The Forum for Open Research in MENA is a community-led organisation with a clear mission: to support the advancement of Open Science in the Arab region by working with research communities across all 22 Arab states. An integral part of our strategy to achieve this goal is by building long-term partnerships with grassroots initiatives across the Arab world and providing them with the resources, infrastructure, and encouragement needed to build an indigenous Arab Open Science network.
That is why we are incredibly excited to welcome the Open Science Community Egypt (OSCE) as the newest member of FORM!
OSCE is the first Open Science network to be launched in Egypt, a country that is rich in research but has had little exposure to Open Science frameworks in the past (with the exception of the pioneering work by the Egyptian Knowledge Bank to ensure open access research for all Egyptian citizens). The OSCE was founded by three ambitious Egyptian women with experience working as librarians and archivists at some of Egypt’s most reputable academic institutions.
After receiving a scholarship from the International Network of Open Science & Scholarship (INOSC) in April 2023, Menna Emam (Administrative Assistant), Doaa Abdelkader (Director), and Yassmeen Ashraf (Marketing Specialist), set off to learn everything they could about how to build a successful Open Science community within Egypt’s seemingly rigid academic ecosystem.
Before launching in September 2023, the three partners sat down to identify key goals that would ground them throughout their mission, which included raising awareness about Open Science in Egypt and improving Egypt’s global ranking in scholarship through the adoption of Open Science practices and policies.
“As librarians, we’ve always somewhat seen ourselves as Guardians of Knowledge”, says Menna as she reflects on her time as a librarian at Galala University, where she was first exposed to the concept of Open Science and its integral role in supporting a healthy knowledge ecosystem. Unfortunately, this was also where she was exposed to the misinformation about Open Science that was circulating within Egyptian research communities. Respected leaders in the community, such as doctors, engineers, and professors, mirrored the existing negative perceptions about Open Science within the wider intellectual network by perpetuating narratives about Open Science research as low quality or unprotected by intellectual property rights.
“Many academics in Egypt actively avoid publishing in Open Science journals because they believe that their research will be stolen and reproduced without their consent, when in fact the opposite is true. The more open your research is, the more recognition your work will receive, and the less possible it will be for anyone to take credit for it”, explains Menna, “not to mention that there are many safeguards already put in place to protect the copyrights of researchers publishing in Open Science. It’s just that there is so little awareness of these realities in Egypt”.
Combating this spread of misinformation about Open Science policies and practices is at the heart of OSCE’s activities. Since their establishment, the community has already hosted several capacity building workshops with major global and national institutions, including Datacite, Cairo University, and more. Each workshop is geared towards Egyptian researchers looking to learn more about how they can advance their careers through Open Science practices.
Partnering With FORM
When asked why OSCE decided to join FORM as a partner, Menna enthusiastically recalled her time as a presenter at the 1st Annual Forum (2022) in Cairo, where she first heard about our network. She was deeply inspired by our community-centered approach to knowledge exchange and believed in our vision right away. “We believe that collaborating with FORM will make us feel much more stable and secure within the Open Science space, and help us connect with the wider Arab Open Science community… We feel we can benefit greatly from FORM’s expertise on all matters of Open Science, and that your established reputation in the region makes you a key partner to have”.
We at FORM look forward to working closely with OSCE to support their grassroots initiative in whatever capacity we can.
If you would like your organisation to become a Member of FORM, more information is available here.