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“Mind the (knowledge) Gap” by making use of online technologies like DSpace

The famous announcement from The London Underground- The Tube- tells people to “Mind The Gap

But while this phrase is used for a very practical safety reason so that people don’t fall into the gap between the train and the platform-this could also be used to reflect other types of ‘warnings’ about not letting other things fall into gaps as well–such as agricultural knowledge and the famous ‘knowledge gap’. So this theme will be used throughout this blog post to explore some ways to “mind the gap”!

The agricultural research for development ‘gap’

We find very often a ‘gap’ between the generation of agricultural knowledge and it being accessible to people to make use of it–often referred to as a ‘knowledge gap’.

And this is the driving force behind efforts such as the CGIAR ICT-KM Triple A framework and the global initiative on coherence in information for agricultural research for development (CIARD)- which are together looking for pathways to make agricultural data, information and knowledge more accessible–thereby avoiding, jumping over, or closing the ‘gap’.

In order to “mind the gap” these efforts are exploring and promoting pathways which can help research institutes, programs and projects to make their information:

  • Availability:  “Can I find it?”–are research outputs stored in open digital formats and described using public metadata standards so they can be found through structured search and access systems?
  • Accessibility: “Can I put my hands on it?”–are research outputs publicly available online so they can be queried, viewed and obtained in full?
  • Applicability:  “Can I make it travel?”–are the outputs easy to adapt, transform, apply and re-use by others?

Closing the ‘gap’

This theme of the ‘gap’ was also present at this year’s Annual Seminar of the The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU (CTA) which was entitled “Closing the Knowledge Gap: Integrated Water Management for Sustainable Agriculture” .

Michael Hailu the Director of CTA was quoted, on Twitter by @maureenagena (Maureen Agena), as saying

“All Agriculture research findings should be made available online by taking advantage of new technologies”

This comment comes just at a time when a few Centres and Programs of the CGIAR are exploring further how exactly to make their agricultural research available online and which technologies can support this.

One of the technologies that has become popular and useful for making agricultural research outputs online is DSpace which is being used now by a few Centres. According to the website, Dspace is

DSpace is the software of choice for academic, non-profit, and commercial organizations building open digital repositories. It is free and easy to install “out of the box” and completely customizable to fit the needs of any organization. DSpace preserves and enables easy and open access to all types of digital content including text, images, moving images, mpegs and data sets.  The most common use of the DSpace software is by academic and research libraries as an open access repository for managing their faculty and student output. There are also many organizations using the software to host and manage subject based, dataset or media-based repositories.

Making space for DSpace

A discussion and training event was therefore organised by Peter Ballantyne, Head of Knowledge Management and Information Services at ILRI-who has been making use of DSpace-at the ILRI campus in Nairobi this week . Attending this workshop are people from ILRI, ILRI programs, the World AgroForestry Centre, the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food(CPWF),  KARI, FAO-Somalia and myself from the CGIAR ICT-KM program.

Running from Wednesday 1st December 2010 for three days, it includes the following sessions and activities:

  1. the first day is a general introduction to DSpace use and management as well as lots of discussions on why to use such as repository system, and a groupwork session on lessons, recommendations and challenges for using DSpace;
  2. the second day has a specialized ‘admin’ session and a further ‘editor’ session; and
  3. the third day will be a specialised training, mainly for people who will play an administrator role

So what does this DSpace look like and how is it actually used?

Well one example is from the International Livestock Research Institute(ILRI) which has made use of DSpace  as a way of sharing their research outputs–their version is called Mahider (which means repository in Amharic).

Mahider is an index and repository of research outputs and publications produced or sponsored by ILRI and other CGIAR-affiliated organizations.

It contains a variety of knowledge items such as documents, articles, reports, information on videos and more.

Mahider organises these items as product types in various communities and collections to make it easier for the Institute to organise and preserve their products- and of course to share them.

So again like my participation at the CCAFS data sharing workshop– what am I doing here at this workshop????  Well, I am here to learn. I am trying to find out more about what this tool is all about and what it offers to our research centres and projects for making ag knowledge travel, and sharing it with you all through the blog and others through our many knowledge sharing  ‘pathways’…

…so watch this (D) space!

Photo credits:

Blog post thumbnail: Uploaded by philly_j at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/70311