Sudan has been subject to international sanctions since 1993. These sanctions have had far-reaching implications for Sudanese academics, and have impacted on many aspects of their research and teaching activities. Despite the partial lifting of the sanctions in October last year, the long-term impact of these sanctions on academia will perpetuate. Thus, without targeted interventions that address key knowledge, skill and access gaps, it is likely that Sudanese academics will continue to be marginalized from the global scientific community. This is particularly troubling given the growing support for the Open Data movement and the increasing amount of freely-available online resources.
In June 2017 Louise Bezuidenhout and Ola Karrar met at the CODATA/RDA Research Data Management summer school in Trieste, Italy. Louise is a Research Fellow at InSIS, and Ola a lecturer in statistics department at University of Khartoum in Sudan. Louise had just presented a lecture on Open Data, and Ola approached her to ask some probing questions about the limits of Open Data under international sanctions. How, she asked, can Sudanese academics participate in the Open Data movement when international sanctions have been in place since 1993? As the sanctions prohibited access to information, availability of research equipment and ICTs, and communication channels with the global academic community, this impact is manifold.
Ola’s compelling description of academia in Sudan, and their shared interest in Open Data and research capacity building in Africa, highlighted that something needed to be done. There needed to be more discussion on the impact of sanctions on academia. Also, in response to the partial lifting of these sanctions on 12 October 2017, they recognised an urgent need for creative solutions to support Sudanese academics in overcoming this legacy. The Sudanese community needed to be consulted as to where they identify key skill, resource and capacity shortages so that capacity building initiatives can be targeted and effective. In particular, as academia increasingly transitions into an Open Data milieu, what can be done to stimulate Sudanese awareness regarding the range, scope and potential of online data. Do Sudanese academics feel confident to use and contribute data online, or are there key skill sets, areas of awareness or mentorship strategies that are lacking?
This discussion gave birth to a project funded by Africa Oxford (AfOx), which will enable Louise and Ola to formally start putting into action some of their ideas from their Trieste discussions.
There is an urgent need for creative solutions to support Sudanese academics in overcoming this legacy. However, the development of these solutions is hampered by a lack of evidence. Louise and Ola have developed a survey which addresses this gap by gathering perceptions of skill gaps within the Sudanese academic community. The findings of this survey will assist the Open Data community in identifying key skill, resource and capacity shortages so that capacity building initiatives can be targeted and effective.This would include distributing a survey to Sudanese academics regarding the impact of sanctions and their preferences for support in overcoming this legacy. This survey will be disseminated in part by Ola and also via other network contacts held by both academics, analysed during a visit by Ola to Oxford, and then disseminated in a workshop given by both Ola and Louise in Sudan. It is envisioned that the survey would be disseminated by the end of the year, and that the analysis would occur in the first quarter of 2018.
If you know any academics currently working in Sudan, please help us by forwarding them the link below, and encouraging them to complete our short survey.