The CGIAR Science Forum was recently held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009. As part of the Science Forum, a number of workshops were convened on key topics. This included:

Workshop 3. ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation

I (Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader) was asked to prepare a think-piece for this particular workshop and also give a presentation during the workshop session.

My presentation was entitled “ICT-enabled collaboration for agricultural science for development” and consisted of three main sections:

1. ScenariosSlide2

In this section I outlined the evolution in agricultural science from a more traditional research approach which did not involve much participation of others in the research process. While this may have rendered scientifically rigorous results, shortfalls to this approach included a lack of adoption of outputs, little addressing of key needs and priorities on the ground, and poor recognition and inclusion of additional knowledge sources.

The participatory research and innovations systems movements evolved to address this and focus heavily on stakeholder engagement in research. However these approaches have usually focused on face-to-face participation which due to its expense can be limited and may also not achieve as wide participation as possible. Also bringing people together does not necessarily result in meaningful collaboration and participation–key methods need to be used to ensure that this happens.

I then introduced a scenario called ‘ICT-enabled collaboration’ which showed that ICTs-to be considered in  their broadest form of both technology and non-technology approaches- can help to multiply the numbers of stakeholders with whom we can collaborate as well as finding meaningful ways for participation and collaboration to be achieved.

2. Opportunities

Slide3

While a large number of ICT tools and methods exist it is very often the case that these are not used. One reason is that researchers are unsure of which tools should be used when and for what purpose. One opportunity to address this is the very process through which research is usually conducted–as shown in the diagram. The research cycle actually offers a very good opportunity for making use of ICTs in a meaningful way through the various entry points its stages offers. Each stage has certain objectives it wants to achieve and certain activities that take place. Looking at these ‘entry points’ certain ICTs can be identified which can help to enhance the collaboration during these activities and in achieving the particular objectives.

Some options were shown in a table in the next slide:

Slide4

3. Issues

Slide5However this will not happen on its own and certain challenges and blockades need to be addressed before the ICT-enabled form of collaboration can really start to move forward within the CGIAR. A number of key issues and questions related to this were raised in the final slide.

The Science Forum ICT workshop documents (program, background notes and think pieces) are all available on the website:  http://www.egfar.org/egfar/website/new/eventpage?contentId=2601

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