A conversation with Dasapta Erwin Irawan
A conversation with Dasapta Erwin Irawan
Jo: Welcome, everyone. So today, at Access to prospective conversation, we’re here with Dasapta Erwin Irawan from Indonesia. He is a hydro geologist. We’re here long friends and colleague within the open science community of mine. We have quite a lot of shared friends. And yeah, I’m super happy that you’re joining us today to talk about open science and Indonesia and the work you do with geology. And thanks for joining us.
Dasapta: Yeah, me too. Thank you for having me, Jo.
Jo: It’s a great pleasure. We first met through our common friend John Tenant, who influenced both of us quite a bit towards becoming active for open science and open access in particular. And it’s also for John’s support and encouragement that we now have AfricArxiv (Africarchive) in this world. Could you share with us how you started Inarchive at the time? It’s now Inarchive maybe also what was on site.
Dasapta: Yeah. Thank you for the question. I think Inarchive was started now. I think we both kind of have the same history. I think it was around 2017, John and I were involved in several activities. And then I remember he got an idea to form the preprint server for his paleontology field. He called the preprint server Value Archive.
I also have started to form our own community in Indonesia.
I started to promote the concept of preprint server in my community here in Indonesia. And then many responded with positive spirits. And then I came to John to talk about how we can make this happen. And then at the same point, I didn’t remember the meeting, but there’s a center for Open Science that held joint meeting. I didn’t remember which. And then they wanted to gather up communities of preprint server for ecosystem. And then John and I in this meeting, and then one way lead to another the process of preparing the preprint server-initiated. And then in August 17, 2017, In Archive started to operate. And also, I think the Value Archive as well, and several others preprint server. Yeah, I think so. 17 August 2017. And then in 2019, several preprint community leaders, including you, I guess, receive an announcement from GOS that we need to gather up our own funding to help them fund the operation. And then they calculated that the Rinarchive had to pay close to Indonesian rupees, which would be 200 million, eight zeros, million, right?
Jo: I think about $25,000 or something, right?
Dasapta: Yeah, that’s the number. But I converted into Indonesian Rupee. I came up with the number RS200 million. It was very hard. And then we’re kind of in the middle of thinking of still going with the COS or we need to build preprint server in our own server in Indonesia. And then I started to talk with several stakeholders, and then nothing show up. But eventually early 2020, I think it was in January or February, this person from Indonesian Science Institute, it’s a government institution. We met in several meetings before. And then in February, he called me and then we have a chat. And then he told me that it would be good if in our career can be hosted in our institution. They have this software that also used by several academic Journal, Indonesia. So we have this cloud OGS server, the same institution hosted those journals. And then they told me they have this excess capacity still and then offered me to join them, build preprint sever, offer. And then we changed the name into Rin Archive. Rin R-I-N is the name of the server that they have. And then we sort of combine the name from the old Inarchive to the new names. So that’s it. So we’ve been operating since then.
Jo: Quite a journey. Like Africarchive emerged because of Rein Archive, because when I saw there’s a national preprint repository, like the other co founder of Africarchive, Justin Anyo he and I were thinking, because he had already proposed, wouldn’t it be good to have Pan African knowledge hub, for African knowledge, scholarly knowledge, traditional knowledge encompassing all of that in order to have and that’s also the spirit that we continue to follow with Africa Archive.
And then when we saw that Rinarchive was on a national level and you might think, okay, the extrapolation to continent wide is quite a step. But we also believe that given the scarcity of infrastructure on the continent and the necessities to collaborate being ambitious is a valid approach to bring the scholarly community continent wide together. Our mission is, and I’d like to hear from you, like what are the various benefits that you’re trying to generate through the work with me and also what have emerged along the way? It goes on all kinds of directions. First of all, it’s about providing visibility for African research coming out of Africa, because there’s this narrative that Africans only contribute so little. And it’s not true in our observation to our knowledge, because first of all, a lot of the research algorithms in print, so we find it online. Second, there’s all kinds of biases and barriers, like language barriers, graphical barriers, you name them, it’s all documented, not by others well known. So we wanted to do something about that also to bring to the attention of African scholars what’s being published about Africa by non-African researchers. Therefore, it’s not only like we not only accept submissions by African scholars, but also by non-Africans, as long as they publish on any African topic. What’s the scope for RInarchive and what’s the vision and mission possibly along the way?
