Are you a researcher? Do you work in a research organisation, project or program? Are you looking for ways to better conduct your research for development, share knowledge, engage with stakeholders, and achieve impact?

To help answer those questions, visit Improving impact through knowledge sharing in researchthe newest context page to be recently added to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit.  The new page offers people ideas, experiences and inspiration on recommended tools and methods to share knowledge during the research project cycle.

The Knowledge Sharing toolkit has consistently provided lots of information on tools and methods for knowledge sharing. However, it has been striving to make this information more relevant and accessible to people’s needs and situations.

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To help its visitors even better find what they are looking for or figure out what they may need and could use- a ‘What is your context?’ page was also developed.

The new context page on knowledge sharing in research-‘Improving impact through knowledge sharing in research‘- takes people right into the research process with a basic diagram of the research cycle and its key stages.

KsinR context-pic

These stages are presented as ‘entry points’ through which knowledge sharing approaches can be made use of to address certain shortcomings and limitations which traditional research may experience such as:

  1. a lack of inclusion of priorities, needs and realities from the ground
  2. inadequate use of other sources of knowledge in planning research
  3. poor collaboration with stakeholders during research activities
  4. limited understanding of how research results can most effectively be made use of
  5. ineffective ways of getting knowledge to target groups
  6. limited opportunities for learning within research process

To address these, the context page invites visitors to consider which stage of research they are in- and asking a key question related to improving that stage. The page then provides a list of suggested methods- both Online tools and Methods as well as Other Knowledge sharing Tools and Methods- to try out. These tools and methods are linked to other pages within the toolkit. Tags of related topics are also provided.

Example:

Stage 1: Identifying research (questions) to undertake

Vietnam_Vist to WorldFish Pilot_09-08 576

This information has come out of the resources collected, knowledge generated and experiences of the recently concluded two-year CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project (2007-2009). The framework on which this context page is based was developed and tested particularly through 6 Pilot Projects.

These Pilot Projects are all projects of CGIAR Centres or System-wide or Challenge Programs which proposed to pilot the use of various knowledge sharing approaches and principles in their activities. This included:Picture3

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  • The convening of a Farmers’ Conference to bring out the knowledge, experiences and needs of farmers to help in planning of activities of the Participatory Plant Breeding department at ICARDA005
  • The use of a learning alliance approach by the IWMI WASPA project to bring together relevant stakeholders to link research to action
  • The IRRI-lead Pilot Project worked with key stakeholders to 2009_01150033_resizeunderstand how to write and package research results from projects working on rice in the Northern uplands of Laos, and created factsheets which were uploaded into the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (online tool)

The selection of tools for each of the stages of the research cycle is based on the results and experiences of these 6 Pilot Projects as well as other projects and other documented cases. Documentation of the Knowledge Sharing in Research project, its pilot projects and other activities  can be found on the Documentation and Outputs page of the KSinR website section.

But this is not a blue print approach and each research project needs to find what fits with its own context, needs and objectives–the tools presented in this context page are just some suggestions to help.

If you have also used knowledge sharing approaches in your research let us know what you have done and how it worked. If you try any of these suggested approaches out, also let us know how it worked. You make contributions to the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit to keep it a living and dynamic resource by signing up and adding your methods, ideas and experiences.

