Catalyzing Open and Collaborative Science to Address Global Development Challenges

Climate change, environmental degradation, emerging infectious diseases, inadequate access to clean drinking water, and food insecurity affect all parts of the world. However, their impacts on developing economies are highly disproportionate with developed economies. This project will explore the potential of open and collaborative science to address these development challenges.

Sound technology-based solutions
Addressing these challenges requires solutions that are relevant to developing country contexts. They must include the best tools and approaches that are quick to deploy and sustainable over time.

As the cost of computer hardware continues to drop and developing-country researchers get increased access to the Internet and mobile phones, each offers the potential for solving these development challenges by opening up the scientific process.

What is open science?
At the heart of the open science concept is the idea that scientific data, methods, and findings should be freely shared to encourage scientists and the public to collaborate on solving scientific problems.

Examples include crowdsourcing to map and monitor deforestation in Brazil to support conservation efforts in the Amazon. The human genome project is another example, where the open sharing of sequence data over the Internet encouraged innovations and spurred major growth in the biotechnology and biomedical industries. Similarly, in Accra, Ghana, carbon monoxide sensors, coupled with mobile phones and global positioning system trackers in taxis, are allowing city officials to generate real-time maps to identify areas with high pollution.

The costs and risks of open science
Very little is known about the added value and costs of opening up the scientific process, particularly with respect to scientific research for development challenges. Open science supporters herald its ability to accelerate the pace of scientific discoveries and make scientific processes more accessible, participatory, and locally relevant.

Critics raise the following risks:
-privacy;
-breakdown of incentive systems for those seeking to commercialize research results;
-potential for false conclusions based on unverifiable data sources; or
-use (or misuse) of data or findings by the public or commercial entities.

Evaluating whether open science can advance development goals

This research project will support a competitive call for proposals on the issue. The goal is to generate a set of locally relevant research studies that provides evidence on whether open approaches to science contribute to development goals, and if so, under what conditions.

The project will also build a community of open science research leaders in developing countries to advocate for evidence-based changes to science policy and practice. The University of Toronto Scarborough (Canada) and the Innovation Hub (Kenya) will coordinate the project.

Project ID

107650

Project status

Active

Duration

36 months

IDRC Officer

Raed Sharif

Total funding

CA$ 2,009,506

Program

Information and Networks in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa 

Project Leader

Angela H.S.C. Okune

Institution

I-HUB LIMITED

Institution Country

Kenya

Project Leader

Leslie Kin Wai Chan

Institution

The Governing Council of the University of Toronto

Institution Country

Canada

Institution Website

http://www.utoronto.ca

Project Leader

Angela H.S.C. Okune

Institution

I-HUB LIMITED

Institution Country

Kenya

Project Leader

Leslie Kin Wai Chan

Institution

The Governing Council of the University of Toronto

Institution Country

Canada

Institution Website

http://www.utoronto.ca