Dasapta: So the scope of Rinarchive is general science, multidisciplinary science. So we accept scientific papers from all over Indonesia in various subjects mostly. If we calculate it up to now, we have around 70 documents in our server. Mostly is natural science, so health science, physics and then followed by computer science, the social science and humanities are not so many that’s the scope. And then our mission is, I think we cannot have only one mission to introduce certain level of freedom to our community here where they can write up their research and then post it to this preprint server and start to promote it based on their objectives. Some of my users need a place online to host the file so they can speak to their counterpart and then show their work. Because most institutions in Indonesia don’t have an institutional repository that can be used directly by the user, we need to send the files into the administrators who upload the document into the repository. So we don’t have a very distributed online repository here in Indonesia, of course, we have researchgate, academia.edu, but the only researchers that know both surfaces that you can use it. Many of the others don’t know about those surfaces, so when they see rinarchive, they think they can use it for their own purpose. Of course, we are now applying pre-moderation.
After people submit, we need to moderate the document first, and then we can choose whether we should publish it or not. Not post moderation like the old inarchive, it’s pre moderation.
Jo: Okay for you it’s basically upon the Indonesian researchers to keep control over the output and research collaboration. So what languages did you decide to accept or do you have language restrictions?
Dasapta: Yeah, we don’t have language restrictions, but our users usually upload papers written in English and in Indonesia. So I don’t know about the African continent, but in Indonesia, we have a very local language. We use the local language. As for myself, I can speak Indonesian, I can speak Sundanese, I can speak Japanese. I use those languages daily. But as our means in communicating our scientific communication, we use Indonesian language. So although we don’t have a language restriction, Indonesian people are automatic. Right. They just do write in Indonesian or in English, just those two languages for the official scientific languages.
Jo: Yeah. That’s also much of what we see across Africa, especially in the life sciences, are being published in it. We deliberately made submissions open to any, especially African languages. Also because Africa has, well, not only English, but also French and Arabic and Portuguese as official languages, but then also increasingly the regional and local language.
Dasapta: Can I ask?
Dasapta: Do you have a continental language in Africa?
Jo: That was a challenge that we were dealing with from the start. We didn’t want to do either French or English, but the good thing with us co-founders, was, Justin was, Francophone and I’m, German speaking.
So therefore, it was also natural to make it a multilingual or bilingual minimum. But then we’re like French and English. Why not Arabic? And then also in our team, we have team members from Egypt, from Tunisia, from Sudan. So they are capable of speaking and checking submissions in Arabic.
Dasapta: So you don’t have a similar African language for the whole continent?
Jo: There’s none continent wise, unfortunately, that’s due to colonial history. I think there were attempts to at least introduce a currency across the continent, but then let’s not go into the politics. Also, it’s a huge continent to think about.
But I think it would help to have a trading language for the whole program and also to have continent wide initiatives like this happening easier. But on the other hand, I’m personally investing in Africarchive because we operate multilingual by default. It is challenging, but it’s also beautiful to see the opportunities and there’s quite a lot of reasonable and feasible workarounds. The language barrier that we discovered and one easy way would be what we suggested also to do from the beginning to provide a transcription of the abstract in their mother tongue or where there’s a regional focus with the work that’s presented so that it also enables science literacy and that it also enables people are interested in not necessarily scientists who understand what the work is about, English or French or whatever. But yeah, it’s not widely adopted, but we advocate for that to encourage other languages. And we know that in many countries across the continent it’s quite normal to publish in Swahili in Tanzania, not so much in Kenya, but there are also curated papers or journals in Kenya, but they are more in the social sciences and the regional studies so they wouldn’t go international so easily. And then in South Africa there is research being published in Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa. So it is happening. We want to also showcase that and present that on the Africarchive platform because all in our team, we believe that multilingualism also, when you look at the housekeeping initiative, is essential in research. We cannot all be forced to translate our work into English because there’s a lot of information, I believe, being lost in translation. And there was a lot of regional context that can only be expressed in the regional language. And the concept of some of this can also be translated and should be translated to have a lingua franca for international collaborations and knowledge exchange. At the same time, we also need the research being published in the local languages. I could talk forever about this. What’s your experience? Is there a knowledge exchange inside Indonesia between the English speaking or English communities and those who work mostly in Indonesia?
