The 7th annual flagship conference had a lot of significant sides to it. First, it was the first time the annual event took place in a typical university environment; second, it recorded the highest number of participants in the conference’s history. Third, for the first time, WACREN managed to drive the attention of the entire community of stakeholders, including students, in one direction – open science.

Being the first time in a university environment presented some exciting successes, challenges and lessons. WACREN and its community of stakeholders witnessed first-hand the dynamic needs of the potential end-users in terms of connectivity, advanced resources, capacity building and inclusion in decision-making. 

The successes of holding the conference in a user environment were apparent, and so were the challenges. WACREN is happy to use the lessons learnt and input them into the next conference’s organisation in 2023. 

In all, there were 510 in-person participants and 102 online participants at the Conference. These numbers represented 23 nationalities and a diverse mix of interest parties and stakeholders in research and education networking in Africa and beyond. 

The conference’s location and the topic’s importance contributed to the high turnout from different parts of the world, a significant achievement in our region and for African REN conferences in general.  

Given the importance of open science on the global agenda in recent years, the choice of theme for the conference – ‘Open Science in Africa – Connecting the dots’- was timely and relevant. 

“This topic is now at the heart of global discourse, given its importance in helping tackle the COVID-19 pandemic bedevilling our world. Without the phenomenon of open science, it would have been extremely difficult for the world of scientists to access and share the knowledge direly needed to handle the pandemic,” Ramata Bakayoko-Ly, the keynote speaker for WACREN 2022, told a host of journalists during the opening of the Conference. 

A primary goal of the Conference was to showcase LIBSENSE’s open science activities and galvanise stakeholders to reflect and share ideas on concrete action plans for advancing open science in Africa. 

The  symposium organised by local stakeholders in Cote d’Ivoire as part of the LIBSENSE National Open Science Roadmap programme raised stakeholders’ awareness of open science and the need for policy makers to create a conducive environment for the advancement of open science within the country. The mini-conference led to the formation of working groups on advocacy, policies and infrastructure charged with producing an action plan in coming months.

The  second regional policy development workshop organised in collaboration with UNESCO and university associations to promote the development of open science policies at the institutional level was attended by 32 participants from 11 countries. University leaders in charge of research and innovation met with deans responsible for early career researcher development to discuss research assessment in the African contexts and collaboration on a proposal for regional evaluation instruments.

In his speech at the conference opening, Fabio Di Stefano from the European Commission congratulated WACREN on blazing the trail to advance open science.  He remarked that LIBSENSE had done “excellent work in building a pan-African open science community and steering national and regional efforts via meaningful multi-stakeholder dialogue”.

The EC official stressed that open science is a policy priority for the European body, which considers open science a critical enabler of shared knowledge for finding solutions to global problems. He added that open science is “fundamental to achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)”.

He expressed the hope that LIBSENSE will continue to embark on various projects to entrench the ideals of open science, influence policy decision-makers to create conducive policy frameworks and build capacities at the institutional, national, regional and continental levels.