this is one of the conclusions of the workshop on ICTs held in Wageningen during the Science Forum.
Some 50 people participated in the event, organized quite differently from the other workshops at the Forum.
Short presentations followed by ” Buzz groups” gave an opportunity to hear “sound bytes” of many different perspectives, followed by a now true and tested World Cafe…. where participants discussed how ICTs, in the braod sense, to include not only technologies, but communication practices, information management, collaboration…. can help improve the way we do research
To set the scene, a Background Paper was written by Ajit Maru, GFAR, Enrica Porcari, CGIAR and Peter Ballantyne, IAALD.
The paper and the workshop argued that the processes by which knowledge, information and data are
generated and shared are being transformed and reinvented – especially enabled by ongoing
developments in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs) – and that
these transformations provide massive opportunities for the entire Agricultural Research for
Development (ARD) community to truly mobilize and apply global scientific knowledge, in
ways that are hardly yet appreciated.
Catching and successfully harnessing these ‘trends’, ‘waves’ requires strategic investments in
capacities, bandwidth and infrastructure, skills, tools and applications, and the adoption of
an ‘open innovation’ mindset that breaks barriers, links data and knowledge, and guarantees
the public accessibility of goods generated and captured through science.
What are some of the trends and changes we can expect in the coming years?
• Increasingly ‘ubiquitous’ connectivity along value chains – We will all make use of
a range of devices and platforms to access and share knowledge: From the web to
phones, radio, video and text messaging. Most scientists will work in knowledge-rich
environments; farming communities, probably using different devices, will be far
more connected than at present. Multiple connectivity paths widen the potential
reach of science. We also argued this in our other paper XXXX
• Increasingly ‘precise’ applications and tools – ICTs and digital signatures or labels
of various types will be used to track products from producer to consumer; to
monitor local soil, weather and market conditions; to tailor data and information
services to the demands of a specific audience or individuals. Applications will come
in many shapes and sizes, to suit even the most specialized needs.
• Increasingly ‘accessible’ data and information – Vast quantities of public data and
information held by institutions and individuals will become visible and re-usable at
the click of a device. More intermediary skills and applications will be needed to help
harvest, make sense of, and add value to these layers of data and information.
• Increasingly ‘diverse’ set of applications available across digital clouds – The
digital ‘identities’ of scientists and their collaborators will give them access to a wide
range of online tools and applications, accessible from any location and across
different devices, enabling collaboration across boundaries as never before. Local
firewalls and server configurations conditions will not restrict global sharing.
• Increasingly ‘inter-connected’ tools and knowledge bases – Different communities
and their knowledge will be able to connect and share with each other, along the
research cycle and across disciplines, including people with different engagement in
science such as farmers, traders, politicians. A whole new breed of products and
services will emerge to inter-connect and re-present diverse knowledge.
In general, the most significant impact of ICTs on agricultural technology generation will be
in connecting and engaging communities in participatory agricultural innovation. Science
will be able to come out of its ‘silos.’ New agricultural processes and technologies to solve
agricultural problems will emerge through continuous innovation with user communities,
thus eliminating many of the constraints that agricultural science, research and technology
generation now face. The need for conventional extension from research stations to farmers’
fields will diminish.
Agricultural innovations will best fit the needs of user communities.
What are some of the changes needed to move in these directions? These include:
1. Improve communications infrastructure and bandwidth, investing in lower-cost
hardware, software and applications that connect science right along the
development chain.
2. Increase and improve formal education and training in information and
communication sciences that contributes to innovation in the use of new ICTs in
agriculture.
3. Extend the generation and dissemination of data and information content as a ‘public
good’ that is widely accessible and is licensed to be easily re-used and applied.
4. Support applications that integrate data and information or foster the interoperability
of applications and information systems, allowing safe and ethical access while
protecting necessary rights.
5. Encourage the effective uptake and use of data, information and knowledge,
particularly focusing on capacity building dimensions necessary for the outputs of
science to have impacts.
6. Support innovation in the workflows, processes and tools used to create, share,
publish, visualize, and connect the outputs of agricultural science and the people
engaged in it.
But what are the issues?
Intellectual Property Rights, data security, privacy
Potential for further marginalisation of some actors
Coherence and interoperability of data/information & quality control
Fragility of human and institutional capacities
Language and literacy
Discovery of relevant information and putting it into use
Balancing competing demands and policy directions
Incentive structures and benefits
My main take home message: ICTs are now in the front front, given a legitimate seat in the research agenda,
as enablers of a more effective way of doing things, or as Prof. Adel El Betagy, Chair of GFAR put it ” indispensable tools”
, he threw a challenge to the CGIAR to take this opportunity and to take it now!

this is one of the conclusions of the workshop on ICTs held in Wageningen during the Science Forum.

Some 50 people participated in the event, organized quite differently from the other workshops at the Forum.

wageningen June 09Short presentations followed by ” Buzz groups” gave an opportunity to hear “sound bytes” of many different perspectives, followed by a now true and tested World Cafe…. where participants discussed how ICTs, in the broad sense, to include not only technologies, but communication practices, information management, collaboration…. can help improve the way we do research.

To set the scene, a Background Paper on the role of ICTs as ways to mobilize and transform agricultural scince for development was written by Ajit Maru, GFAR, Enrica Porcari, CGIAR and Peter Ballantyne, IAALD.

The paper and the workshop argued that the processes by which knowledge, information and data are generated and shared are being transformed and reinvented – especially enabled by ongoing developments in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs) – and that these transformations provide massive opportunities for the entire Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) community to truly mobilize and apply global scientific knowledge, in ways that are hardly yet appreciated.

Catching and successfully harnessing these ‘trends’, ‘waves’ requires strategic investments in capacities, bandwidth and infrastructure, skills, tools and applications, and the adoption of an ‘open innovation’ mindset that breaks barriers, links data and knowledge, and guarantees the public accessibility of goods generated and captured through science.

What are some of the trends and changes we can expect in the coming years?

• Increasingly ‘ubiquitous’ connectivity along value chains – We will all make use of a range of devices and platforms to access and share knowledge: From the web to phones, radio, video and text messaging. Most scientists will work in knowledge-rich environments; farming communities, probably using different devices, will be far more connected than at present. Multiple connectivity paths widen the potential reach of science.

• Increasingly ‘precise’ applications and tools – ICTs and digital signatures or labels of various types will be used to track products from producer to consumer; tomonitor local soil, weather and market conditions; to tailor data and information services to the demands of a specific audience or individuals. Applications will come in many shapes and sizes, to suit even the most specialized needs.

• Increasingly ‘accessible’ data and information – Vast quantities of public data and information held by institutions and individuals will become visible and re-usable at the click of a device. More intermediary skills and applications will be needed to help harvest, make sense of, and add value to these layers of data and information.

• Increasingly ‘diverse’ set of applications available across digital clouds – The digital ‘identities’ of scientists and their collaborators will give them access to a wide range of online tools and applications, accessible from any location and across different devices, enabling collaboration across boundaries as never before. Local firewalls and server configurations conditions will not restrict global sharing.

• Increasingly ‘inter-connected’ tools and knowledge bases – Different communities and their knowledge will be able to connect and share with each other, along the research cycle and across disciplines, including people with different engagement in science such as farmers, traders, politicians. A whole new breed of products and services will emerge to inter-connect and re-present diverse knowledge.

Enrica Porcari argues “Major changes are in progress in Internet-based computing, these will continue for years to come-  from the spread of public wireless data networks, which enable gathering data from sensors and distributing information to rural farmers to the emergence of “cloud computing”, which enables inexpensive processing of massive datasets by any Internet user, lowering the institutional capacity required to participate in research, the potentials for agriculture and agricultural research in developing countries are aplenty.  We have an opportunity here to act now to accelerate the adoption of these changes in agriculture research”.

In general, the most significant impact of ICTs on agricultural technology generation will be in connecting and engaging communities in participatory agricultural innovation. Science will be able to come out of its ‘silos.’ New agricultural processes and technologies to solve agricultural problems will emerge through continuous innovation with user communities, thus eliminating many of the constraints that agricultural science, research and technology generation now face. The need for conventional extension from research stations to farmers’ fields will diminish.

What are some of the changes needed to move in these directions? These include:

1. Improve communications infrastructure and bandwidth, investing in lower-cost hardware, software and applications that connect science right along the development chain.

2. Increase and improve formal education and training in information and communication sciences that contributes to innovation in the use of new ICTs in agriculture.

3. Extend the generation and dissemination of data and information content as a ‘public good’ that is widely accessible and is licensed to be easily re-used and applied.

4. Support applications that integrate data and information or foster the interoperability of applications and information systems, allowing safe and ethical access while protecting necessary rights.

5. Encourage the effective uptake and use of data, information and knowledge, particularly focusing on capacity building dimensions necessary for the outputs of science to have impacts.

6. Support innovation in the workflows, processes and tools used to create, share, publish, visualize, and connect the outputs of agricultural science and the people engaged in it.

But what are the issues these innovations pose?

  • Intellectual Property Rights, data security, privacy
  • Potential for further marginalisation of some actors
  • Coherence and interoperability of data/information & quality control
  • Fragility of human and institutional capacities
  • Language and literacy
  • Discovery of relevant information and putting it into use
  • Balancing competing demands and policy directions
  • Incentive structures and benefits

Enrica continues ” My main take home message from the workshop: ICTs are now in the front front, given a legitimate seat in the research agenda,  as enablers of a more effective way of doing things, or as Prof. Adel El Betagy, Chair of GFAR put it ” they are indispensable tools”. He threw a challenge to the CGIAR to take this opportunity and to take it now! Up to us now!”

The latest newsletter of GFAR features an article about the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project and its Pilot Projects. See links and article below.

