Monthly Archives: October 2016

Report to ICTP, Trieste CODATA-RDA Research Data Science Summer School (1st – 12th August, 2016)

This post was written by Elias P.M. Mwakilama, Serving as the deputy head and Coordinator of eliasResearch, Seminar and Consultancies in the Mathematical Sciences Department at University of Malawi-Chancellor College, Elias Mwakilama is a young computational and applied mathematician in the field of operations research. Elias recently attended the CODATA-RDA School of Research Data Science, hosted at ICTP, near Trieste, Italy – his participation was kindly supported by ACU.


This report seeks to highlight key beneficial outcomes and recommendations based on the international summer on CODATA-RDA research data science school that I attended at ICTP, Trieste-Italy from 1st to 12th August, 2016 with financial support on travelling and lodging from the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

First and foremost, I must sincerely thank the school organizing committee for providing a positive answer to my application and for taking such an initiative to seek funding opportunities from ACU. I also thank ACU for providing such funding. I do not take that for granted.

Overall, the summer school was well organized as it brought together early career leading scientists across the world to discuss scientific ideas on importance of data sharing in scientific research from computational and applied statistics perspective in enhancing the scientific and technological capacity of developing countries.

Considering the fact that there exist issues of ethics and confidentiality in data handling, we need to seek means of protecting such data and promote spirit of sharing and publishing among us research scientists so as to cut down costs of replication or duplication of data collection and analysis processes. As such, it is relevant to seek for the right platforms for ensuring quality data handling and sharing in form of well-organized schools such as ICTP CODATA, networking and collaborations. Across the globe, mainly in Africa, financial support for early leading career scientist to attend to or participate in such research platforms and events remains a barrier. However, provision of research funds from scientific institutions such as ICTP-Trieste campus and The Association of Commonwealth Universities assists such financially challenged young leading scientists who consider internationally and locally organized research schools as a platform of the great learning and development of their opportunities. It is through support from institutions such ACU that I had access to the CODATA-RDA research school in my field and the chance to meet influential people who have shown interest to collaborate with and share data for scientific research and policy analysis.

By working closely with leading academics and invited guests at such school, I was exposed to a number of data programming skills which are of genuine and practical importance to my field of computational and applied mathematics in operations research. I have already begun using such skills in my academic research and also when teaching undergraduate students in our institution, Chancellor College. For instance, programming languages such as R-studio and Open source languages have aided me in successfully handling my fourth undergraduate course in Mathematics research.

Besides, being a pioneer of a newly established Mathematics and Statistics research group, Fibonacci Research Group (FRG) in our department (Mathematical Sciences), the summer school has assisted both me and the group in establishing research links with other academic applied statisticians which can develop far beyond the problem posed by the industry in Malawi to our existing research group. Leadership skills learnt from the summer school by observing the way the moderators coordinated their work on the problem and skills in presenting research material and in scientific communication would be used in coordinating research projects in the research group for the entire group benefits.

The summer school has also provided me with an opportunity to work on problems of genuine practical importance and do good computational mathematics in the process of designing new research areas that can be opened up leading to publications and new research collaborations. Skills acquired from the school would also provide an opportunity to our research group by applying knowledge and skills to significant practical problems and then stimulate in industry the awareness of the power of data sharing in statistical modeling and scientific computing.

With these many remarks, I therefore encourage your office to continue supporting young African early scientists through provision of similar financial support so as to develop our continent, in particular developing countries such as Malawi. I also wish to request for an idea of establishing more data sharing and analysis scientific centres such as ICTP in Africa where more early career research scientists such as myself could be able to get similar trainings at low costs and easier. I attach a certificate of participation that I got from the ICTP-CODATA RDA School of research science as an evidence of my full attendance and participation at the school.

