The OpenLab was initiated by the International Union of Crystallography and UNESCO. It is one of the most successful recent initiatives in the development of physics in developing countries.
This initiative was launched in the framework of the International Year of Crystallography. It was made possible due to the strong involvement of Claude LECOMTE, deputy chairman of the International Union of Crystallography [IUCr] and the partnership of dedicated sponsors, generally manufacturers of equipment for crystallography such Agilent, Antonpaar, Brucker, Dectris, Incoatec, Oxford Cryosystems, PANalytical, Rigoku, STOE, Xenocs.
The OpenLab initiative was designed for either:
1 – Provide second hand equipment that was donated and refurbished by the manufacturer. The donation was supported by a two week training course, either experimental or theoretical (for structure modelling) and use of the crystallographic data base. In addition some other basic requirements, the university that received the material was asked to establish a permanent position for an assistant professor and invest around 10000 £ in basic equipment for crystallography.
2- Organise a travelling laboratory that provided a portable instrument for training in either experimental or theoretical (for structure modelling) fields and use of the crystallographic data base. It was also possible for the trainees to analyse their own samples. This was the first time for many local scientists to be able to directly analyse their samples.
A specific “Initiative for Africa” was also organised (Congo, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Ivory Coast).
Countries Associated to the OpenLab initiative (emerging and developing):
• OpenLabs type 1: Uruguay, Ivory Coast, Cambodia
• OpenLabs type 2: Algeria, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Senegal, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam, China (Hong-Kong) and Kazakhstan.
• Travelling Labs: Morocco, Gabon
This initiative will also result in the first Pan-African conference on crystallography to be held at Dschang University in Cameroon in November 2016.
Further reading and complementary information: http://www.iycr2014.org/openlabs
An article authored by Claude LECOMTE was also published in the journal of the French Physical Society “Reflets de la Physique” (in French) available at the following link : http://www.refletsdelaphysique.fr/articles/refdp/pdf/2015/02/refdp201544-45p16.pdf. This issue (July-August) is entirely dedicated to papers in the domain of crystallography.