The LIBSENSE community would like to express support for the COAR response to Data Repository Selection: Criteria that Matter, which sets out a number of criteria for the identification and selection of data repositories that will be used by publishers to guide authors in terms of where they should deposit their data. At LIBSENSE we agree that quality standards are important and we are working towards the adoption of good practices in repositories, however, we believe it is extremely harmful to African research and the broader society that a group of publishers will determine in which repositories African authors can deposit their data.
Although research is global, there are important local and regional considerations in how open science and open access are approached and implemented. It is critical that the policies and infrastructures created to support open science are designed and delivered to meet the needs and requirements of the research communities and the broader society in their regional contexts.
Most concerning to our community is that the selection criteria will rule out the regional, national and institutional repositories, the types of repositories we believe are very important for the region (See “Data Deposition Condition: Deposition of data: are there any restrictions (e.g. by location, country, organisation, etc.) or can anyone from anywhere deposit data?”). If applied, this criterion (and others) will exclude the vast majority of African repositories, which are restricted to institutional or national researchers, thereby excluding data emanating from Africa and in effect, prejudice African open science.
In Africa, there is a long history of colonisation within the research enterprise, which involves exploitation of African resources and subordination of local knowledge. Biases towards international infrastructures and the practice of measuring quality of tools and infrastructure by standards introduced by commercial interests (usually) in the north further displaces African scholarship to the periphery of knowledge. The implementation of these criteria will be counterproductive to the aim of encouraging and supporting capacity building and local infrastructure development for research data management in Africa.
Ideally, data-sharing infrastructure should be hosted and operated in Africa, and governed by the African community, in order to respond to the needs of African researchers. As articulated in the LIBSENSE submission to UNESCO, “Equity and social justice are fundamental values that should be included in the UNESCO Open Science framework. The policy environment should support equitable dissemination of marginalised research and improve access to content in support of liberating repressed African scholarly content.”
This statement was prepared by the LIBSENSE Working Group on Open Science Policies, Governance and Leadership.
LIBSENSE is a community of practice for open access and open science in Africa led by the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) in collaboration with sister regional African RENs (ASREN and UbuntuNet Alliance). Other participating partners include several national RENs, libraries, library associations, universities and research communities in Africa, in conjunction with COAR, EIFL, University of Sheffield, National Institute of Informatics (Japan), GEANT, and OpenAIRE.