Connecting policies and software solutions for the advancement of open science and open education

Havana international Seminar on Open and Linked Information Framework for Education and Research (OLINFER 2018) analyzed worldwide challenges and opportunities for open science and open education.

The Seminar was organized with the support of the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, the Belgian Council of Universities and UNESCO, which promotes policy frameworks and worldwide initiatives on Open Access (OA), Free and Open Source Software solutions (FOSS) and Open Educational Resources (OER) as part of its Communication and Information Sector key actions.

International experts in OER and Open Access to scientific research, researchers, librarians, policy makers and Open Source software developers from more than 10 countries participated in the seminar, held from 12-14 November at the Cuban University of Informatics Sciences (UCI). This event was organized within the framework of the project "ICT supporting the educational processes and the knowledge management in higher education (ELINF)”, implemented as part of the Cuban Network Partner Programme “Strengthening of the role of ICT in Cuban Universities for the development of the society (REDTIC)”.

Participants discussed current challenges and opportunities for the development of an open and linked information and data framework for education and research in Cuba and the region. The seminar was also an opportunity for presenting FOSS based solutions developed by the ELINF project to enhance knowledge management in higher education institutions. This also aims at articulating multistakeholders cooperation for the adoption of policy frameworks and FOSS for the promotion of open science and education both locally and internationally.

The ELINF project is a joint effort between the Ministry of Higher Education of Cuba and the Belgian Council of Universities (VLIR) that, during the last six years, has led to the development of Open Source solutions and promoted spaces for dialogue on policy frameworks to foster the exchange of research results and educational resources among the national academic community.

Through the development of modules and functionalities on a variety of platforms, such as Moodle, DSpace and VIVO, and the release of version 3.0 of the library management system ABCD, ELINF is providing a framework of software solutions for Cuban universities aimed at expanding the possibilities of cooperation between researchers, teachers and students across the country, that may be also used by other higher education institutions worldwide.

Another relevant contribution of the project is the creation of new solutions such as Darkaiv and Auctoritas, currently in the testing phase, which support the extraction of metadata from publications and facilitate the building of “authority files” with the objective to foster the development of more interoperable platforms.

During the three days Seminar, representatives of the public sector, academia and industry shared their experiences and points of view on the different elements that contribute to the development of open science and open education systems.

Participants also highlighted challenges, such as the lack of policy frameworks or strategies favoring open access at the national and institutional levels, infrastructure barriers as well as the need to strengthen capacities in the scientific and academic community to join the open access and open education movement.

The need to create institutional roadmaps to advance the development of interoperable platforms based on linked and open data was also stressed. Such roadmaps would facilitate the creation and exchange of OER material and scientific research results.

Finally, it was underlined the importance for these strategies to facilitate a long-term preservation approach of both information / educational resources and software.

Members of the (Free and Open Source Software) FOSS community also had the opportunity to discuss potential collaboration for the enhancement of current software solutions developed or used by ELINF.

Mr. Jean-Claude Dauphin, lead developer of the core engine of the library system ABCD, J-ISIS, declared to be “impatient” to discover and test the first ABCD 3.0 software Beta release. In technical meetings with Dr. Egbert de Smet, VLIR project manager of ABCD 3.0 and the UCI team, Mr. Dauphin presented to the project team the latest version of J-ISIS suite, J-ISIS Database Server and J-ISIS Core library illustrating the latest improvements and bug fixes.

ABCD is a library management system initially developed by Bireme with the support of VLIR-UOS. It integrates the J-Isis technology, based on UNESCO’s CDS/ISIS information storage and retrieval software. Among other new features, ABCD version 3.0 focuses on interoperability, providing mechanisms to expose, fetch or interchange data with other systems.