June 2009


Sometimes I face bouts of uncertainty and wonder if the work we do in the CGIAR really reaches the people for whom it was intended. I know others feel the same way, as I’ve had conversations with people on this very topic. Since I started working with the ICT-KM Program, I’ve had the opportunity to examine this concern through a benchmarking exercise that the Program is spearheading.

Simply put, this activity allows us to measure our (the CGIAR Centers) research outputs in terms of availability, accessibility and applicability. My colleague Peter Ballantyne and I have been collecting, collating and analyzing data from various Centers to find out exactly how available and accessible their research outputs really are. But that’s a different story.

While your Center may advocate potatoes, maize, rice or tilapia to tackle the food crisis, in the longer term we all share a common goal: to reduce poverty in underprivileged communities. The science we do is practical – it has application. While classical research is also important, we do not have the luxury of time in the CGIAR. Our research has to show impact where it’s needed, and this can only be achieved if it reaches the right people in the fastest, easiest way possible.

“Now where do social media tools come in?” you may ask.

Besides our final products (journal articles, reports and other Center publications), we should consider making our research by-products, such as slideshow presentations, photograph collections and video clips, just as accessible. When we make our work available to a wider network; when our work is accessible in a way that it may be used, re-used and adapted for application; and when we make our PIGs fly; only then can we say we are truly “nourishing the future through scientific excellence”.

Last week, when I wrote about using newsfeeds to establish a scientist’s or professional’s credibility as an expert, the underlying idea was that when we share our research outputs with colleagues, peers, national partners and the scientific community at large, we create a credible resource into which others can tap. In the same vein, we can be the first place scientists or potential science partners go to when they need photos, videos, presentations, etc.

So if you wonder why you, the CGIAR scientist, should consider using social media tools to share your photos, videos, presentations, etc., here are two reasons:

  • Internal: social media tools minimize email clutter. Large files that would normally clog up your inbox, can now sit comfortably on the Internet, ready for you or your colleagues to access as and when required.
  • External: establish your presence as an expert. Social media tools allow you to reach many different network groups. You no longer need to stay within a tight circle of the usual suspects. You have greater outreach.

When we share our information via social media tools, we make it available and accessible in a location where everyone else is hanging out these days: the Internet. Photo, video and slideshow sharing sites often have their own search and tagging facilities that allow anyone interested to discover your information.

I’d like to stress that sharing information with social media tools does NOT mean you should give up publishing the same information on your own Website, and it most certainly does NOT replace the good practices of storing and cataloging your files in Center databases/repositories that maintain institutional memory. Imagine these tools as a variety of fishing nets that can be used to capture as many fish as possible in that huge virtual sea commonly known as the Internet.

Or as Simone Staiger-Rivas put it in her presentation on making the most out of social media, it’s about reaching out to as many users as possible. After sharing her presentation on Slideshare for just one day, five times the number of people who had seen Simone’s live presentation had seen it online – four months later, a whopping 1,839 people have viewed the presentation online.

Where to share photos, videos and slideshows

There is an overwhelming array of social media tools that can help you share photos, videos and presentations easily. Without needing any IT-related knowledge, it’s all a clichéd click away!

Photo sharing:

flickr

  • You can sign up for a free account, or a “pro” account that entails a charge for unlimited uploads.
  • Upload and share photos.
  • Categorize photos as either public or private, and attach copyright permissions ranging from reserving all rights to sharing the photos freely for others to use.
  • Photos can be organized into sets and tagged, enabling people to find specific photos and allowing publishers to point out their photos of choice.
  • Re-use Flickr images, especially those labeled ‘Creative Commons’, on web pages, slide shows and publications.
    o Consider those photos you’d like to share with others, make them accessible, and assign copyrights, watermarks or Creative Commons as appropriate. Think big! Your photos could well end up on a major website or in important blog piece!
  • Examples on Flickr:

o   IRRI Images and Photo Sets (note the number of views)

o   ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing Projects Photo Sets

o    WorldBank Photo Collection

picasa

  • Similar to Flickr.
  • Integrates well with Gmail and free server space on PicasaWeb to store photos just like Flickr.
  • Share albums via a ‘secret’ URL, so search engines won’t find your photos – only those people to whom you send the link. This is useful, for example, if you need someone to select pictures for a publication or a site.
  • Good photo editing tools.