Dasapta: Yeah. So I think our community here can be broken down into two groups. One group is those who work in big and old institutions like me working institute technology Bandung, it’s the second oldest university in Indonesia. I don’t know in Africa, but in Indonesia we have this group of universities, big and old University that have more funding inherited from several decades ago. So these universities have most facilities, resources and also they can hire the best lecturers and researchers in Indonesia. And then there’s this other group, the small universities, private University that still struggling their way to survive in the market. So I think we have this discrepancy from those groups. You can say it’s my group; it’s mostly right in English and try to shoot into this prestige Journal because our universities also have this burden from the Ministry to increase the rank of our University into this world class ranking. And then there’s this group, the other group because they’re struggling their way just to run the University. They don’t have the same support like my group. So they are usually writing in Indonesian and publishing in Indonesian Journal. But also this group I can see that this group is the most victims of predatory journal. Right. Because they only see how fast they can publish in certain kind of journals and then they can pay to publish it.
On the other hand, both groups in my language are the victim of our own assessment system in which we have to publish in either Scopus index Journal or other journals that includes in the Camacho rank. So if we can publish in those journals, our work can be valued with much high score. It is 40 marks for those kinds of articles. And then the marks start to gradually go in smaller if we publish in National Journal. So National Journal is here and those Prestige Journal.
Jo: I think we have that everywhere around the world really as a problematic development which continues because we need like we just said, we need national scholarly departments to be able to also investigate and gain knowledge on our immediate surroundings in our ecosystems to draw conclusions for the global scale.
Dasapta: Yeah. But in this situation that we are facing, Jo, I think the mission that you are just talking about, it’s just a side project for those people because they still have this burden to publish in the prestige journal. So in my take here in Indonesia I was thinking of how to get those people aside to only work this way the mainstream route. How can we track them to also see this route? Right. To try to disseminate their work which has been published in prestige Journal in more diverse way of dissemination? Like you said, you can take video, you can take posters. Right. In this case I am with Victor Fenema from Netherlands. We are intensely promoting about translate science here in Indonesia. I also say to the community that you can publish the Indonesian version of the Nature publish. You have to put up paper that you publish in Nature. So let’s have the Indonesian translation and put it in archive.
So more people can read it, right? Yeah. Although in Indonesia we have English in early age. But English still is not our conversation language. We still think spontaneously in Indonesia and then we have to translate it in our brain to English.
Jo: You have to learn the English language well enough to send the information in between sentences, the phrases, what they mean, how the meaning of a sentence changes when you put the commas etc.
With Africarchive, we’re also a part of that community which translates science. So we also run a project currently in writing or having regular translators who translate from English articles to African languages. This project with an organization called Masakana; there is also Science Link which is a South African science literacy organization or science journalism organization. There is also a company from South Africa that works on a continental level with translators. Their mission is or they say we speak African. I guess African means thousands of languages. That project is called Decloning Science and also for your listeners, you find the links of the organizations and activities and initiatives that we mentioned in this conversation on the show notes and the associated blog post. This decloning science project is where we also thought in the beginning we would translate research articles one to one into African language. And then it turns out that in many African languages that we are translating into, the terms are not there. We knew that from the beginning we would also design a glossary from scratch African languages that we had to invent first or the translators had to invent first because the science terms still do not exist in many languages. But then it turned out like the methodology and also the level of details and research articles come with at this stage for many languages. Not that the languages are poor in numbers of words or concepts, but it’s just technical. And the languages were mostly still spoken only there’s not much written documentation which we’re not creating. So then we figured we are going to write summaries that extend the abstract. That’s what the science journalists do. So first translate the research into a lay summary which is a little bit more informative than the abstract alone. And that can then be translated into the African languages to then allow also the locals, the native language speakers, to understand the concepts that we’re trying to convey and not coming up with scientific terms which in another language wouldn’t make sense for the locals to comprehend. So that’s basically what we’re currently in the process of with the decloning science project and quite exciting to see. There’s also a lot of work that goes into it that we anticipated. And then you get to work and you see the level of adventure that goes into it…
Dasapta: Our own energy as the promoters of open science can be up and down, right? So by having this kind of chat, I think we can increase our energy, right?