See: GFAR Newsletter

See: article on KSinR project and Pilots

The CGIAR: learning how to improve its research effectiveness and impact through knowledge sharing

The CGIAR Centres and Programs together with their many partners, are creating a wealth of knowledge that is aimed at helping to increase productivity within agriculture and improve livelihoods of people, primarily in developing countries. While all players are doing much to ensure that this knowledge is widely shared and applied, certain obstacles to the uptake, use and impact of this wealth of knowledge continue to exist. One of the missing elements between knowledge generation and the application of such knowledge is knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing involves learning from stakeholders what knowledge gaps exist and what is needed to close these gaps; increasing collaboration and interaction of all actors throughout knowledge generation processes; and finding more effective ways of delivering knowledge in a manner appropriate to the particular target groups whose decision-making and actions we seek to influence and support. This requires better understanding and support of new knowledge systems, knowledge sharing approaches, and innovation mechanisms.
To address this, the CGIAR through its system-wide program on Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) initiated a two-year project starting in 2007 entitled ‘Improving the effectiveness of the CGIAR through knowledge sharing’ with a major component focused on Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR). The goal of the KSinR Project is to help improve the effectiveness and impact of CGIAR research through providing options and lessons around good practices of knowledge sharing in research.
KSinR’s main learning vehicle is six on-going CGIAR research projects which are using knowledge sharing approaches integrated into various stages of the research process, representing a new way of doing research aimed at greater impact. This includes the use of a multi-stakeholder framework for conducting research as being tried by IWMI through its use of the Learning Alliance approach in the ‘Wastewater , Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty alleviation’ (WASPA) project aimed at improving coordination amongst stakeholders and getting research into use. This project is also developing a process mentoring method to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Learning Alliance approach. The ICARDA Farmers’ Conference project is providing lessons on mechanisms for sharing knowledge with and learning from farmers to help with better design and carrying out of plant breeding research. The CIFOR Pilot is exploring better ways to share research priority assessment methodologies and the experiences around using them, as this is an important tool in figuring out those areas and types of research which can provide the greatest impact. The IWMI Wastewater project is testing various dissemination methods to improve uptake and use of research results.
This includes use of radio programs, training videos, contribution to curricula, and flip charts with printed messages and visuals to get across good practices in using wastewater.
Similarly the IRRI-lead Pilot is also exploring innovative dissemination methods through the development of the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (LRKB) as a mechanism to make research accessible for extension agents to use with farmers.
Information packets based on research identified by a variety of stakeholders are being developed in appropriate formats to be included in the LRKB. The WorldFish Centre Pilot Project is also trying out participatory monitoring and evaluation, as well as impact assessment methodologies with the aim of learning together with stakeholders throughout the research process, and gaining their perspective on progress and impact.
Synthesis of the results across KSinR and all of its Pilot Projects and other activities will be documented in a variety of media including the KS website (www.ks-cgiar.org), the KSinR blog, and through the development of practical how-to documents to be made widely available and presented at upcoming CGIAR and other fora.

Contact person:
Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader, n.manning@cgiar.org
IWMI Nile Basin and East Africa office, ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

impact

In September 2007, together with Frank Rijsberman, then Director General of the International Water Management Institute, Sanjini de Silva then Deputy Head of IWMI’s Information and Knowledge group, I co-authored the paper “Outcome Contracting: Show me the impact!”, a thinkpiece on how to be relevant and effective and not just a “drop in a bucket!”

I found the principles and ideas presented in that paper still extremely relevant if I look at the current reform efforts of the CGIAR and Agriculture Research in general, at the AAA framework that we are advocating, and our work on Public International Goods. So here is the paper again – good food for thought.

Let’s look at what it is all about: Scientific research has historically been assessed by the level of citations a publication or researcher has – the more the better being the mantra. The reasoning being that the “credible” researcher (or significant work) would automatically lead to citations or popularity: the more “credible” leading to more citations. Problems with this model are quite obvious, as it leads to a “publish or perish” mentality and encourages “popular” or trendy research. In addition, frequently cited publications are, at times, cited for their controversial nature, and not necessarily for their significance or impact in terms of research. But what does that mean for agricultural research? I am not arguing peer-review processes are to be discarded. They are important to ensure the scientific excellence of our work. But my argument: they are not sufficient.

The final product of agricultural research should, at the end of the day, have a measurable positive impact on the lives of the poor. If that is taken as a given, then we must reconsider our current evaluation models for agricultural scientific research. Various other strategies have been considered to address some of the shortcomings of the “publish or perish” model. However, most of these strategies aim to include the end-users either in the developing of the project or in training at the tail end of the project.

Is this enough? Is there not a better way to measure impact? How can we better link outputs to results? What about accountability?

The basis of the proposed “Outcome Contracting” model is accountability, both in terms of project design and funding. If the primary goal of our work and research is poverty reduction, should we not be held accountable for it? In the new model, researchers, along with the end users, partners etc, identify the impact pathway of any particular project, and decide up to which point the project can be held responsible. Accountability is established and funding, or partial funding, is awarded upon achieving the intended goal.