Video sharing:
youtube

  • The biggest video sharing site at the moment.
  • Huge audience base to tap into when embarking on an event or campaign.
  • Videos need to be compelling as they will have to compete with thousands of others for attention.
  • Keywords or tags should be well thought-out.

blip tv

  • Supports a variety of video formats.
  • Hosting, distribution and advertising platform for creators of Web shows.
  • Provides content creators with free hosting.

vimeo

  • More polished than YouTube.
  • Growing audience base.

Examples:

Slide presentation sharing:

slideshare

  • PowerPoint slides can easily become huge once you’ve added pictures – and a pain to send to colleagues. This option lets you place your slides on a website.
  • Add your comments to each slide so that your audience doesn’t lose the context of your presentation.

google_logo_sm

Google Presentations:

Examples:

I’ve only highlighted a few tools for sharing photographs, videos and presentations. For others, do go to the KS Toolkit . There are more sprouting up even as I write this. There are also social media tools that allow you to share pictures, send and receive emails, and connect with friends, all in one place. Yes, I mean Facebook, which I latched onto when Yahoo! Pictures shut down a while ago.

So as always, keep an open mind and try these tools out! There is no “ONE” perfect tool for sharing your work. We’d love to hear about your experiences using these tools, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Till next time …

My thanks to Antonella Pastore and Tania Jordan for their technical input.

IFAD news

Our work in Knowledge Sharing is featured in this month’s Making a difference edition.

Thanks to IFAD colleagues for making our work known!

The Knowledge Sharing in Research Project Leader Nadia Manning-Thomas recently developed a think-piece for the Science Forum, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009.

The think-piece and presentation based on it given during the  Science Forum, were part of the background material contracted by the conveners of the Science Forum Workshop 3:  ICTs transforming agricultural science, research & technology generation.

The think-piece was found to be very interesting by a number of participants and it was asked whether this piece could be ‘re-published’ in other places.

Therefore, it is now available on the Web2forDev: Web2.0 for development gateway (website). To view the think piece–see the full article

ICT think-piece on WEb2.0fordev websiteTitle and Opening part of the article:

Changing the Emperor: ICT-enabled collaboration transforming agricultural science, research and technology into an effective participatory and innovations system approach

The CGIAR Centres and Programs with their many partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge to help increase agricultural productivity and improve livelihoods of poor communities, primarily in developing countries. The knowledge the CGIAR produces is vital to addressing and finding solutions for food (in)security around the world.  However, despite the creation of this wealth of knowledge, certain obstacles to uptake and impact of agricultural research remain. Many of these obstacles are related to the way in which knowledge and innovation are treated within the research process.

To view the think piece–see the full article

Somewhere in CIP’s busy IT department lurk four hackers, dedicated men who know how to infiltrate the Center’s IT security protocols and bring the department to its knees. But these are no ordinary hackers; they are hackers with ethics.

“Hackers with ethics?” you might be thinking right about now. “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

Not if you’re a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Just ask CIP IT experts Dante Palacios, Peter Valdivieso, Roberto Del Villar Prado and Rolando Navarro Jara. These four men were recently certified by the EC-Council (The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants) and are now armed with the same tools that a malicious hacker would use. But with one huge difference: they use those tools to protect their Center’s information assets. After all, to catch a hacker, you need to think like a hacker.

From left: Rolando Navarro Jara, Roberto Del Villar Prado, Anthony Collins, Peter Valdivieso, Dante Palacios

From left: Rolando Navarro Jara, Roberto Del Villar Prado, Anthony Collins, Peter Valdivieso, Dante Palacios

Although the Americas chapter of the Enterprise Security and Business Continuity (ESBC) project of the ICT-KM Program supported these specialists in their certification bid, it was their determination and hard work that led to the quartet’s success.

Like his three colleagues, Dante Palacios, a Systems & Server Administrator with eight years’ experience at CIP, decided to take advantage of the CEH introductory course offered by the Project. He took about six months to cover the necessary course work, juggling his studies with his duties at the Center. It was only in the run up to the exam that he took time off to study.

“Personally, the certification brings me great satisfaction and, of course, it improves my professional career,” says Dante of his achievement. “It will also help CIP to increase its level of professionalism and enable the Center to address CGIAR ICT security issues.”

Peter Valdivieso, CIP’s Helpdesk Administrator, feels that the certification gives an added dimension to his five years’ experience at the Center and allows him to work with his three colleagues to “monitor CIP’s networks and systems more intensively.”

Peter also mentions CIP’s IT Manager, Anthony Collins, who spearheaded the recently completed ESA Project, for his invaluable support during his studies.

CIP’s Systems & Server Manager, Roberto Del Villar Prado, became interested in the certification while participating in the ESA Project last year.

