During the month of January, the isiXhosa researcher from the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR), the Siswati researcher and a programmer were fortune enough to be selected to attend a summer school in Pretoria, which was organised by the University of Pretoria’s Department of Information Science together with the Data-Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA), SADiLaR and Network of Data and Information Curation Communities (NeDICC). The CODATA-RDA Research Data summer school ran from 13 – 24 January 2020.
It was such a privilege to be part of the group of Africans to attend the first summer school presented in South Africa which provided a group of early-career researchers with the essential data science skills which include technical skills and responsible research practices, to enable them to work with data in an effective and efficient manner required by the fast-paced 21st century.
Creating Academic Networks
The summer school did not only provide basic and cutting-edge data skills to new researchers and data scientists, it brought together researchers from 13 African countries namely; South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. This school promoted cohesion and tolerance among African researchers as they came from diverse socio-cultural and racial backgrounds. It presented a platform for all participants to establish academic relationships beyond the summer school as they shared their experiences in academia. Through the CODATA-RDA Research Data summer school, sound friendships were established which could also promote research and collaborations between researchers in the African continent.
The goal of the summer school was to provide a practical introduction to the following topics with some theory and extensive hands-on training:
- Open Science and FAIR data
- Unix Shell-Git and GitHub
- Open and Collaborative Research
- Data Cleaning – using Open Refine-Data Analysis and Visualisation (all research disciplines) – using R
- Information Security
- Machine Learning and Neural Networks
- Research Computational Infrastructures
- Research Data Management
- Responsible authorship
What stood out: Artificial Intelligence and its application
Artificial Intelligence was one of the topics presented at the Summer School and was hat definitely stood out for the software developer for this is a section of Computer Science he finds fascinating. Right now Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics around the globe. What is AI? AI is a field in Computer Science that demonstrates the intelligence of machines (e.g. Robots) in opposition to the natural intelligence that humans have. The summer school provided an opportunity to learn about various applications of AI such as Machine Learning, Voice Recognition as well as Computer Vision. The use of AI technologies can be applied to many sectors today; our host institution (University of Pretoria) Library Services is no exception. The UP Library Services stepped into the future as they ’employed’ a robot dubbed ‘Libby’ in order to assist students with all library-related information. ‘Libby’ runs on an Android-based platform that also enables developers to develop new and exciting client-facing applications and to learn new concepts on the go. Video clips about this client-serving AI-powered robot taking questions can be accessed on: