Andy Jarvis is not a new face on our blog or with our program. Andy is a young scientist who leads the CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) program, he is an active member of the CGIAR-Consortium for Spatial Information (CSI) and a self-professed “promiscuos geographer”

Not only is Andy an excellent scientist, he is also a very decent human being. He has just received the Ebbe Nielsen Prize in Copenhagen: the annual award, granted by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), that recognizes the innovative use of the latest computer technology in biodiversity research. And with the prize him and his team won he decided to set up the Peter Jones Scholarship for Agricultural Bioinformatics, named after the former-CIAT scientist who was one of his early mentors. The scholarship will support a young promising Latin American undergraduate to help with DAPA’s research into the effects of climate change on agricultural biodiversity.

Read more on the “true honour” as Andy describes the award in his address on CIAT blog.

Proud to have Andy and his team among the many scientists with a conscience in the CGIAR!

AAA is not a new concept to those who read our blog, nor our tireless efforts to increase the availability of and access to our research. Just today here in Cali, at the CIAT campus I have been discussing a paper written by our colleague Edith Hesse about CIAT’s efforts to increase the availability and accessibility of their research, following our joint efforts to introduce web 2.0 tools in the CIAT science week.

And it was only yesterday that I got to know Mendeley, the latest innovation to organize, discover and share scientific papers.

It goes to show how fast things move in this area.

What is Mendeley? Apart from a great demonstration of how innovation in one area (music) can move to another (scientific publications)?

To understand Mendeley you need to know how Last.fm works. It is a radio channel on the web where users can listen to their own songs and other tracks recommended by Last.fm’s algorithms based on their tastes, including iTunes, and those of friends.

Think to apply the same principles to scientific research.

“Why can’t researchers, instead of waiting anywhere up to three years for their papers to jump all the hurdles, be part of a real-time market place – a fusion of iTunes and Last.fm for science? ” wonders Viktor Keegan .

So meet Mendeley: a databank of scientific articles built using Last.fm’s principles of recommending music, videos and concerts based on what you listen to.

Keegan goes on to explain how it works. “At the basic level, scientists can “drag and drop” research papers into the site at mendeley.com, which automatically extracts data, keywords, cited references, etc, thereby creating a searchable database and saving countless hours of work. That in itself is great, but now the Last.fm bit kicks in, enabling users to collaborate with researchers around the world, whose existence they might not know about until Mendeley’s algorithms find, say, that they are the most-read person in Japan in their niche specialism. You can recommend other people’s papers and see how many people are reading yours, which you can’t do in Nature and Science. Mendeley says that instead of waiting for papers to be published after a lengthy procedure of acquiring citations, they could move to a regime of “real-time” citations, thereby greatly reducing the time taken for research to be applied in the real world.”

It looks like some of the large archives, such as ArXiv’s, efforts, with its half a million e-papers free online – will soon pale in comparison to the potential of Mendeley. The growth rate of Mendeley is impressive, over 4 million scientific papers have already been uploaded in a matter of weeks. If you think that the largest academic databases host about 20 million papers, you will see what I mean.

Is Mendeley also a rival for Google? The real innovation with Mendeley is that it does not limit itself to links to a website, but links like-minded people.

If you are not convinced yet, watch these videos

First, an overview:

And a sample use:

Could this be a way to change the face of science? Shall CGIAR researchers give it a serious try? Could this be a real breakthrough to ensure our researchers stay easily connected and their results easily get to the hands of those who need it?

A thank you to our friends from CGNET pointing Mendeley out to us

ICTKM Newsletter BannerStories in the latest newsletter:

Enjoy and let us know what you like the most.

webThis year CIAT’s annual meeting, also known as KS Week is … unfortunately a 6-day power point event but I must admit that the level of discussion is good and that people seem engaged.

The innovation comes this time from the documentation and reporting side. The visit from ICT-KM’s Enrica Porcari and Peter Ballantyne to promote availability and accessibility of research results came timely to get CIAT’s communications unit started in the use of social media tools.

CIAT has set up a Web page with links to several social media channels. Have a look at:

  • The photos. Neil Palmer recently joined CIAT as a public relations officer and proved to be a very talented photographer
  • The video interviews
  • The presentations and more then 100 posters that are part of an exhibition
  • The blog, available in Spanish and English, where we collectively capture as many sessions as we can.

The communications staff is encouraged by the increasing number of visits: 600 in less then 3 days.

Congratulations CIAT!

Photo Credit: Neil Plamer, CIAT

CIATKSW09I write this from CIAT, where at the Knowledge Sharing Week of the Institute we have been presenting approaches to increase availability and accessibility of CIAT’s research outputs. CIAT was the second center where we carried out AAA benchmarking. The results of this exercise were presented to the participants in the Knowledge Sharing week, where scientists from all over the world reviewed data showing the availability and accessibility of the results of their work.

At the meeting we showed some pathways, that we have been developing with other CIARD partners: from Copyright management, to building repositories, to using social media

ruben echeverriaGood news: such is the support to the results of the benchmarking, that a plan of action with the committed support of the Director General is being prepared. Concrete actions to ensure the results of the hard and valuable work of CIAT’s researchers get to the hands of those who need it most.

Next we are moving to Bioversity, where the benchmarking exercise has started! Stay tuned.

In a previous post we said CIAT’s Knowledge Sharing week, was introducing innovative ways to communicate what is happening here. From pictures on Flickr (great photos!) to videos on Blip,tv, to all presentations on Slideshare. Excellent ways to stay true to their commitment to opening

Visit CIAT’s blog. Highly recommended! Well done to all of CIAT’s colleagues!

CIAT’s Knowledge Sharing Week (KSW09) started today here in Cali, Colombia. This is one of the Center’s most important annual events, gathering scientists from Africa, Asia, and Central America, and providing a unique opportunity to exchange and discuss experiences with colleagues at headquarters.

Taking advantage of web 2.0 technologies, KSW09 will offer interactive coverage including a daily display of photos in Flickr; RSS so users can subscribe and receive updates; and a blog in both English and Spanish. Tools such as Slideshare will also be used to facilitate the access to all the materials resulting from this event.

Stay tuned by checking CIAT’s Blog

Andy Jarvis

Andy Jarvis

An interview with Andy Jarvis, agricultural geographer, CIAT and Bioversity

Q: You say you have two “mantras.” What are they?

A: One is “crop wild relatives.” (Note: A crop wild relative (CWR) is the wild variety of a domesticated food crop.) When you look at the status of crop wild relatives, it’s actually very scary. They’re not conserved in the wild. And the degree of conservation in gene banks is appallingly low. Many have gone extinct already—and we have no idea what genes they might have had—for disease resistance, productivity, drought or salt tolerance….

At the same time, there’s exponential growth in the demand for and use of these genes through biotechnology. In the past, when you bred a wild crop relative with a cultivar you might get what you wanted—say disease resistance—but along with that came a tough seed coat or small pod or other things you don’t want. Now, you can use molecular markers to take just what you want.

Q: If they’re not in the genebanks, how do you find wild crop relatives?

A: We’ve been going through 30 major crop genepools, including beans, potatoes, wheat, rice, sorghum, cassava, some forages, coffee…. We collect all available information, through herbarium and genebank databases, of every point where wild crop relatives have been observed. Then we model the species distribution see what all these habitats have in common, to come up with suitability requirements.

So if, for instance, we know something exists in ten sites with these characteristics—where else in the world has those characteristics? That’s where you’re likely to find the species.

Q: For example…?

A: Geneticists were searching for wild chili peppers in Paraguay. We found records of 18 places with chili populations in the past, but they weren’t there any more, nor in collections So we modeled the conditions in the sites the botanists had described—and came up with 20 places with similar environments where people might look. It worked–they found the chilis in seven of those places.

In beans, there are 70-plus wild species, all in the Americas. There are 170-plus wild relatives of potatoes. But in lots of crops—maize being one of the most notable—there are just a few wild relatives left. Most of the species have been lost.

A massive global initiative is urgent for our major crops. That’s what the Global Crop Diversity Trust, housed at FAO, is trying to do.

Q: And the other mantra?

A: Climate change and crops. We’ve taken the 50 biggest crops, by area, and modeled how climate change will change their geography. After the biggest—rice, maize, wheat and a couple of others—no one has done this. We’re using a simple, niche-based approach: this crop grows in an environment with this rainfall and other characteristics, based on expert knowledge.

The shocking thing is that there are huge changes, for both 2020 and 2050. For instance, the models show that maize goes way down in Africa. But cassava gains area. Already, there’s anecdotal evidence of farmers shifting from maize to cassava or sorghum.

In a few areas farmers will lose all sorts of options. Maybe today they have 20 crop options; in the future, maybe they’ll only have 3. Some regions are in serious trouble: Southern Africa. Parts of Sahel. Eastern Brazil, northern Africa and the Mediterranean, including southern Europe.

But in East Africa—the rainy parts, such as most of Uganda—massive increases in rainfall are predicted. So farmers may have more choices. And they may be able to crop continuously. But the models show that pests and diseases also rise.

The bottom line is that everything’s changing, and quickly. The first users of climate-change information should be researchers themselves. Most agricultural research programs take at least 10 years to come to fruition out in the fields. So researchers need to target a 2020 world for their 2020 research results—not work toward better strategies for a 2009 world in 2020.

Q: Why do you call yourself a “promiscuous geographer?”

A: I use the same geographic tools—but apply them to all sorts of things: what we’ve been talking about, plus forest biodiversity, coffee quality, forage, threats to protected areas…. I’m interested in so many things, I seem to need to keep moving around.

You can hear Andy’s perspective on BBC Digital Planet – available at ICT-KM Blog on Famers’ productivity