PASTD – Task group report of SciDataCon2016 Activities

  1. Continuation of Task Group approved by CODATA General Assembly
    On behalf CODATA PASTD, Dr. Xiang ZHOU attended the CODATA General Assembly in pastdDenver on 11th September 2016. Dr. Zhou gave a 5-minute presentation on the CODATA PASTD Task Group’s activities over the past two years. He also presented the updated objectives, action plan, and expected cooperation with multiple stakeholders in developing and developed countries. The updated CODATA PASTD action plan is a response to the ‘Open Data in a Big Data World’ International Accord issued by ICSU, IAP, ISSC and TWAS. In next two years, CODATA PASTD activities will pay more attention to open data policies, best practices and capacity building in low and middle income countries.CODATA PASTD was on of eight Task Groups approved by the General Assembly (from 15 proposals). The renewal of PASTD as a CODATA Task Group was in line with the CODATA Executive Committee’s recommendations and reflects its wide partnerships, past achievements and high priority activities which are line with the CODATA Strategic Plan.
  2. Key Issues and Action Plan for the Preservation and Access of Research Data in Developing Countries – Panel Discussion Session in SciDataCon 2016 in Denver
    At SciDataCon 2016, held as part of International Data Week in Denver, 11-17 Septemberpastd-workshop 2016, the CODATA PASTD Task Group organized a panel discussion to address key Issues and an action plan for the preservation and access of research data in developing countries.The group was held in the afternoon of 13 September and chaired by Dr. Xiang Zhou, the co-chair of the PASTD Task Group. Dr. Zhou made welcome speech and gave a brief introduction about the CODATA PASTD Task Group and practices of preservation of and access to research data in developing countries. The session provided a forum for participants from many disciplines to exchange ideas about key Issues on data preservation, access and sharing of research data in developing countries. The session consisted of seven invited talks covering issues of policy, technologies, capacity building and best practices, followed by an open discussion (Table.1).
  • Wim Hugo, from South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), presented the concept of a Network Data Centre for Africa.
  • Joseph Muliaro Wafula, from ICT Centre of Excellence and Open Data (iCEOD), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), shared the experiences of developing an open data policy and infrastructure taking JKUAT as a case study.
  • Daisy Selematsela from the Knowledge Management Corporate of the National Research Foundation, South Africa, presented developments and transition of open data access in Africa, and challenges and sustainability of Open Access.
  • Paul Uhlir, as a consultant in research data policy and management, and Scholar of the National Academy of Sciences, described recent developments in open data policies and discussed data sharing and data management principles in developing countries.
  • Kostiantyn Yefremov, Director of the World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development, National Technical University of Ukraine, described the development of the interdisciplinary research infrastructure in Ukraine.
  • Yuanqiang ZHU, Professor of the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGSNRR/CAS), discussed publishing and sharing research data for sciences and sustainability in developing countries, and the practice of the Global Change Research Data Publishing and Repository.
  • Maria Natalia Norori from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, analyzed the benefits, development and challenges of Open Data Empowerment. There is a consensus that Open data is an important weapon to fight the educational barriers imposed by socioeconomic factors in developing countries.
  • Furthermore, participants discussed challenges, policies and actions for implementation of “Nairobi Data Sharing Principles” in developing countries, especially in LMICs. Implementation guidelines for data sharing principles can help promote the infrastructures and the development of data sharing capacity and best practices in future years.

The following tasks are given priority on implementation of task group objectives:

  • Increase awareness and consensus on Nairobi Guidelines / Open Data Principles in Developing Countries;
  • Workshop and training for francophone countries, proposed in Madagascar in 2017;
  • Special issue to the Journal of Data Science: best practices and show cases of implementing Open Data in a Big Data World in developing countries;
  • Enhancement of the online services of the global change research data publishing and repository

Table 1.Agenda of PASTD Session in SciDataCon

Key Issues and Action Plan for the Preservation and Access of Research Data in Developing Countries

13 September 2016
Chaired by: Xiang ZHOU

Topic Who
1 Welcome and Introductions Chair 5’
2 Invited Talks:

Wim Hugo

Wafula Muliaro


Daisy Selematsela

Paul Uhlir

Kostiantyn Yefremov

Yunqiang ZHU

Maria Natalia Norori

3 Open Discussion 45’
4 Review of Actions Chair 5’

Humans of Data 5

img_3780-hod05“We’re at this turning point where archivists are working in the area of research data – it’s just so cool to feel like you’re at the cutting edge of something and you can facilitate that conversation.  Being an archivist and saying I work with research data can help expand people’s expectations of what archivists do and what we’re interested in.  People should consider that archivists are appropriate to data, but archivists should also consider a broader view of what they do. The things we work with can be data.  And we need to talk about terminology – we need to find ways of talking that make sense to archivists and also to the research data audience.  I love having those conversations across domains. When else would I talk to a physicist or biologist about what they do?”