Open science network calls for Global South case studies

The just launched Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network is calling for case studies that use “innovative and transformative open processes in generating knowledge and actions” aimed at tackling challenges in the Global South. The broad aim of OCSDNet is to see whether and how open and networked research could support development.

The online application submission portal opens on 18 August and the call for concept note submissions closes on 8 September 2014.

OCSDNet describes itself as a research and network building initiative, funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, or IDRC. The network is coordinated jointly by the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada and iHub in Kenya.

The idea is to mobilise and support researchers and practitioners from Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, East and South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa who are working or interested in open research based on networked collaboration – collectively called ‘open and collaborative science’ or OCS – as a transformative development tool.

Open and collaborative science

In open science, OCSDNet explains on its website, research articles are openly accessible and “access is extended to other research objects such as data, software codes, protocols and workflows, such that people are free to use, re-use and distribute without legal, technological or social restrictions.

“In some cases, open science also entails the opening up of the entire research process from agenda-setting, data generation and data analysis, to dissemination and use with the aid of various emerging social platforms and tools.”

The internet and other digital tools are used to enable greater research collaboration that may involve traditional research communities as well as citizen scientists, and traditional research institutions as well as non-traditional research locations.

The network believes open and collaborative approaches to knowledge production “have the potential to radically increase the visibility, validation and relevance of scientific research, while expanding opportunities for a broad range of actors to participate”.

OCSDNet argues that policy-makers in developing countries should leverage networks to conduct research that addresses concerns, and find ways to tie knowledge to local problem solving. This approach is appropriate because many ‘grand’ challenges facing the world are “global in nature but disproportionately hurt developing economies.

“Meeting these challenges requires not only appropriate local solutions but also requires rapid and sustainable deployment of new tools and approaches that draw from the global scientific and knowledge commons.”

However, there is little awareness of open and collaborative science – especially in the Global South – little empirical evidence to support or refute its benefits and potential, and limited understanding of contexts in which open science takes place or the mechanisms that link these practices to potential development outcomes.

OCSDNet and its research initiative are designed to plug those gaps in understanding “through a multi-stage data collection and theory building process”, the network says.

The research call

Initial support for OCS in the Global South will be through the competitive call for concept notes of not more than 3,000 words, followed by full proposal development and approval. Successful authors will attend a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, from 13-14 October.

Up to 15 projects will be funded and they may include field research, capacity building initiatives and-or critical analysis. Grants will range between CAD50,000 to CAD80,000 (US$46,000 to US$73,000). Projects must not exceed 24 months, beginning in January 2015. A second call may be issued at a later date.

A panel of international advisors will serve as mentors for research teams, who will also be supported by the OCSDNet virtual hub. There will be regional workshops, preparation for presentations and publications of research findings at international meetings and open access venues, and policy interface with funders and decision-makers.

“We expect that funding of these case studies will strengthen the empirical foundation on the diversity of OCS practices as well as knowledge on their common principles, actors, motivations, and their institutional contexts,” OCSDNet says on its website.

“In particular, the project is interested in exploring whether OCS could subsequently lead to innovative models of redistribution of access to knowledge, economic opportunities, social justice, individual freedom and well-being, and the conditions that lead to positive, negative and unanticipated outcomes.”