“I can now evaluate and establish security controls in CIP’s ICT infrastructure,” he says of the result. “I also devote more time to review, analyze and evaluate security risks. We are working on strengthening controls in perimeter security, antivirus alerts, and USB security threats with USB flash drives.”

Rolando Navarro Jara, Network & Systems Administrator, has been with CIP for three years and works with his colleagues on IT security assessments.

“My role involves maintaining information confidentiality, reducing risks, and preventing attacks,” he says. “Because CIP is a member of the CGIAR, I think there is a good opportunity for us to share the knowledge with other Centers.”

Rolando feels that he has benefited tremendously from the topics covered during the studies, such as: gathering information, vulnerability analysis, viruses/worms, Web and Linux analysis.

The Americas chapter

The Americas chapter of the larger ESBC was designed to assist the CGIAR in achieving its end goal of protecting valuable information assets developed, maintained and owned by all the Centers, and managing information security risks across CGIAR by implementing secure information architecture. One of the broad objectives of the Project was to promote the training of ICT systems security administrators with international qualifications such as the CEH.

The Program would like to extend its heartfelt congratulations to Dante, Peter, Roberto and Rolando on their success.

Banking your knowledge for others:

An interview with Benjamin Samson from the International Rice Research  Institute (IRRI) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Knowledge Management Harmonizing Research Output’

Communication is important. And how to do it. Leaflets? DVDs? Workshops?

But, regardless of method, something that should never be overlooked is the message.

Ben Samson has been thinking about all of this as Project Leader for a project working with rice farmers in Laos funded by the CGIAR Knowledge Sharing in Research Project.

“The situation we have in northern Laos is that farmers, because there is very little arable land, are constrained to grow crops on sloping areas,” he says. “Because they are cropping on sloping areas that are much more susceptible to soil erosion, the fertility of the soil rapidly decreases. You may get a good crop this year, but crop yields will be much less in the succeeding years. Typically farmers will only use land for one year. That’s the old system.

But, while working on these issues in Laos, Ben has seen the length of time during which land is left to rest decline. He thinks that it is now beginning to cause problems.

Rice farmers in the northern uplands of Laos

Rice farmers in the northern uplands of Laos

Because of increasing populations and government policy, the length of time in which land goes back into resting periods – or fallow periods – has decreased. What used to be 21 years is now only three years. That is amazing.”

Now the rice farmers in Laos – the poorest of the poor – have been forced to year-in-year-out use sloping lands that are difficult to farm.

There are agricultural researchers, scientists and government extension workers who can help. But there was a problem.

We used to write papers and report, conduct training, transfer to extension,” says Ben. “But when we evaluated the problem we realised that those that were carrying out research were writing in a way that the extension people didn’t understand. And even if the extension agents did understand it, they didn’t know how to express it in such a way that the farmers would be able to understand it. So we recognised that there is a difference in ‘language’ between the various groups involved in transmitting technologies to farmers.

The team decided to pilot a way of adding on to an existing  ‘knowledge bank’ of information in order to help farmers and government extension workers gain better understanding and access of the knowledge contained within the bank. They knew that they would have to be careful about how everything was phrased and said was a key issue towards understanding and usage of knowledge.

The issues for the project were how to get researchers to write for the knowledge bank in such a way that when extension people accessed it, they would understand it,” says Ben. “And, further, how to get the extension workers to use the knowledge bank. So those were the problems we were dealing with.

So with help from the Knowledge Sharing in Research project’s grant that was

Stakeholders at first Laos Rice Knowledge Bank meeting

awarded to IRRI, Ben was able to get everyone together to talk- the extension workers, the scientists, educators—all in one room. The idea was to identify the needs of the farmers and extension workers and then for the researchers to tailor their knowledge so it would be of the most use.

Stakeholders at first Laos Rice Knowledge Bank meeting

That was the whole scheme of this project,” he says. “It was very simple. Get them together and get them to write for the knowledge bank in concert with each other so that they agree that the material coming out is first of all useful and second of all is understandable.

EXample of one of the fact sheets prepared by the Pilot Project from rice reseacrh results-in Lao

Example of one of the fact sheets prepared by the Pilot Project from rice reseacrh results-in Lao

Ben thinks that knowledge sharing and his experience through the Knowledge Sharing in Research project will inform they way he works in the future.

