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Spotlight on access to research data at first African conference

Cost-effective access to digital data that result from publicly-funded research is one of the topics to be highlighted at an international conference in February 2008. The first African digital curation conference will be held in Pretoria on 12-13 February.

The exchange of ideas, knowledge and data is fundamental for human progress and part of the core of values of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

"The governments of South Africa, China, Israel and Russia as well as of the 30 OECD countries have adopted a declaration on open access to research data resulting from public funding. According to the declaration, they asked the OECD to develop guidelines and principles for facilitating optimal access to digital research data," explains Dr Martie van Deventer, research information expert at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and chairperson of the conference organising committee.

"When we talk about curation and management of research outputs (including data sets, journal articles and models), we refer to taking care of digital content, evaluating its quality and promoting the content during its entire life cycle. It stretches beyond the short-term boundaries of individual research projects and involves accessibility periods of longer than 20 years," Van Deventer says.

During the first day of the conference, international speakers will share perspectives mainly from the UK, the European Union and the USA, while also looking at new roles and opportunities. The South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, will talk on the implications of the OECD declaration for African and South African policy on research data and information management.

Curation of African digital content and practices in specific science domains will be interrogated on day two of the event. The infrastructure to provide access to research data is still underdeveloped in Africa. Proceedings will conclude with discussion on a formalised network of African data and information curation centres.

The conference is being organised under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology, three science councils (the CSIR, the Human Sciences Research Council and the National Research Foundation), the University of Pretoria and the Academy of Science of South Africa.

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