Jo: I think so too. It’s really exciting to exchange the experiences made and also what we see as opportunities coming out of it. So we hope that we also be able like after we successfully translated 180 English articles in the African languages, expand that and also hope that will be copied in other regions because Europe also needs that expertly. I think in Asia there’s many examples where we could do similar activities. Why did nobody else do that just yet? And I’m sure it has been done in smaller scales. There’s also many people who don’t know about our activities. It’s also a matter of communicating about it. A lot of things are possible if you put your head together and get to work and find a way that keeps the work manageable and not overwhelming to just a few, but to organize it in a way that makes sense for larger group. With your work on open science and open access in Indonesia, do you see similar developments in neighboring countries?
Dasapta: Yeah, I was just having this talk with the Malaysians. So the Malaysian has initiated this Malaysian Open Science platform. They call it MOSP. I haven’t got into the details about their programs, but I have been in touch with some of the leaders. I think we can work together on this. I was sharing my idea about open science to their community. I was much honored because in Indonesia I haven’t been invited to this national level meeting, but I get the invitation from the Malaysian. So it’s kind of I’m very honored. Last month, also in Indonesia, we have this organization called Indonesian Academic. I don’t know the translation to English. It’s kind of similar to what Malaysians have.
I can’t remember the website, but this organization in Indonesia is similar to what the Malaysian have. But the Malaysian has more progressive access towards open science than this organization in Indonesia. I think if I can share the details and roadmap of the Malaysian Open science platform, maybe I can spark something into the Indonesian community. I don’t know about the other Asian countries like Cambodian, Thailand, Singapore, but we have this meeting in Southeast Asia scope last year.
The level is in Southeast Asia. We have many participants coming from those countries also, but they still haven’t got into the point and that they have to gather up to build something. So I think in the Southeast Asian level, I think it’s just the Malaysia and Indonesia also Singapore, but Singapore is kind of still in a University level. Yeah, I think so. But I haven’t heard about any other movements at national level.
Jo: Yeah, I think India archive just got back to the…
Dasapta: …India… because India is in a separate section of Asia. I haven’t thought about India. I was only talking about Southeast Asia.
Jo: Yeah. Also I asked you about the neighbors directly, but it’s just been announced, I think last week or the week before that, India archive was also in the circle of center of open Science, open Science framework based preprint repositories. And then they experienced similar challenges like us. And it’s also understandable to some extent that the President have their cost covered. So all of us communities were looking to collect the means and also we were just unluck that we didn’t have as many submissions to get presented with such a big invoice.
Yeah. But we’re now at a similar stage where we need to find partners on national and regional levels to also give AfricArchive, a home. We now have a home with TCC Africa, which is Kenyan organization for science communication operating and communication training, and also open science and open access advocacy and similar to you we’re almost desperately looking for a partner who’s willing to host African built repository. And we’re also looking at OPS, the open preprint system by the Public Knowledge Project.
So yeah Indian archive, they also build or have now a national partner to run the repository with. So these are good developments and I think we can also be grateful for the collaboration with the center of Open Science for getting the idea started in the process now being able to grow from them into regionally and nationally owned scholarly community services. So at the end of the day, irrespective of the Panometry, it’s still a good development and was wild and also necessary to some extent. And it’s great that we kind of learn from it with each other and to build a network of spread around the world of scholarly communities and services that all contribute to open science and also open science infrastructure, which then again never knowledge exchange on a global scale. And this is also something I would like to maybe spend a few minutes talking with you about. How do we see now how open science and open access and the services such as RinArchives, India Archive, Yellow America? Do you see an uptake like in your case Indonesian research into the international knowledge exchange? Is Indonesia research more recognized since RinArchive was in operation?
