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Asia Open Access 2019: A platform for open data

Asia Open Access Dhaka 2019, was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 6-7, hosted by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) in association with Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR).

In the conference, six technical sessions and one concluding and recommendation session were included. During the two-day program, a special seminar and workshop on open access and open science, open education: focus on Bangladesh, institutional roles in sampling open science and Asian country update, Creative Commons in Bangladesh was held. 

The Asia Open Access was organized to learn about global trends, share information across Asian countries, and help with local strategies for increasing the adoption of open access and open science in participating countries as well in Bangladesh. The latest development related to the COAR, next-generation repositories initiative, discussed and heard about the work being done in other countries in Asia and beyond.

During the inaugural session as the Chief Guest, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Hon’ble Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology Division, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, said that “present government has taken several initiatives for making a Digital Bangladesh. The Government electronic portal is open for all. To create potential human resource government has set up more than nine thousand primary Sheikh Russell Digital Lab and Digital Classroom throughout the country. As a result, students are learning Information Technology from their early ages of education.” The State Minister also mentioned that the government has to work for big data, robotics, open data, internet of thinking, blockchain and etc.      

Dr Wais Kabir, Executive Director, Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF), mentioned that “agriculture is the key driving force of its emerging economy. As BARC is the apex body of the National Agricultural Research System, it would like to take the leadership of making the data, information and knowledge available and accessible to promote linkage among the policymakers, researchers, educators, and other stakeholders.” He also shared that the government has already created the Open Government Data Portal (OGD). 

The regional scholars, academicians, thinkers, researchers, an intellectual community, shared their knowledge and utilized that in their respective fields. Dr Md. Kabir Ikramul Haque, Executive Chairman, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, told, “We know that the publicly funded research produced by the authors is not available to the people in this region.

Therefore, we need to learn, discuss and agree upon the means and methods on how to make the research outputs (publications) available to all.” He also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for permitting them to organize this event. He wished whole-hearted co-operation for Open Access movement in the country. Whenever the data and information are made openly available, informed decisions can be taken by farming community and whenever the research outputs are made openly available, the agricultural sciences and the research progress in accelerating manner for the public good.

BARC Chief Documentation Officer and Conference coordinator, Dr Sushmita Das told, “let’s make our minds Open! Yes, if the mind is in fear, it is restricted, it can’t see the light. We all should be open and at the same time, be positive in our attitude towards accepting and delivering!” She also hoped that public awareness had been increased about open data of science, education, agriculture, and nutrition.

The latest developments related to the COAR next generation repositories initiative and the work being done in other countries in Asia and beyond were presented throughout different speakers talks. Participants also discussed the unique opportunities in the country that could be leveraged to move things forward, in particular, the strong push by the federal government for “Digital Bangladesh”, a strategy to modernize and provide digital and open access to government services, data, and information. 

During the Concluding and Recommendation Session, Md. Nazim Uddin, Head of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) Library and Information Center division, presented the recommendations from the key points of the conference at the closing phase. He urged to work on various issues, including open access policies, increasing the use of open licenses, modernization of open repositories. Besides, the conference co-organizer Centre for Open Knowledge (COK) President Professor Mostafa Azad Kamal emphasized the need for Open Education Policy.

The challenges faced in Bangladesh to implementing widespread open access are familiar to many of us: lack of incentives and awareness by the research community, insufficient resources to support “pay to publish” models, and gaps in expertise and staffing. However, to address this, the Bangladesh community has already begun working together to develop shared strategies and resources across the major research institutions.

All of the participants and distinguished guests agreed during the concluding and recommendation session that the country needs to develop a national open access policy to uphold the research activities of different government organizations and leads the nation as a data-driven country. 

Photo credit: Md. Arif Khan