Talarify has been involved in creating awareness of the global Research Software Engineer (RSE) movement in Africa since 2015. In 2022 Talarify started supporting RSSE-Africa, a community founded in 2019, by hosting monthly community meetups. The goal of these monthly meetups is to stimulate the growth of an African community of practice around research software and infrastructure and showcase African expertise in this space. Another organisation with the goal of bringing together researcher software communities is the Research Software Alliance (ReSA).
ReSA is an organisation whose mission is to bring research software communities together to collaborate on the advancement of the research software ecosystem. To understand the research software landscape, the ReSA task force started a mapping project in 2019, where the aim was to map research software stakeholders. In 2020 this data was published and mainly comprised of communities in the Global North. In 2022, the mapping project was expanded to include the Global South. Thirty-nine communities were mapped in Africa and only 4 of these were from South Africa.
We wanted to contribute our knowledge of the research software ecosystem in Africa that has been gained over the past eight years. Therefore, Talarify launched a project building on the ReSA initiative to expand the mapping of African RSE communities. This was done as an Open Life Science (OLS) Cohort 6 project under the title “Mapping the RSSE landscape in Africa”. The project also builds upon work done by Peter van Huesden and Eugene de Beste on OLS 2’s “Developing the Research Software and Systems Engineering Community to support Life Sciences in Africa”.
To get data on African RSE communities, we:
- created a form to invite community members on various platforms to add their data
- shared the form with the existing RSSE-Africa community, online communities and connections made at events we attended, including the World Science Forum 2022
- Collected data through internet searches on work done in Africa
These efforts pushed the number of mapped communities in Africa from 39 to 166. Our project was presented by Nomalungelo (Noma) Maphanga at the OLS graduation ceremony where participants shared the outcome of their projects. As part of the project output, Noma created an interactive data visualisation web app in Shiny (an R package).
Collected data: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7594453
The Research Software Alliance (ReSA) and the community landscape: https://www.researchsoft.org/blog/2020-03/
Expanding the mapping of the global research software community: https://www.researchsoft.org/blog/2022-10/
Read more about RSSE-Africa here: https://rsse.africa/
Author: Nomalungelo Maphanga & Anelda van der Walt