BOSS EVENTS Phase 1: Sensitize through Open Science FAIR Symposium.

BOSS EVENTS Phase 1: Sensitize through Open Science FAIR Symposium.

We’ve told you of the journey up to the funding, which was the beginning of the story. Having obtained the funds, we began the work. How do you best empower and impart Bioinformatics and Open science skills in researchers? We already had a road map, sensitize – train – hack – collaborate – community, so we had to put it in action. And the #BOSSEvents was activated.

In the Sensitize phase, we held the Open Science FAIR Symposium on October 11th-15th. It was a five-day affair filled with incredible insights on Open Science, FAIR data principles, research data management, publishing open access, contributing to open source projects, communities, reproducibility in research, and more. We made an open call on Twitter and an extensive mailing list, extending an invite to the event, and the turnout was not disappointing. We received about 130 applications from various African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. We also had participants outside the African continent from countries like the United States of America, India, Lithuania, France, Bangladesh, Iran, New Zealand, South Korea, and Portugal. Of these applicants, we had approximately 35-55 participants on different days from different regions such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania USA, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and South Korea. We also reached out to speakers and received terrific feedback from each of them, securing a yes from all of them. Having an audience, a program and experts, we kicked off. 

Day 1: An Introduction to Open Science

Day one began with an introduction to open science. Miss Joy Owango of the Training Center and Communication Africa opened the event with a talk on science communication and how TCC Africa is helping higher learning organisations embrace Open Access. With a visual presentation on the state of open access publishing in Kenya and Africa from 2018, our participants got a view of statistics that can challenge them to contribute. There has been an increase in Open Access publishing in Kenya over the years up to 2019.

Kennedy Mwangi then presented on the OpenScienceKE paper, open science in Kenya: where are we?. The paper was a product of a project done in 2018 during the OpenScienceKE hackathon. The work complemented the presentation by Miss Owango, seeing that the hackathon had produced results of the status of open science publications up to 2018 and a table on publishing low-cost open access. They formed the panel and talked about open access and the state of open science, which built up to include FAIR principles and data management policies. With resources such as TCC Africa that have existed for 15 years, and OpenScienceKE, we believe the statistics of open science in Kenya and Africa will keep going up. Day one laid a good foundation for the week: we now jump into the deep end.

“We cannot afford to work in silos anymore. This era needs to come to an end.” Joy Owango.

Day 2: Research Data Management

“FAIR is not the equivalent of open, but open needs to be FAIR to be useful” Sara El Gebali.

We introduced our participants to open science and shared the need to work open; the next step was introducing the FAIR principles. We shared this responsibility with Sara El Gebali, Ziyaad Parker, and Faisal Fadlemola, who formed the panel for day two. They had a fantastic conversation about the multiple definitions of FAIR principles, existing research data management policies, and the need to improve on these. It was an eye and mind-opening conversation that challenged our participants to check their institution policies. It also gave rise to one of the mini-projects in the third phase of the BOSSEvents. 

Day two also gave rise to an engaging conversation on Twitter

“I wonder how we could bring the collaborative part of FAIR into the rhetoric (data collectors, data analysts, result interpreters are often/sometimes different groups of people).” 

“Agreed, it is important that all those involved come together for realistic & pragmatic implementation of FAIR. To that end, we need to bring them to the same table and initiate the discussions.”

Day 3: Project Planning; Open by Design

Open by Design was one of the most engaging days we had. Caleb Kibet introduced the participants to project planning. We got an overview of what our participants thought about project planning. Since many of our participants were students getting into or already doing their projects, this was a much-needed session.

Caleb linked the research life cycle with open science tools available in each step. It was interesting to see this in play, the multiple choices available, and how one can work open in all phases of their research. 

Day 4: Reproducibility in Research

“Scientific errors have real-world effects.”
Malvika Sharan

Day four was a talk on reproducibility in research. Malvika Sharan taught the participants the importance and the best practices to ensure reproducible work. Malvika first shared her experience with communities she joined as she began her career, how this opened her eyes to the need to collaborate and reproduce. She then got into how errors in research have had a major impact on lives, giving practical examples of covid cases. She shared major errors that should be avoided from the start of any research, which was a good build-up to what we learned on day three from Caleb. Openness and collaboration are good ways to avoid these errors. And she touched on the fear that comes with making work open from the start and why we should humanise errors for everyone. This formed the perfect segway to our day five.

“To consult the [experts] after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask to conduct a post mortem examination. [….] can perhaps say what the experiment died of. – Ronald Fisher” Nehemiah Ongeso, one of our participants, says this was one of his major takeaways from the symposium, giving him a new dose of boldness to share his work despite the fear so that he can become a better bioinformatician.

Day 5: Contribution to Open Source; a practical approach

The transition from theoretical to actualisation, especially in coding, can be very daunting. One must overcome a few things to make a pull request when facing imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Day five sought to make this transition smooth by taking our participants through actual contributions to an open-source project. Our excellent speakers on that day, Yo Yehudi and Nikoleta Glyn were patient, accommodative, engaging and made the contribution experience unforgettable. They also shared fantastic materials with our participants to practice at all levels. The session was an incredible opportunity to introduce our participants to events such as Hacktoberfest. Find our repository here: and take part in the contribution too.

Ambutsi Mike, one of our participants, had to say this about day five, 

“‘No need to reinvent the wheel.’ This quote shared during the open-source session changed my view on open-source projects. I would love to continue the open-source discussion and hope to participate more in such projects in the future.”

After an amazing five days, we were glad to have attained our goal and were ready to kick-off phase two. Check out the Symposium playlist here and send us your comments or questions. Cheers!!