The Knowledge Sharing in Research Project Leader Nadia Manning-Thomas recently developed a think-piece for the Science Forum, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009.

The think-piece and presentation based on it given during the  Science Forum, were part of the background material contracted by the conveners of the Science Forum Workshop 3:  ICTs transforming agricultural science, research & technology generation.

The think-piece was found to be very interesting by a number of participants and it was asked whether this piece could be ‘re-published’ in other places.

Therefore, it is now available on the Web2forDev: Web2.0 for development gateway (website). To view the think piece–see the full article

ICT think-piece on WEb2.0fordev websiteTitle and Opening part of the article:

Changing the Emperor: ICT-enabled collaboration transforming agricultural science, research and technology into an effective participatory and innovations system approach

The CGIAR Centres and Programs with their many partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge to help increase agricultural productivity and improve livelihoods of poor communities, primarily in developing countries. The knowledge the CGIAR produces is vital to addressing and finding solutions for food (in)security around the world.  However, despite the creation of this wealth of knowledge, certain obstacles to uptake and impact of agricultural research remain. Many of these obstacles are related to the way in which knowledge and innovation are treated within the research process.

To view the think piece–see the full article

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I (Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader) was amongst the many that participated in the recently convened CGIAR Science Forum, June 16th and 17th in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

The Science Forum was well organised by the Science Council, The Alliance of CGIAR Centres, GFAR and Wageningen UR and brilliantly hosted by Wageningen UR.

The event was two days long and consisted of a mixture of plenary sessions with key note speakers and panels as well as workshop sessions on 6 different topics. I was part of Workshop 3- ICTs enabling transformation in agricultural science for development- for which I had developed a think piece and gave a presentation–see blog post on ICT-enabled collaboration for agricultural science for development

I thought I would share some of my impressions with you about this event and various components:

1. The event as a whole

  • It was well organised and ran quite smoothly
  • There was a striking lack of social sciences in the program
  • There was still the concept of ‘senior experts’ telling everyone what should be done at work with lots of time devoted to a number of key note speakers. While this was interesting, it took up a lot of time and there was no time for interaction with these speakers or as a plenary as a whole.
  • There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm amongst all the scientists–science is still exciting and valuable.
  • NO free wireless connection in rooms to allow those of us who wanted to cover the event using social media
  • It was very nice that the organisers were open to the inviting of young professionals from within the CGIAR to be part of the forum–but how many of their voices were heard?
  • A lot about genetics and genomics–seems to be a hot topic right now with lots of potential but still some things to be careful about and also still need to think about ultimate adoption and impact
  • The topic of bio-products focused solely on bio-fuels–what about fibres for clothing and thatching, medicinal plants, etc—biofuels can offer a lot of positive but need to think through carefully as can also have major implications for food production, land and water usage
  • While we might have identified a list of science topics–I didn’t get the impression we thought about how these can be operationalised and how they link together as well as to development impacts
  • Good message to us from Bill Clark on Linking Knowledge to Action for Sustainable Development
  • I enjoyed eating the ‘alternative protein’ (read: worms, grasshoppers, etc) snacks at the Forum evening event

2. ICT workshop

  • Well organised by convenor Ajit Maru from GFAR with a wide range of think-pieces prepared and presented
  • Interesting background piece developed by Ajit Maru (GFAR), Enrica Porcari (CGIAR ICT-KM), and Peter Ballantayne
  • Wide range of ideas, perspectives and opinions on ICTs
  • Still alot of bias towards very technical aspect of ICTs
  • The short presentations given by presenters were actually short and punchy and interesting.
  • Use of buzz groups in between sets of 3 presentations was a nice way to digest the presentations, find connections, hear what others thought about it etc
  • World Cafe is always a win approach for achieving meaningful small group discussions around key questions and topics…it also allows people to interact with many others during the time. Always creates a lot of conversations, a lot of energy and also of ideas!
  • From my World Cafe table on Innovations necessary to support adoption and use of ICTs in agricultural science for development a number of key things emerged:
  1. Need to develop good M&E system around ICT use in agricultural science for development to be able to track, learn and adjust along the way. We need to know if these tools are really working toward more effective, efficient and impactful work.
  2. Need to build up and support the right mix of personnel with the right skills to be able to carry out the work of ICTs in ag science for development. We need both new curriculum to support this as well as ongoing capacity building opportunities to keep people ‘on the ball’
  3. Incentives–if people are going to be engaging in clearly beneficial work to the institutes and their activities-but it does not involve publications but carrying out other activities and achieving different outputs, then we need to find a way to recognise and reward them.
  4. Need to make sure when we introduce and use new tools–that they have a clear purpose and are not just used for sake/fun of it. ICTs need to advance us along the impact pathway.

3. Networking

  • A large number of CGIAR staff in attendance–it is always nice to meet others in the system and make contacts and learn what others are doing.
  • A lot of interesting non-CGIAR participants from whom we can learn a lot, should consider working/linking with, and who can help us with outreach of our work
  • CGIAR still does not come across as a very ‘partner-oriented’- system–hope we can change that in this reform taking place as we are not the only players in ARD and many others are doing very interesting and worthwhile science and development
  • Young scientists (<40) were encouraged to network with the help of YPARD who organised a networking event specifically for Young Professionals attending the Science Forum.

But these are just MY impressions.

If you were also at the Science Forum–share with us YOUR impressions…

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

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!”

Last week Wageningen UR saw a number of scientists and managers from the CGIAR and beyond gather to discuss how to revitalise the way we do science.

Dominic Glover provides a great perspective on the Science Forum 2009 of the CGIAR at the Broker’ blog: http://tinyurl.com/ldbchx

He provides insights on how this event explored ways to mobilize science more effectively to enhance food security, improve nutrition, reduce poverty and to better manage natural resources.

Worth reading!

Two ICT-KM supported activities were among those selected to be showcased at the Science Forum in the Poster Competition:

Well done!!!!

The full list of posters is in this EGFAR E-News

Few would deny that in the 21st Century, biotechnology and materials science have replaced plant breeding and soil science as the frontier areas of agricultural research. What is not really clear is how the application of computers and new ICTs are becoming centre stage in transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation.

High capacity computing power and use of ICTs in bioinformatics and managing massive databases have already demonstrated their effectiveness in generating new, more relevant and useful crop varieties in very short periods of time and at less cost. This will be critical in meeting the challenges of climate change. Modelling and simulation of crop performances, economic impacts and effects of weather and climate, use of geographical information systems and knowledge based systems are making vast contributions to making agriculture at various levels precise, predictable and proficient and more risk-averse. Embedded sensors, networks and ICTs are making farming less arduous and economical.

During the Science Forum 2009, a workshop will be organized to provide a venue to discuss how to exploit the potential of computing and ICTs in agricultural science, research and technology generation especially in the context of technologically less developed countries and for the benefit of millions of resource poor farmers and producers. The workshop will seek to identify the global priorities in research in use of ICT in agricultural science and technology generation and needs for technologically less developed countries to make full use of ICTs in harnessing agriculture science for their development and progress.

A call for proposal for posters to be presented during the Science Forum has been launched. The posters aim to present how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are enabling agricultural science to be a social endeavor by communities rather something done in laboratories by professional scientists.