Future African Open Science Platform

Prof Khotso Mokhele
Dr Suzanne Smit
Mrs Susan Veldsman
Ms Eiman Karar
Prof Mohamed El-Hadidi

Dr Mohamed El-Hadidi

Dr. Mohamed El-Hadidi is an Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics, Acting Director of the Biomedical Informatics Program, and Bioinformatics Professional Diploma Director at the School of Information Technology and Computer Science (ITCS) and the head of the bioinformatics research group at Center for Informatics Sciences (CIS), Nile University (NU) since January 2017. Currently, he is the associate director of the Biomedical Informatics BSc. program and the director of the Bioinformatics diploma at NU. Additionally, El-Hadidi has acquired good experience in the industry, which he gained from working as the head of the bioinformatics unit at Colors for Research private medical company.

El-Hadidi received his Ph.D. Degree in Bioinformatics in 2016 from the Department of Computer Science, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany. From 2012-2016 he has worked as a full-time researcher in ZBIT Center for Bioinformatics at University of Tubingen. El-Hadidi was awarded an EU-funded scholarship “Erasmus Mundus”, where he had the chance to finish two master’s degree; one in Computational and Systems Biology from Aalto University in Finland and the other in Biotechnology from the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal.

El-Hadidi’s research expertise is in the area of applied bioinformatics with a focus on next-generation sequence data analysis and metagenomics. During his Ph.D., El-Hadidi’s main research focuses on designing and implementing automatic pipelines for the analysis of microbiome data for a wide range of applications in medicine and the environment. El-Hadidi has published several publications in prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the fields of bioinformatics and metagenomics.

Dr Suzanne Smit

Suzanne is passionate about work that solves real-world problems and offers new insights and perspectives on bringing about change that is environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. Suzanne is an executive board member of the Urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research group based at Stellenbosch University and her qualifications include a Doctorate and Masters of Philosophy and Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Development, from Stellenbosch University; a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration; and a National Diploma in Public Relations Management.

Suzanne’s Master’s work involved an exploratory study on connecting the green economy with the informal economy in South Africa. Her Ph.D. takes a broader perspective, and incorporates a systems approach to understanding the connections between urban informal settlements and the city. The study utilises a multi-scale integrated assessment of the societal and ecosystem metabolism approach for an urban informal settlement in Stellenbosch, South Africa in order to gauge human activity, land use and energy consumption in the settlement.

Her areas of interest include: Sustainable development, urban metabolism, green economy, informal economy, informal settlements, gendered aspects of growth and development, stakeholder engagement, sustainable and ‘just’ cities.

Mrs Susan Veldsman

Susan Veldsman was appointed to the position of Director: Scholarly Publication Unit at the Academy of Sciences in South Africa, in January 2009. She is responsible for raising the visibility, discoverability and accessibility of South African scholarly journals through Open Access and online journal content management; improve the quality of SA scholarly journal, books & conference proceedings through expert peer review panels in the field; find ways and solutions to further support the development of policy frameworks in order to facilitate optimal use and

access to publicly funded research. She received the Electronic Publishing Trust (EPT) award for her outstanding contribution to the promotion of Open Access in Developing Countries.  Early in her career she started off as an Information Librarian, at various Higher Education Libraries in South Africa where she eventually was promoted to Assistant Director: Client Services, Library

Services at the University of Johannesburg. During 2002 she moved to a national project, South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLiC) where she was responsible for negotiating access to commercial databases and was actively involved in promoting Open Access and setting up Institutional Repositories. She continued this work, in 2006, in an international consortium, eIFL.net.

Ms Eiman Karar

EimanKarar is currently working as Senior Advisor at the United Nations Environmental Programme. Between 2005-2016, Eiman was the Executive Manager for Management of Water Resources Department at the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa. From 2001-2005 she was the Director in the Department of Water Affairs of South Africa responsible for developing policies pertaining to all decentralised Water Management Institutions and their related governance arrangements. She is a registered professional natural scientist with the South African Association of Natural Scientists and is a member of the Water Institute of South Africa.

Eiman has 20 years of experience in water resources management mostly in southern Africa but also very familiar with North Africa water management. Her expertise is in research and policy interface, decentralisation of management decisions from a governance perspective; legal, organisational, financial and technical aspects.

Prof Khotso Mokhele

Dr Khotso Mokhele is the Chair of the Advisory Council of the African Open Science Platform, ND Chancellor of the University of the Free State. He was awarded a BSc Agriculture from Fort Hare University, and continued his studies at the University of California Davis on the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Scholarship Programme, completing his MSc (Food Science) and PhD (Microbiology). He was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland, USA) and the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA).

Dr Mokhele is the recipient of honorary doctorates from eight South African universities, including the University of the Free State and Rutgers University in the United States.

As President and CEO of the Foundation for Research Development (FRD) (1996-1999) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) from 1999 to 2006, Dr Mokhele played a central role in providing visionary and strategic direction to the South African science system. He was the Founder President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), Chairperson of the Economic Advisory Council to the Premier of the Free State (2001-2004), and a member of the Advisory Council on Innovation to the Minister of Science and Technology (2003-2007). His role in securing government and international support for the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) Project is evidence of his dedication to science in South Africa. The success of this project laid the basis for South Africa being selected to host more than 70% of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an international mega telescope for radio astronomy. In recognition of his contribution to the development of science, he was the recipient of the Technology Top 100 Lifetime Achievers Award in 2009 and the National Science and Technology Forum Award in 2005.

His role in science is recognised internationally. He was elected Vice-President: Scientific Planning and Review of the International Science Council (ISC) and Chairperson of its Committee for Scientific Planning and Review (2005-2008), as well as a member of the Committee on Developing and Transition Economy Countries of the International Social Science Council (2008-2010). He also represented South Africa on the executive board of UNESCO and was awarded the Member Legion of Honour of the Republic of France for his work in strengthening scientific ties between South Africa and France.

Dr Mokhele’s current corporate positions include: Non-Executive Chairman: Board of Directors, Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd (Implats) and Adcock Ingram Holdings Ltd; Non-Executive Director: African Oxygen Ltd (Afrox), Zimbabwe Platinum Holdings Ltd (Zimplats), Hans Merensky Holdings Ltd, and Tiger Brands Ltd. He is the President of the Hans Merensky Foundation (South Africa) and a Trustee of SciDev.Net (a web-based scientific magazine based in London, UK) and Start International Inc (USA). He was Chairman of the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee for Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland (2007–2011) and had served on the South Africa at Large Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee for more than 10 years.

The Future African Open Science Platform’s mission is to put African scientists at the cutting edge of contemporary, data-intensive science as a fundamental resource for a modern society. Its building blocks are:

  • a federated hardware, communications and software infrastructure, including policies and enabling practices, to support open science in the digital era;
  • a network of excellence in open science that supports scientists & other societal actors in accumulating and using modern data resources to maximise scientific, social and economic benefit.

These objectives will be realised through seven related strands of activity:

Strand 1: Register & portal for African & related international data collections & services.

Strand 2: A federated network of computational facilities and services.

Strand 3: Software tools & advice on policies & practices of research data management.

Strand 4: A Data Science & AI Institute at the cutting edge of data analytics.

Strand 5: Priority application programmes: e.g. cities, disease, biosphere, agriculture.

Strand 6: A Network for Education & Skills in data & information.

Strand 7: A Network for Open Science Access and Dialogue.

The paper will outline the findings from the draft landscape study, as well as the alignment with a future Platform.