Dasapta: In my opinion, the situation of open access and open science in international level is very much I think it’s not very different from maybe five or ten years ago because most of the infrastructure is still at the hands of the publishers. So I think we haven’t been able to escape our workflow as a scientist, as academia, to be able to escape from the domination of the publisher.
But, if we see the activities like yourself and the India Archive and what we have here in Indonesia, I think it’s very important to bring a balance into the system because we always can say that you need to think about what you sent into the publishers because I think the spirit in international level is shifting into rights retention, I think. So you can choose whatever publisher that you can work on and whatever publisher that you can afford if it has ABC. But remember to retain your rights so you can use the services from the open science community and maximize your work. I think the situation is shifting into that way because if we still try to bring the voice to say don’t believe in two publishers, don’t go into disproportionate journals, I think we can do nothing because they have all the resources. Also, I think we still need those publishers to get more attention to our work here. But at some point we need to deliver what you call freedom to publish. It’s not the Journal, it’s the work that counts. I think that at some point we need to always say that. But in current situation, in order to go there, we need to change our perspective to how to retain our rights, I think. Right?
Jo: Yeah. That’s also what we explained to our users with Africarchive that by using our partner services, which will allocate your eyes and open licenses so that the ownership of the remains for the researcher. And then the researcher can choose a license to allow for dissemination and reuse, attribution etc.
And then, like you said, the researchers can submit wherever they think they want to publish their reports or whatever to pursue their careers. I also gave a course yesterday on knowledge transfer and we came to talk about the San Francisco Decoration on Research assessment DORA. And I asked the participants to check their home University if they are signatories of DORA. Turns out many were, but the others were not aware. And also the PhD regulation asked them to publish in certain journals. So even though I had already signed Dora,
Dasapta: Not all the leaders of the University are aware that they signed the DORA as well.
Jo: And then how do you address that? And I encouraged them. Maybe you want to talk to some of the management and not in an acquisitive way, but because this is what they know, this is what they have learned themselves, this is a potential system that works for you, but just bring it to the attention politely and gently, this is what DORA says we actually as this institution signed DORA. It makes sense because ABC, how about we change the PhD regulation? Maybe you want to tweak some of the paragraphs and what’s necessary to receive the PhD. Is there a similar conversation? Also, what you’ve observed.
Dasapta: In Indonesia I think the perspective is still very narrow. So I need to keep challenging the system. So literally every day if I see an opportunity to enter into a conversation, I would go into the conversation and try to twist the way of thinking. For instance, like when my University and most University in Indonesia are writing funding budgeting plan, they keep saying about we have such a low budget to publish and so on and so on. And then I tried to bring into the conversation that if, you know, we have this low funding to publish, why should we keep chasing to publish. But instead of looking for ways to follow up my challenge, those leaders start to think that the only way is for us to publish in those prices sooner is by collaborating with other universities that can pay the ABCs. It’s very practical. It’s still very practical way of thinking. I don’t know what happens inside that.
Jo: I think it’s the human nature. We have it also in Germany. It’s all about prestige. And I don’t know what…
Dasapta: Yeah. At the same point, they agree with me that our life as academia is very dependent into those brands. Built by commercial entities. But at the same time, they cannot find more energy to try to change that. So I don’t know, maybe after several generations, maybe we can go into whatever we dream of right now. I don’t know. But it’s our task to keep challenging them to work yeah. Because it’s very logical. The thinking is very logical. We have low funding, but at the same time, we going to spend this low funding into other parties. Even if we collaborate with other Universities that can pay the ABC or subscribe to payroll Journal, it’s their government money, right? I don’t know.
Jo: And at the end of that expires money and then you lose that on unnecessary expenses.
Dasapta: Yeah, One way or the other.
