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

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Technology continues to change; the way we collaborate with others has changed; and the way the CGIAR conducts its business is currently undergoing radical change. With the present air of change that is permeating the entire System, it was inevitable that CGXchange would, sooner or later, have to answer the call for a portal that meets current needs. As such, CGXchange’s intranet concept has been exchanged, so to speak, for a dual-concept application that satisfies both the need for public content and the need for ‘private’ collaboration spaces.

Past and present in the CGXchange 2.0 logo

Last month, we introduced the new, improved CGXchange 2.0, a platform based on Google Apps that satisfies our current needs by facilitating online collaboration and exchange both inside and outside the CGIAR.

Why Google Apps?” you might ask.

Well, with a highly decentralized set up like that of the CGIAR, over 8,000 staff in 120 offices, mostly in countries where connectivity is a challenge, and with a dire need to collaborate with colleagues and partners, we are always on the look out for solutions that simplify our work. So last year, we tried out Google Apps as a suite of collaboration tools and were suitably impressed. You can read the results of our experiments in the CGIAR Google Apps report.

A few months later, during the first half of March 2009, a selected group of testers evaluated a beta version of the site. The summary report of the test results is just out on CGX 2.0: tried, tested and passed with flying colors! We have included our replies to the comments and questions from the test participants.

So what’s so new with CGX 2.0?, you might as well ask. In a nutshell:

  • Public content: the tutorials, guides, links to useful resources, outcomes of our tests are open to anyone who wants to learn how non-profit institutions such as the CGIAR are taking advantage of online tools for improving communication, sharing and collaboration.
  • Openness is our main driving principle: while CGIAR staff benefits from the availability of the Google Apps collaboration tools, then anyone with a Google account can be invited to collaborate and view the information CGIAR staff will create with Google Apps.
  • Freedom of choice is our other driving principle: we aim to inform you and show you the possibilities that the Web offers to share knowledge and collaborate more efficiently online. The available tools can be safely used for closed and/or geographically distributed groups. We can guide you through the tools available, but you will make the final decision as to what is best for you.
  • We walk the talk and share the lessons by doing our best to test the tools in our context and share the circumstances in which they proved to be suitable and useful and referring to more than two years’ experience with the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing projects.

What do I do now?, you might, again, ask.

You have a few options (and NOT necessarily in this sequence):

  1. Visit CGXchange 2.0
  2. Take a quick tour of the collaboration tools
  3. Request access to the Apps for yourself and your colleagues (if you’re CGIAR staff)
  4. Browse around the CGX 2.0 Newsfeeds Aggregator to experience keeping up-to-date with RSS feeds
  5. Sing along

Several documents are now available on the Knowledge and Innovation Conference website at http://www.ifpri.org/events/conferences/2008/20080407.asp

These include the conference synopsis and two background papers.  Two briefs are undergoing final edits, and the book will be finished in 2009.

Conference Synopsis. November 2008

This synopsis is based on a consultative conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April 2008. IFPRI gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) http://www.gtz.de, the ICT-KM program of the CGIAR www.ictkm.cgiar.org, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) http://www.jica.go.jp, Research Into Use (RIU) http://www.researchintouse.com, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) http://www.cta.int, and the World Food Programme (WFP) http://www.wfp.org.

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  • Partnerships, Platforms, and Coalitions in Agricultural Innovation

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 151K)

  • Innovation-Based Solutions for Increasing Agricultural Productivity and Ending Poverty

Background Paper. December 2008.
Download (PDF 165K)

The Innovation Asia-Pacific Symposium will take place from 4 to 7 May 2009 in Katmandu, innovation-asia_flyer-brochureNepal. PROLINNOVA is co-organising this symposium with ICIMOD (International Center for Integrated Mountain Dveelopment) and CIAT Asia. PROLINNOVA partners in Nepal – LI-BIRD and Practical Action are playing a leading role in all the activities leading up to the symposium. RIU has already committed itself to financially support the symposium and several other donors are considering funding.