Can such an inclusive model be adopted in our new environment? How would that affect our current approach to research? And the funding?
Last week I participated in a workshop on “Data for decision making” hosted by the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation where I was quite inspired by how the funder was showing direct interest in understanding the factors that affect a project, and work together to find ways to mitigate any negative impact. Real interest was shown on the “impact” rather than just the “outputs”. More on that in a later post.

More work on this new inclusive model to reserach has been carried out by our Knowledge Sharing in Research Project.

1) Compelling!  http://sciencecommons.org/about/science-commons-dylan-video/

Watch how creative commons philosophy applies to science.

Thanks Simone for the link!

2) “Seed Hunter” was shown recently on Australian TV regarding ICARDA’s Ken Street’s search for landraces in Tajikistan.

The underlying themes: why crop genetic resource conservation is  important particulary in the context of climate change, inadequate research budgets, gene discovery, how aid agencies have played a role disseminating modern varieties and the unintended consequences of  that on diversity, how remote communities are most likely to be 
custodians of landraces, etc. The full programme is 55 minutes long but can be viewed in 3 parts. 
It is well worth watching, if you are interested in knowing to how to make such research accessible and interesting to a wide audience.

3) In an attempt to help people understand why and how the CGIAR is changing, the Knolwdge Sharing Project of the ICT-KM program produced this short video. A must watch!
[blip.tv ?posts_id=1515061&dest=-1]

At the recent Annual Research meeting of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the KSinR Project leader- Nadia Manning-Thomas, was asked to develop, together with the Communications Director and Director for Impact, a session on “Creating a Culture of Impact”.

The two hour session started with an introduction about ‘WHY?’ we need to think about impact more systematically within the institute and the changes it may require in the ‘way we do business’. Following on from this was a presentation on the Impact Pathways approach as a framework for planning, tracking and evaluating impact- given by Nadia Manning-Thomas. The presentation introduced the four main stages in the impact pathway:

  1. Developing a logic model to make explicit the goal being worked towards and the causal links to achieving this
  2. Identification of key actors, what relationships and activities they currently have and what is needed for the future. In this case it is also good to further identify those Boundary Partners which a project/program can most realistically work with and influence, and can take project results forward.
  3. Development of key strategies to be undertaken by the Institute/project/program to bring about the necessary changes using project results and outputs. This helps tie the project activities to the final goal.
  4. How to monitor and evaluate all of this

The next part of the session consisted of three ‘stations’ in the conference room which everyone was expected to visit for a 20 minute session. The stations, representing some key strategies or frameworks were:

1. Knowledge Sharing in Research: ideas, experiences, lessons–Nadia Manning-Thomas

2. Uptake Strategy–Joanna Kane-Potaka

3. Outreach strategy designed for a a specific project being proposed–Meredith Giordano

These stations elicited so much discussion that groups were only able to make it to two stations before it was time to return to plenary for a quick discussion, before breaking for lunch, on:

* How to operationalise this at IWMI?

*What strategies can we use at IWMI in our projects?

*How can we do this?

The whole session was very interesting and filled with lively discussion. The overall result was that most people now seem to accept and believe in the fact that we should be doing things differently to achieve imapct and need to learn to think and act differently, making us of new tools and approaches. The big question that then came up was ” How do we do it?”. There is now a need to bring in information, experiences, guidance, training etc to make this a reality at IWMI.

At the recently held “Maxmising the impact of agricultural research in Africa: A workshop on research communication” in Addis in October, a number of ways of capturing, documenting and sharing the workshop were carried out. These are becoming available though a number of different channels–read on for ways to find these resources.

Peter Ballantyne, President of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialist (IAALD), was not only a participant at the recently held “Maximising the impact of agricultural research in Africa: A Workshop on research communication” but played an active role in documenting the workshop through blog posts as well as blips (small video clips) of interviews with various organisers and participants in the workshop.

You might be interested to see some of the material from the workshop at:

These comprise a series of short blog stories with links to some short video interviews taken by Peter in Addis.
Everything is listed from this page: http://iaald.blogspot.com/2008/10/stories-from-addis-research.html

Additionally, I-Nadia took hundreds of photos to document and share with you what was going on at the workshop and who was there. The photos are available online using the Flickr account of the KS project at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8764209@N07/sets/72157608287846090/

Furthermore GDN has been updating a few sections on the workshop briefing page on the GDNet website (http://www.gdnet.org/middle.php?oid=1492 ) and added the workshop agenda online with links to all material shared at the workshop (http://www.gdnet.org/middle.php?oid=1564 )