UWC’s Online Data Carpentry Workshop in April

An online Data Carpentry workshop will take place from 12-16 April, and is aimed at students and researchers who want to start learning how to work with their data. The workshop will be hosted by UWC and sponsored by SADiLaR.

Registration opens today!

Data Carpentry develops and teaches workshops on the fundamental data skills needed to conduct research. Its target audience is researchers who have little to no prior computational experience, and its lessons are domain specific, building on learners’ existing knowledge to enable them to quickly apply skills learned to their own research. Participants will be encouraged to help one another and to apply what they have learned to their own research problems.

For more information on what the Carpentries teach and why, please see the paper Good Enough Practices for Scientific Computing.

Lessons will include data organising and cleaning with OpenRefine, and data analysis and visualisation with R. No previous knowledge of the tools that will be presented at the workshop is necessary.

Participation is free, and there is a registration link on the site.  

Please contact eresearch-support@uwc.ac.za if there are any questions about the workshop, or contact Sarah Schäfer directly at sschafer@uwc.ac.za

Join the African Scientists Directory

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has invited African scientists/scientists working on African research to consider joining the African Scientists Directory. The directory aims at connecting African scientists across the globe, and assists in identifying experts in selected fields – whether it is to invite as part of a meeting, panel, or conference, to conduct article peer-reviews, to invite as an external examiner, to co-author an article or collaborate as part of a project, or for any other professional reasons.

This can be done in 3 simple steps: Register & verify email – Login – Submit listing

Once submitted, the profile will be reviewed and once all information has been verified, it will be published on the database. Selected information is open access, but also view the end-user policy and data privacy/security policy for this database.

Additionally, the African Open Science Platform pilot project was concluded in October 2019, and ASSAf recently received consent from the funder (NRF) to make the Landscape Report available through the ASSAf Research Repository. It can be accessed here.

The State of Open Data

On 25 February, Figshare hosted The State of Open Data 2020. The webinar’s focus was on the annual State of Open Data Report, and included presentations from three speakers. It gives an overview of the results of the study, and insight into what librarians, publishers and research data managers can do to help make data sharing an integral part of research.

A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.

Speakers included Dr Leslie McIntosh ( CEO of Ripeta); Dr Mark Hahnel (founder of Figshare), and Mariëtte van Selm (Information Specialist, University of Amsterdam).

The State of Open Data report includes survey results from 4500 participants and a collection of articles from global industry experts. It is the longest-running longitudinal study on the subject, which was created in 2016 to examine attitudes and experiences of researchers working with open data – sharing it, reusing it, and redistributing it.

Access the dataset here – https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13274744

Meet Oko

Oko Lwana

Oko Lwana is the Administrative Officer at the eResearch Office. She works closely with the eResearch Director, Prof Mattia Vaccari, and is responsible for managing inventory, maintaining eResearch records, handling budget and office reporting, invoicing and providing customer service. Oko also assists with coordinating various activities, meetings, conferences and workshops.

Oko grew up in the Eastern Cape, and obtained her Project Management Degree at Cape Peninsula University  (CPUT).

She is currently busy with her MTech in Project Management and finds eResearch interesting because, as the importance of research capabilities grows, she learns something new every day.

She loves reading and socialising in her free time and going out to meet friends.

Meet the Director

Mattia Vaccari

Prof Mattia Vaccari was appointed UWC’s first Director of eResearch in April 2019. His role reports to the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and is responsible for the leadership and development of an eResearch strategy at UWC in partnership with data intensive research teams across campus.

Born in Italy, Prof Vaccari studied at the University of Padova and completed a MSc in Physics and a PhD in Space Science and Technology. He has since been a Research Fellow at Imperial College London, the University of Padova and UWC, which he first joined in 2011 and where he was most recently a Research Scientist with the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) and the Astrophysics Group. In his research, he uses ground-based as well as space-based telescopes to observe distant galaxies at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum and thus study their formation and evolution over cosmic time. He is also interested in applying Artificial Intelligence techniques to longstanding problems in observational astrophysics such as source detection and classification.

Prof Vaccari has contributed to the design and developed data processing algorithms for several space satellite astrophysics missions by ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. In particular, he contributed to the design of the GAIA space astrometry mission and to the development of the ground segment for the Herschel Space Observatory. At IDIA he leads the HELP-IDIA Panchromatic Project (HIPPO), whose aim is to create a cloud-based environment where astronomers can effectively exploit MeerKAT data in the context of multi-wavelength data.

Read more about Prof Vaccari on his web page!

European Astronomical Society Special Session

The European Astronomical Society virtual meeting EAS 2021 will hold a Special Session on 28 June – SS5 Data-intensive radio astronomy: bringing astrophysics to the exabyte era. It will feature UWC’s eResearch Director Mattia Vaccari, a member of the organising committee.

The session will cover the current status and challenges faced by radio astronomy in handling large data volumes, and technical solutions and applications within and outside astronomy.

The aim of the session is to bring together different communities (astrophysics, high-energy physics, research institutes, industry) to discuss current tools and ideas for the future development of data management. The meeting hopes to enhance the broader knowledge base through various approaches to tackling the challenges SKA radio telescopes are facing, now and in the future.

The topics that will be covered include
Data-intensive radio astronomy, current facilities and challenges;
Data science and the exa-scale era: technical solutions within astronomy;
Data science and the exa-scale era: applications and challenges outside astronomy.