What will become part of my work in the future is the impetus to make better use of the knowledge that we generate through research by making use of various knowledge sharing techniques that I have experienced using and have heard others talk about in the KSinR projects,” says Ben. “I think everyone wants to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives. I come from an academic background where writing and publishing about my work are valued activities, but these tools and methods that I have used and come in contact with make the results of my work more accessible to the people who can use it and improve their lives using it. I work in Laos and I see what it is like for people to try to survive on the meagre resources. It behoves me to try to find ways to make a difference.

This is one way I am making a difference – helping people have access to knowledge they can use through banking knowledge in a good way

For more information and outputs from this project-see the IRRI Research outputs harmonisation KSinR Pilot Project page

It’s good to talk:

An interview with Alexandra Clemett from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Learning Alliances for Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA-LA)’

Achieving complex change often involves many different people, with many different priorities, who are engaged in many different things. And, if you need all of them to cooperate for your change to be successfully implemented, you have quite a challenge.

This was the challenge faced by Alexandra Clemett, Project Leader of a Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project awarded to IWMI, when working on a wastewater agriculture project in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In each of the cities where we work you’ll quite often have different organisations that are responsible for quite similar things,” says Alex. “You might have the urban development authority that does the planning and then the municipal council that has to implement. So you really need them to know what each other is doing, planning together and working very closely.

Different stakeholders need to be connected

Different stakeholders need to be connected

And this has not been happening-the results of which are reflected in sectoral planning, poor communication among government officials, no involvement of community members, lack of knowledge about other sectors and alternative technologies, and, sometimes, ignorance that wastewater irrigation is even taking place.

The team decided to use a ‘Learning Alliances’ approach to try to bring people together to share knowledge and collaborate more effectively to achieve their goals.

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

The idea was to bring all the different stakeholders together to talk to each other and understand each others’ issues so that they could try to build a better plan for addressing the wastewater and sanitation situation in the two Cities. So we brought together the municipal council, the water board, local government officials, the hospital, local people and farmers. We tried to bring in universities, too, because they could potentially bring in technical solutions.

A Learning Alliance is supposed to have platforms at different levels: National, intermediate, and community – which bring stakeholders together to promote and facilitate learning within them and also between the different levels. It is very strongly focused on effective sharing of knowledge and not just bringing people together.”

Although she believes knowledge sharing was useful, Alex says that she would, in the future, use an altered version of  the particular approach chosen- the Learning Alliance- if at all.

The approach was very time-consuming and a lot of the research became geared towards learning about and evaluating the Learning Alliance methodology itself.”

Unfortunately we haven’t really had any research results on whether this new approach improved health or livelihoods,” she says. “I think, whilst the method was useful, it was really time-consuming. I would not use it in that way again. I would modify it and use particular elements of it. And I wouldn’t even call it a Learning Alliance, because that just confused people. Not everyone knows the names of these types of approaches. It is what they do to serve a project which is better to focus on.

For Alex, the overall goal of the project was to find ways that wastewater can be managed properly so that household sewage and industrial waste does not enter the canals which then run into the paddy fields. While this overarching ambition wasn’t completely achieved, something did happen while the project was running. People became more aware of the issues involved.

This is not something that Alex underestimates.

If what we have achieved by the time the project ends is that all of the stakeholders are much more aware of the issue, then we still will have achieved a lot” she says.

Some people didn’t even know that wastewater was being used for agriculture, says Alex.

And some didn’t want to know because it’s actually illegal. But because these farmers don’t have access to better quality water they just go ahead and use it. So I think that at least some of the people who were involved in the planning and management of wastewater through the Learning Alliance now have better understanding of the issues.

The idea to involve universities in the Learning Alliance also achieved some new awareness and change amongst the other stakeholders.

Conducting studies on the canals

We’ve got some universities doing studies on small–scale appropriate treatment,” says Alex. “In the beginning the municipal councils were just not interested in things like this. They just wanted large–scale treatment, but now they’re starting to realise that these are good options that they can potentially achieve and potentially afford.”

Conducting studies on the canals

So even if the situation has not been completely resolved, some changes – especially in awareness – have happened from the various stakeholders coming together and sharing knowledge in the Learning Alliance.

So it is in fact good to talk.

For more information and outputs from this project- see the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR Pilot Project page

Here is the flow of blog posts that document our recent social media workshop:

  1. Workshop Announcement
  2. Introductions Summary: A Mind Map
  3. Conference Call 1A Summary
  4. Conference Call 1B Summary
  5. The Challenge of introducing new tools: About attitudes and preferences
  6. The web site is not the community: it’s the people
  7. You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!
  8. Workshop Evaluation

For information about social media tools, please go to the KS Toolkit at www.kstoolkit.org.

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