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Open Access in Rwanda: The story of a medical student

Continuing our series on getting different perspectives into the field of ‘Open Science’, we spoke to Israel Bimpe, a pharmacy student at the School of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Rwanda, and a youth role model and champion for global health issues as the Vice President (and Chairperson of the African Regional Office) of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation. He spoke to remind us that Open Science is a global challenge, and I hope this interview helps to illuminate that.

Hi Israel! Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m a Pharmacy Student at the School of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Rwanda, doing my final year, which is just an internship, and very excited to graduate in July.

Rwanda! (Source)
Rwanda! (Source)

When did you first hear about ‘open science’ and ‘open access’? What were your first thoughts about them?

I heard about Open Science and Open Access during the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva where I met a friend who was calling for more Open Science and Open Access in a random hostel lobby group discussion. It was so interesting that I got to check about it and even registered for the conference in Brussels (OpenCon), for which I was unfortunately not selected due to my limited knowledge probably.

Open Access would then be very important for students and medical professionals here in matters of accessing updated and accurate information

You are very passionate about global health equality and social justice. Where do you see open access and open science fitting into this?

I have been thinking about ways of linking up my passion to my interest in Open Science and Open Access, but still struggling to bridge them. I feel like my passion is more of civic engagement and interest on open science and open access more into education and science. Moreover, I rarely read/hear my Global Health and Social Justice Role model refer to Open Access and Open Science. It is quite still confusing for me.

Israel raises the Rwandan flag after he was elected chairperson of IPRF-Africa Region (Source)
Israel raises the Rwandan flag after he was elected chairperson of IPRF-Africa Region (Source)

We do struggle very much, as we can only access very old, non-accurate research.

How important is open access to students and medical professionals in Rwanda?

This not only applies to Rwanda but Africa in general in order to advance education and science, we need to access recent and up to date information. A practical example is that, I, in my whole education never used a paper published in the past two to five years. Excuses are usually that it’s expensive to access them and how easy it is to access the platforms. Open Access would then be very important for students and medical professionals here in matters of accessing updated and accurate information, as well Professional Development for a better practice.

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