The Research Software and Systems Engineers of Africa (RSSE Africa) forum grew out of the experience of RSSEs (primarily at SANBI at the University of the Western Cape, in Cape Town, South Africa) in supporting colleagues across the continent. It was launched in November 2019 (at the ASBCB 2019 conference https://www.iscb.org/iscbafrica2019) as an informal skills sharing forum. Our aims are to raise awareness of the specific contributions that RSSEs make to research in Africa, to organise events for RSSEs on the continent and the provide a forum for sharing skills and opportunities within the community.
The forum founders were Peter van Heusden and Eugene de Beste from the SANBI, South Africa.
The Open Life Science Training and Mentorship Programme is a 16-week long mentorship and cohort-based training for people interested in applying open principles in their work and becoming Open Science ambassadors in their communities. In 2020 RSSE Africa was accepted as a project in the OLS programme. Project leads Peter van Heusden and Eugene de Beste aimed to use this opportunity to grow the community in terms of visibility and participation.
This was at the height of the COVID pandemic, but despite the challenges faced, the team created a new website for RSSE Africa and much more during the 16-week programme.
Project title: Developing the Research Software and Systems Engineering Community to support Life Sciences in Africa
In March 2022 Talarify committed to support the RSSE-Africa community by organising regular monthly meetups. The programme kicked off in May 2022. We had amazing support from the UK RSE community members who volunteered to join as presenters and share their knowledge and expertise about the global RSE movement, resources, opportunities, training, and more.
Every alternative month we invited the African RSSE community to join us for a presentation followed by discussion and inbetween, we focussed our meetups on getting to know each other and contextualising the new knowledge to identify opportunities in the African context.
In 2022 ReSA commisioned a survey of research software organisations, projects, communities and funders in the Global South. The data and report is available on Zenodo. For this mapping exercise, a number of African RSE community members were recruited as consultants to ensure the project could build on local knowledge as RSE is not yet a term widely known on the continent.
To build on the momentum from the mapping project by ReSA and the consultants, and to incorporate additional knowledge of the local landscape, Talarify submitted another project to the Open Life Science programme, this time with a focus on finding local stakeholders and creating an interactive map where both ReSA data and the new information from the latest mapping exercise would be displayed.
Project title: Mapping the RSSE landscape in Africa
The first RSSE Africa newsletter is created by the Talarify team and shared with our community via Mailchimp. A total of 127 people is subscribed to receive the newsletter!
Over the past few years a number of international RSE communities have launched features on their websites showcasing the different careerpaths, job titles, roles, and more of their community members through interview-style posts. See for example RSE Australia, and the Society of Research Software Engineering.
In order to grow more visibility of African RSSEs, provide some value for our community members, and to have an opportunity to get to know our members better, we launched the RSSE Africa Community Spotlights in January 2023.