Agricultural research and the innovations that arise from it are important in addressing food security and improving livelihoods of the poor. So those of us in the business of non-profit agricultural research really have an obligation to make sure our research data, information and knowledge resources reach the audience that drives this research in the first place – farmers, farmer organizations, policy makers and other researchers.

When the UK DFID (Department for International Development), aware of the value of putting research into use, commissioned FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) with the task of catalyzing efforts to ensure that agricultural research information and knowledge become public domain, it triggered the formation of a global partnership on Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD). The partnership includes FAO, GFAR, the CGIAR, CTA and others in the agricultural research community.

The partners in the CIARD initiative are committed to promoting the sharing of data, information and knowledge to empower the various stakeholders involved in agriculture. To begin with, CIARD outlined a checklist – the Triple A checklist that defines what is meant by ensuring your research outputs are Available, Accessible and Applicable.

The ICT-KM office has been actively measuring or rather, benchmarking the availability and accessibility of research outputs in several Centers in the CGIAR, namely Bioversity, WorldFish and CIAT. This will extend further to include CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA and ICRAF, who are in the first batch of volunteers.

What makes this exercise fruitful is the suggested CIARD pathways or processes that Centers can adopt to make their research more accessible. Pathways will help researchers identify a publisher who has more flexible policies on open access, so that they do not have to sign away all rights to their journal article. These pathways will also help a senior manager understand the value of institutional policies that enable sustainable development of repositories for their center. They will be brief and to the point. Where users like the IT unit and librarians, want more detail i.e. on Creative Commons, there would be linked resources on the web.

The pathways could broadly be clustered as:
• General – strategic and policy issues, organizational issues which need to be addressed in handling research outputs.
• Capture, Collection and Curation of research outputs – ensuring that all the outputs are described in a form that makes them available and accessible.
• Managing Web Presence – using the internet to make the information accessible to others.

In order to take stock of feedback and define these pathways further, CIARD partners met last week in a Writeshop, May 28 – 29 at Bioversity, Rome. Hosted by ICT-KM, the group worked on clarifying the users for the many pathways proposed, the authors and format for each pathway.

Given our experience in social media, ICT-KM will be heavily involved in providing resources and support in the third cluster of pathways.

CIARD now has a clear action plan that aims to get many of their draft pathways out in their website (www.ciard.net) for testing, usage and feedback. It is hoped these pathways will become living knowledge and users will take over where CIARD stops. Watch this space…

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