Jo: Well, talking about your profession as a scholar in the discipline of hydrogeology, have you seen the field change through open science influence, or is there more exchange now in the field of geology now that scholars, maybe not the masters, but certain scholars become aware of the opportunity to compare not only Scorpus and web of science, but also search other databases where they’re getting access to scholarly outputs like Rinarchive…
Dasapta: In my field, in art science, we always have this problem about data availability. So in this case, I’ve been actively participating in a series of workshops of environmental awareness program in my University. So the participants are mostly not academia, they’re mostly engineering consultants working into these private companies. They’re all both working into environmental geology and also hydrogeology. In my sense, if I talk about this data availability and how they can store their data and how can they also get their names, the reputation of their firm or their company increase if they can show up their work more freely to the public, they can get my message more than if I talk into academia in Indonesia. So I think there is another way that we can adopt. So if we can speak to other parties outside academia, maybe in my case, engineering consultant, and then also the government, regional government, they also have this website, this server repository. Why don’t they make that information openly available for the public? So if there’s someone wants to map the hydrology situation of certain locations, those people don’t have to start from zero. So there’s accumulation of data, at least in the regional government server. So I’m aiming different road right now because I have these chances of workshops that are regularly organized so I can speak to more engineering consultant, engineering companies and also regional government. Maybe the open science would be run by them, not by the academia in Indonesia. Who knows?
Jo: Yeah. Why not? Unless you have a …This is also what we were hoping for Africarchive to achieve, to build a system that cannot be corrupted over time, irrespective of any political or economic development.
We’re looking into it, therefore one design with more than one host institution. It’s quite a journey to take. And I think that’s a mission for open science, because if you think about it, why do we do research in the first place? It seems as if we’re only talking to each other as scholars, but also industry, then kind of recruits some researchers into their companies to capture the knowledge for economic development. This is a natural thing to occur. But from when I speak to early career researchers, many have a purpose or see a purpose in the work that they do to leave a legacy or to contribute to the betterment of human society and environment automatically climate change. And that we need to make our work more accessible to other stakeholders of society, including policymakers, including journalists and the general public, so that we can create science literacy or foster science literacy and trust and reliability in science, but also both ways. And I think that’s also what open science achieve to foster a level of trust and self accountability, post scholarship; not to be corrupted along the way, which easily happens, and you apply pressure.
Great. We’ve spoken for almost an hour now. Is there some things, also this is certainly to be continued, so I’m already looking forward to another conversation first to have at any point in the future. But at this time, what else would you like to have mentioned? As we conclude….
Dasapta: Yeah, I think we need to have more ways to disseminate our results if we need to increase our career. So be it. Just publish in those prices sooner if you can, but make sure to have another way to disseminate what you publish in those journals in form of various products. I think that is how to get both worlds. Right, because we need the career.
We cannot avoid that. We need increase of career, but also we need to play our role in the community itself. So it’s not just about publishing something and then just stop, but publish and then disseminate. Because publishing is not the same like dissemination, because publishing is just going to get into the same people as we do. Very narrow community.
Jo: Yeah, I agree. And that for research sometimes seems like an extra effort and suddenly there. But the revenue that comes from disseminating your own work also leaves us with the control over how we want who gains excess and not just group of others who can afford to pay anyone who needs it.
Dasapta: You can get your reputation through this way of dissemination. You can get more acknowledgements as well. So don’t worry, it will get back to you.
Jo: And then we can also seek feedback from scholars who have information to share with us by making our work accessible.
Dasapta: And also feedback from non-scholars.
Jo: Yeah, exactly. So it’s a win either way. Are there tweets about your research articles? Make sure they’re accessible. Don’t just share the link to the Journal, but to the preprint archive where you yourself share this in a way that makes your work accessible. Because I also had a colleague the other day who was so proud. Oh, finally I managed to share my paper in this Journal. I was like, right, good for you. Why are you sharing this? And then people have to pay $30 to read it. Can you please share on a repository? And then he said, like, look, I actually did that. And here’s the link; you should have shared that in the first place; next time. Yeah, it’s actually just a few mouse clicks, so it’s not a lot of extra work. And if you wonder how to do that, feel free to reach out to the Dasapta. We’re very happy to explain to you what little effort it takes to make your work accessible.
Thank you so much for this conversation.
Dasapta: Thank you.
Jo: Best wishes for your next adventures in collaborating with the government and policy makers.
Dasapta: Yeah, you too. Stay healthy. That’s the important thing.