharing

13 June 2018, 12:25

admin

Whether as a guideline, a roadmap or a framework – all participants during the AOSP ICT Infrastructure meeting held on 14 May 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa were in agreement that a document guiding African countries in preparing ICT infrastructures in support of research data sharing, would be of benefit to all. The one-day meeting brought together key stakeholders.

The objective of this meeting was to help National Research Education Networks (NRENs) better understand the needs experienced by collaborative data-intensive research projects, and for NRENs to consider future service delivery in support of research data. The three projects represented included H3ABioNet, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Mélianie and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) is a free open source software tool used to publish and share biodiversity datasets through the GBIF network. The IPT can also be configured with either a DataCite or EZID account in order to assign DOIs to datasets transforming it into a data repository. Dr Mélianie Raymond, during her presentation, indicated that more portals, laptops/workstations and IPT installations for selected nodes are required to enhance the sharing and visibility of biodiversity data. Capacity building needs include training of researchers, students, lecturers and others in digitisation, data cleaning, data publishing, and data analysis, towards more relevant and sustainable data use in support of decision making concerning biodiversity conservation.

H3ABioNet provides support for the H3Africa Human, Heredity & Health in Africa Consortium, which focuses on the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases, with the goal of improving the health of African populations. Prof Nicky Mulder shared the limitations that apply when sharing human data, and the importance of protecting the rights and privacy of human subjects when participating in research studies. The project follows a well-established workflow using open source software tools, at the same time as having policies built into the various stages of working with the data. As with biodiversity, skills need to be constantly developed, and infrastructure needs to be maintained and upgraded. A challenge faced by funded projects is that collected data need to be curated when projects come to an end, and it is for governments to discuss whether data are regarded as a national asset, and who will fund the long-term curation of the data.

According to Dr Jasper Horrell from the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDiA), key science on the SKA will be achieved by large-scale survey programmes executed by globally distributed teams of researchers and through creating massive data. A cloud computing system that utilises the OpenStack Infrastructure as a service framework has been established by IDiA. OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of computer, storage, and networking resources throughout a data centre, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface. This is ideal for the large amounts of data that are expected to be collected through the telescopes.

Regional NRENs represented indicated that they are in full support of working with AOSP on developing and populating a framework as part of service delivery to their research communities, and to also invite national NRENs in their respective regions to explore opportunities. Important elements to be included in such a document have been identified, and the group will continue as a working group, building on what is already in place through the SADC Cyberinfrastructure Framework, of which an overview was provided by Prof Colin Wright. This framework was approved by SADC ministers in June 2016, and the next step would be to revisit the existing framework and to adapt – where needed – for the whole of Africa, with input from key stakeholders across Africa. It was also clear that – through possible partnerships and lessons learned from KENET, Ilifu, DIRISA, Sci-GaIA and more, the design, development and implementation of ICT infrastructures in support of data sharing and curation can become a reality – sooner rather than later.

The AOSP ICT Infrastructure Framework will be tested during various stages and across different domains, before it is finalised and shared with African countries interested in advancing the sharing and responsible management of data.

African regional NREN attendees included Dr Pascal Hoba (Chief Executive Officer, UbuntuNet Alliance), Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa (Chief Executive Officer, NigerREN & member of the WACREN Board, on behalf of Dr Boubakar Barry (Executive Director, WACREN), Dr Yousef Torman (Managing Director, ASREN) and Dr Leon Staphorst (Executive Director, SANRen).

The following presentations can be viewed:
The African Open Science Platform/Susan Veldsman
Framework and Roadmap towards an Open Science Infrastructure/Simon Hodson