Scientific Organising Committee – Special Session 5 EAS2021

chair – Eleni Vardoulaki (TLS, Germany)
co-chair – Marta Dembska (DLR, Germany)
co-chair – Alexander Drabent (TLS, Germany)

Mattia Vaccari (UWC, South Africa)
Roberto Pizzo (ASTRON, Netherlands)
Hans-Rainer Kloeckner (MPIfR, Germany)
Giuliano Taffoni (INAF, Italy)
Matthias Hoeft (TLS, Germany)

Find out more about EAS 2021 European Astronomical Society Annual Meeting 2021

The deadline for abstract submission is 2 March 2021. Researchers can submit abstracts here. The organising group will accept oral and poster presentations. Please also note that the same deadline applies for applications for fee waivers.

SS5 Data-intensive radio astronomy: bringing astrophysics to the exabyte era will be an afternoon session at CET (Central European time) on 28 June.


The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) No 4 of 2013 came into force on 1 July 2020, and all public and private bodies that are processing personal information have until 1 July 2021 to ensure that they are compliant with the law. On 22 June 2020, President Ramaphosa made the announcement, which meant that organisations including universities have one year to become compliant.

POPIA is extremely relevant to all researchers as it applies to research activities that involve identifiable personal information of individuals or organisations. Considering the impact that research has on participants’ right to privacy is not just a POPIA obligation, it is also an integral part of research ethics.

Overall, POPIA is welcomed as it gives greater guidance to researchers regarding the use (and  protection) of personal information for research purposes. This should serve to improve  transparency, accountability and oversight in the processing of personal information, and  promote public trust in the use of personal information in research contexts.

There is some uncertainty on the application of the POPIA relevant to research, and some members of the South African research community are seeking further guidance. ASSAf has engaged with scientists and other stakeholders around developing a POPIA Code of  Conduct for Research to ensure certainty, transparency, and clarity in the processing of personal  information for research purposes.

ASSAf is currently inviting the South African scientific community to send lists of issues regarding the processing of personal information for research purposes, or the governance thereof, that the Steering Committee should consider in the POPIA Code of Conduct for Research. In particular, they are looking to receive recommendations as to how the Drafting Committee could address the issues raised. Please send your inputs by 12 February 2021 to Ms Mmaphuthi Mashiachidi (email: mmaphuthi@assaf.org.za).

Visit the interactive site popia.co.za/ for an easily navigable and accessible version of POPIA.

SKAO Launches

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to radio astronomy and was launched on 4 February following its first council meeting. SKAO is tasked with “building and operating the two largest and most complex radio telescope networks ever conceived to address fundamental questions about our universe”.

SKAO has headquarters in the UK, and sites in South Africa and Australia. It is the world’s second inter-governmental organisation that is solely dedicated to astronomy, and other members include Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. Observers include France, Germany, India, Spain and Sweden. SKAO will begin recruitment in Australia and South Africa in the next few months, working alongside local partners CSIRO and SARAO to supervise construction, which is expected to last eight years, with early science opportunities starting in the mid 2020s.

South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope, currently operated by SARAO (South African Radio Astronomy Observatory), will become part (and make up approximately 25%) of the SKA1-Mid telescope or Phase 1 of the SKA mid-frequency telescope.

MeerKAT, situated in the Karoo, consists of a 64 dish-shaped antennas. It is an SKA precursor or ‘pathfinder’ telescope, and is the most powerful radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. The MeerKAT antennas, each 13.5 metres in diameter and standing about four stories high, are distributed over 8 km and are connected by buried power lines and optical fibre connections to very fast computers in the underground Karoo Array Processor Building (KAPB) on the Losberg site.

Find out more from SKA and SKA Observatory.

Image: Nighttime composite image of the SKA combining all elements in South Africa and Australia. Credit: SKAO, ICRAR, SARAO / Acknowledgment: The GLEAM view of the centre of the Milky Way, in radio colour. Credit: Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team.

African Research Visibility and Repositories

On 3 February, the TCC hosted a webinar titled Enhancing African Research Visibility Through Use of Repositories. UWC Library’s Mark Snyders was a panelist, and others included Jo Havemann of AfricArxiv, Mark Hahnel of Figshare and Stephanie Kitchen of African Digital Research Repositories.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 13.5% of the global population, but less than 1% of global research output, and part of this problem is that there is low visibility of its research output. Open access repositories are creating a paradigm shift in enhancing African research output. The panelists looked at how African researchers can make use of these repositories to increase their visibility, and where these repositories are, and how researchers can take advantage of them.

Watch a recording of the webinar.

Discovering Giant Radio Galaxies

Astronomers from UWC are part of an international team responsible for the remarkable discovery of two giant radio galaxies. These galaxies were spotted in new radio maps of the sky created by the MeerKAT International Gigahertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) survey. It is one of the largest survey projects underway with South Africa’s impressive MeerKAT radio telescope and serves as a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) due to become fully operational in the mid-2020s.

Dr Matthew Prescott, second author on the paper, is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with UWC’s Astrophysics Group . Read an interview with him about his work. UWC eResearch Director Prof Mattia Vaccari and several other UWC researchers are also co-authors.

The discovery has made waves in the astronomical community around the world. Read articles from CNN, SciNews, Phys.org and Tech Times to find out more.

Image: The giant radio galaxy MGTC J095959.63+024608.6; in the background is the sky as seen in optical light; overlaid in red is the radio light from the giant radio galaxy, as seen by MeerKAT. Image credit: I. Heywood, University of Oxford / Rhodes University / South African Radio Astronomy Observatory / CC BY 4.0.