The call for contributions and the brochure for the symposium are attached herewith:

Please feel free to pass this on to other interested individuals and organizations. More information is found on the website www.innovation-asia-pacific.net Closing date for submission of abstracts is 20 December 2008.

innovation-asia_flyer-call-for-contributions1The organisers hope that this symposium will be as successful as the Innovation Africa Symposium that was co-organised in Uganda in November 2006 and contribute to promoting local innovation and innovations systems in agriculture and NRM.

On 21st October we alerted you on the workshop to be held in Addis Ababa on how communication can help improve the impact of agriculture research. The ICT-KM program was one of the organizers of the event.
Watch our Nadia Manning-Thomas
tell her story about how the knowledge sharing approach proposed by the ICT-KM program is based on improving the impact of research along the whole cycle. She goes on arguing how undertaking knowledge-sharing can help to achieve other research objectives, such as enhanced relevance; multi-stakeholder engagement; collaboration along the cycle, dissemination and uptake, and M&E…and how she reveals the lessons we learned…

Don’t miss Patti Kristjanson, Leader of the ‘Innovation Works’ Initiative at ILRI, the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya for an example of the ‘innovation systems perspective’ – “how we do the research, more innovatively, with partners, to have more impact on sustainable poverty reduction.”

Yesterday I attended seminar on ILRI Addis campus given by two senior researchers: Berhanu and Ananda- on the topic of how to integrate Value Chain Analysis and Agricultural Innovation Systems approaches in order to move forward and achieve an agenda for research for development. This was an interesting seminar which sparked many questions and discussions between the presenters and the many CGIAR staff members present.

Of interest to the Knowledge Sharing in Research project was the highlighting of one of the main differences in the innovation systems perspective as compared to earlier theories and approaches to research.

As the presenters pointed out, the main thrust for research has always been knowledge creation and generation- which they entitled INVENTION–coming up with solutions.

However much knowledge (and technology) has been created by various types of research systems over the years which has never been adopted or used and remains ‘sitting on the shelf’. The presenters indicated that this is because research just stops at the point of knowledge creation without considering ‘who will use this?”, “how will/can it be applied?”

But INNOVATIONS or changes, as different from an INVENTION, only happen when knowledge and technology is used or applied to achieve social and economic benefit. It has therefore been recognised that knowledge is only one component necessary for bringing about an innovation as the ultimate goal, and that interaction and learning amongst a number of key actors is also required.

The presenters highlighted that “there is a need to think about who is going to use the knowledge and technology being created and plan how this will happen. It is necessary to bring the relevant actors in at various stages of the knowledge creation process, right from design stage, in order to facilitate the adoption and use of such knowledge after it has been created.”

While many agree with the theoretical and intellectual underpinnings to this framework and agree with the propositions it makes, there is still a looming question about how this new type of approach can be operationalised.

“What does it actually look like?” asked one person attending the seminar, “What activities does it include? how can I realistically introduce it and use it in my research program?”.

The practical approaches to how to collaborate, learn together, and share knowledge with various actors is what is missing from this still conceptual discussion.

Quite often the innovation systems approach seems to be quite big, all-encompassing–leading to failure from trying to make such a big leap. One reason for failure to adopt or successfully use an Innovation Systems approach in agricultural research may be because it requires such big changes in approach that research organizations are unable to support due to lack of skills to carry it out, it being heavily time-consuming and expensive, it is a complex approach, and it involves many more activities than research organisations can or feel that they should be carrying out themselves.

What the Knowledge Sharing in Research project brings to this particular table is a set of options for how to undertake activities to achieve such objectives put forward for necessary improvements in research processes to enable it to contribute more to development outcomes. These may be small-scale approaches or frameworks which can be integrated into the research process/cycle itself to improve it along the lines which the Innovation Systems calls for. These are innovations at various stages in the research process which help us to improve our imapct by making efforts to complete the chain of effective knowledge generation, dissemination, adaptation and utilization.

