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Fair data management

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

The European Commission is running a flexible pilot under Horizon 2020 called the Open Research Data Pilot (ORD pilot). The ORD pilot aims to improve and maximise access to and re-use of research data generated by Horizon 2020 projects and takes into account the need to balance openness and protection of scientific information, commercialization and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), privacy concerns, security, as well as data management and preservation questions.

A data management plan (DMP) is required for all projects participating in the extended ORD pilot and describes the data management life cycle for the data to be collected, processed and/or generated by a Horizon 2020 project.

To help Horizon 2020 beneficiaries make their research data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR), the Commission has designed a Horizon 2020 FAIR DMP template which provided in Annex I of their new guidelines on FAIR Data Management in Horizon 2020.

FAIR principles can and should be adopted by research groups outside the ORD pilot in developing DMPs for their projects. A FAIR DMP should include information on:

  • the handling of research data during and after the end of the project
  • what data will be collected, processed and/or generated
  • which methodology and standards will be applied
  • whether data will be shared/made open access and
  • how data will be curated and preserved (including after the end of the project).

[ARTICLE BY Rabelani Mutondwa

Science in your backyard

Friday, August 5th, 2016

frog-1445779__180Everyone can’t have a career in science, but nothing prevents you from taking part in various projects and contributing to important research. Thanks to technology, being a citizen scientist couldn’t be easier.

Citizen science, also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, volunteer monitoring or networked science, is scientific research conducted,  by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. (

Joseph M. Hulbert elaborates further in his article, Citizen science tools available for ecological research in South Africa:

“Ordinary citizens can participate in research from their home computer, in their own gardens, or in the great outdoors – without any expertise in the field. Many citizen science projects and opportunities exist in South Africa – ranging from monitoring bird migrations to identifying and mapping distributions of fungi.” 

One of the most popular fields where citizen science is practised is amateur astrology, but others include butterfly counts, ornithology, citizen oceanography and even art history. In South Africa CS projects include the Stream Assessment Scoring System (miniSASS) and at the University of Pretoria members of the public are helping researchers to identify Phytophthora (“plant destroyers”) species present in the fynbos. The main purpose of the research is to survey plant disease in the Fynbos Biome. By finding the locations where the disease is spotted, faster action can be taken and the conservation of Fynbos will be benefitted. Read more about the project here.

The University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit (ADU) is responsible for many local citizen science projects. The unit has created various Virtual Museums, including the MammalMAP website where you can submit photos and add to a growing database of the habits and distribution of mammals in South Africa. If you’re not into mammals, there are virtual museums for anything from frogs and butterflies to starfish and sea urchins. 

Joseph M. Hulbert mentions two other local projects, OrchidMap and Aliens of the Cape Peninsula. OrchidMap is also one of the projects hosted by Virtual Museum and consists of nearly 3000 geo-referenced records for orchids being added since September 2014. Members of the public can upload images and locations of orchids on the database. Aliens of the Cape Peninsula attempts to locate new alien plants and their distribution on the Cape Peninsula.

If you are interested in being a citizen scientist and putting your photography and science skills to good use, here are a few tools you can use – 

Ispot is a South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) initiative. Since its launch in June 2012, it has contributed to the nearly 400 000 international observations of 30 000 different species reported by mid-2014.

WhatSpecies was started by a parent who wanted to help her children identify insects and plants. Subsequently, the website’s layout is friendly and accessible for a younger audience and it tries to engage youth on various social media platforms.

Virtual Museum, as mentioned earlier, is hosted by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. There are 17 different projects that citizens can participate in hosted on Virtual Museum alone.

The Cape Town Citizen website  also contains ample information on becoming a citizen scientist. Also watch the SciShow’s video on Citizen Science on YouTube.

Tools for data management plans

Friday, August 5th, 2016

matrix More and more research funders require data management plans to be included in applications for research grants or funding. A data management plan (DMP)  is a formal document that outlines what you will do with your data during and after a research project.

Although the requirements may vary from funder to funder, DMP’s generally consist of a description of the data to be collected or created; the methodologies or standards of data collection and management to be used; applicable security, confidentiality, ethics and intellectual property considerations ; and plans and strategies for data access and sharing as well as long-term preservation.

Several tools, such as the DMPTool from the University of California Curation Center and DMPonline from the Digital Curation Centre, have been developed and published online to help researchers create DMPs.

These web-based tools provide access to several DMP templates;  guidance from specific funders who require DMPs and the ability to share or export DMPs in various formats. People from any institution can register freely to use these tools.

[SOURCES:; (; and]

[Article by Rabelani Mutondwa]

Are you an aspiring scientist?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

sciencejournalGoogle just released an app which might appeal to budding scientists.  It’s called Science Journal, and measures and records data in real-time by using the sensors embedded in Android phones. 

The Science Journal app allows you to gather data from the world around you. By using the phone’s sensors, it measures elements in your environment, like light and sound, so you can graph data, record experiments, and organise questions and ideas.

If your main aim is to take over the world, instead of conducting small experiments for your own amusement, this might not be your cup of tea. Its main objective is to get children involved and interested in science, but it can still be fun for the adult who still wants to play.

The app is part of a larger Google initiative called The Making & Science Initiative which believes anyone can be a scientist by observing your everyday life, figuring out how things work and creating projects to improve the world.

Science Journal also allows you to make notes about your experiments and keep a digital journal – just in case you make that breakthrough discovery and forgot how it happened.

It is available as a free download from the Google Play Store and needs a smartphone running on Android 4.4 KitKat to install the 14MB app. 

Read more on Google’s latest projects, including a modular cellphone and an attempt at smart clothes.

E-textbook pilot project

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016


The e-textbook pilot is a collaboration between Information Technology and the Faculty of Law which will offer e-textbooks as an option for first year students in one or more of their modules and extended to the postgraduate programme in Public and Development Management at SPL. The introduction of e-textbooks will allows us to explore the strength and weaknesses of the e-reader technology and to determine the usefulness of the technology in the classroom.

Students require flexible mechanisms to have access to their academic resources, access to learning managements system, library resources and any academic or information resources is a requirement for on or off campus. The goals of the e-textbook pilot with the Law Faculty and School of Public Leadership (SPL) are:

· Explore the current strengths and weaknesses of the e-reader technology
· To determine the usefulness of this technology in the classroom
· Reduce the high cost of traditional textbooks and increase the attractiveness of e-textbooks
· Evaluate the availability of the e-textbook resource on more than one device
· Increase the usage of the required e-textbooks through institutional purchase.

The drivers for the pilot of e-textbooks include the electronic delivery of course material as a possible replacement of traditional printed textbooks, the adoption of e-reader technology as part of the curriculum renewal and meeting the technology expectations of the knowledge economy.

Are you involved in any e-book initiatives on campus? Share your story with us by sending an e-mail



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