Examples include–

To IDENTIFY RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND PLAN RESEARCH TOGETHER:

*Use the Participatory Action Plan approach from IWMI WASPA LA

*Host an event in which stakeholders present their issues, knowledge, experiences and ideas–see ICARDA’ s Farmers’ Conference

*Try one of the methodologies from CIFOR’s collection of priority assessment methods–and learn from the experiences shared by the authors from various CGIAR Centres and partners

To COLLABORATE with stakeholders:

*Try using a Learning Alliance approach to bring stakeholders together to discuss issues, ideas, solutions and actions as done in the IWMI WASPA Pilot project

To LEARN together with stakeholders:

*Try some alternative, participatory monitoring evaluation and imapct assessment approaches which involve stakeholders in the process and focus on additional aspects of behavioral change, network relationships and stakeholder needs and perspectives, such as Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change–like the WorldFish Pilot is trying–and perhaps develop an approach which fits your own project context and needs.

*Develop and use a process monitoring method to monitor and evaluate the process your project is using together with stakeholders to understand their perspective and the impact of the approach–see IWMI WASPA LA

To get research-generated knowledge out to target groups in more, appropriate ways, like:

*Using radio programs in local languages including presentation of information and a panel of experts for people to call-in to ask questions to-as being tried by IWMI Wastewater project

*Developing information packets of knowledge and technologies from various research projects and storing them in a database for access and use by extension agents and academics–like in the IRRI lead pilot project

*Developing awareness videos about key messages coming out of research projects to be shown at various events and opportunities. Videos can be tailored particularly to target groups. See those developed by IWMI Wastewater pilot project

..and more options and examples!

Perhaps we can still achieve the same objectives and reach the same end goal called for in the Innovation Systems movement but by integrating some (small) approaches which are manageable into our research process to make step-wise changes and improvements rather than having to make big leaps which cannot be easily supported.

This in itself can be an innovation for our own research for development processes.

For information on (agricultural) innovation systems:

-see presentation

-read paper: ‘Enhancing agricultural innovation systems” by WorldBank

-read ‘Challenges to strengthening agricultural innovation systems: Where do we go from here’ paper by Andy Hall, 2007

“IFPRI’s call to shake-up research” is the name of the article in the most recent edition of the New Agriculturalist magazine highlighting the recently held ‘Advancing Agriculture in Developing countries through Knowledge and Innovation conference’, by IFPRI in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2008.

The conference, as seen by the New Agriculturalist was part of ‘the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) now joining the growing chorus‘ on necessary changes in agricultural research by ‘issuing its own “roadmap” for development, which champions the importance of innovation and the pressing need to make scientific research relevant to farmers‘.

One key objective that was pointed out in the conference was the need to “identify and promote better research...” since the “academic accomplishments of isolated laboratory staff have often found no practical use, with new findings often failing to trickle down to smallholders. If and when they have, some technologies have either been inappropriate or farmers have lacked the human and financial resources to implement them.” (Source: Article)

The article points out that the conference was looking for ways to address these problems. Some highlights of approaches proposed included:

  • encouragement for researchers (including students) to talk to farmers and find ways of linking indigenous knowledge with more formal research processes and findings
  • fundamental change in research structures and processes so that research is tailored to the needs of farmers and scientists have the technical skills to deal with them

More information about the conference, including key documents, can be found on the IFPRI Conference website

The topic of the event is closely aligned with the principles embodied in the ICT-KM program and its interventions. The ICT-KM is trying to support the “focus on changing systems” by Centres such as IFPRI and the CGIAR as a whole through learning about, sharing knowledge, providing technology and giving support in the types of tools, technologies, approaches, and systemic changes which can bring about and support such changes.

The ICT-KM program through the Knowledge Sharing in Research project provided funds to support this important event. In addition Enrica Porcari-CGIAR CIO and Leader of the ICT-KM program- represented the program at the event, gave a presentation on ICT-KM interventions, and chaired a session.

To see the ICT-KM interventions abstract -view ifpri-abstract-final

To see the ICT-KM interventions presentation-view(Note size = 1.5 MB) ictkm_kiard-addis-1-april1

The ICT-KM interventions presented will be featured in a chapter of the book which will be coming out of the Conference.