How do we make agricultural research available, accessible and applicable?
This is a key question for improving the impact of our agricultural research. And you have probably heard alot about this from us. But what about from real research projects and researchers trying to do their part?
We have developed a second film to share with you the ongoing story of Lieven Claessens, a young CGIAR researcher, who first told us a sad story about a lack of sharing of research knowledge that moved us… but who, in a new project, has moved on to explore and test better ways of sharing knowledge. Hear and see for yourself:
Talking technical and theoretical
When we are talking about the need for and ways of making data, information and knowledge available, accessible and applicable; when we are promoting greater coherence in information systems or for open access; or giving training in knowledge sharing– it can easily become a technical conversation, and sometimes even a theoretical one.
But the CGIAR Triple A framework, the global movement towards ensuring greater coherence in information for agricultural research for development (CIARD), and the many activities and initiatives going on across the CGIAR and beyond are not just another theoretical exercise, and are also not just about technical mechanisms.
At the core of all of these are people. It is about making sure that valuable knowledge generated is shared in ways that a variety of people who make decisions in agriculture-such as farmers, extension agents, policy makers, development agents, and even researchers- can access it and use it in their decision making and actions towards improving agricultural systems and the livelihoods that are associated with them. And it is also about the researchers who generate the knowledge and how best to support them to share their knowledge through the right incentives, benefits and resources.
A story that moved us…
In 2010 Lieven told a story, during the African Agricultural GIS Week (AAGW10), about his work on landslide hazard modeling and how he had developed and used a model to map areas of vulnerability to landslides; a model whose predictions came true in March 2010 as a landslide happened on the foot slopes of Mount Elgon, an area in Uganda, which left death and destruction.
Lieven then explained that he had done the usual scientific process of collecting data, developing his model, analysing the results of the model and finally… documenting it as a journal article. But he knew even before the tragedy that this would not be enough to get this valuable information out to those living in the areas at risk, those managing such situations, and the policy makers who make decisions to protect people. He expressed his feeling of the inadequacy of the only communication channel used by him, as with many researchers. While this is necessary to maintain the high scientific standards of the CGIAR, his main message was…
…this is just not enough! (with big head shake!)
This was a good reminder to us and for others about why we are working towards systems that open access to knowledge. And it moved us so much, we wanted to capture this story and the key messages in it to share with others-and so the first short film was born: ‘How science can not only predict but also mitigate the effects of natural disasters’ …and shared through a blog post putting the film in context.
This film was shown at a number of key events including at the AgKnowledge Africa Share Fair held in Addis Ababa in October 2010, at the Multi-site agricultural trial database for climate change analysis: Planning and launch workshop, held in Lukenya, Kenya on the 12th-13th October 2010 , and many other events where it stimulated intense debate and received high praise for its message.
After the experience in that project, Lieven vowed that he would work with communication specialists and others to find ways to better interact with stakeholders and share knowledge in his next projects. And a new climate change adpatation project focused on Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya presented a great opportunity for him to try this out. Together with others at his then institute-the International Potato Centre (CIP)- this project was designed to make use of stakeholder meetings or a stakeholder platform, which would allow the project to continously interact and share with a variety of stakeholders- for example farmers, extension agents, local level policy government officials, at various stages of the research project to:
- learn about the context, issues, needs, existing knowledge and solutions
- ‘groundtruth’ and ‘adapt’ the knowledge and strategies generated from the research
- share knowledge from the project and gain feedback
- learn more about the ways in which the stakeholders can and would be able to access knowledge… to help design further opportunities for sharing knowledge that would be applicable
So we wanted to revisit Lieven and to hear about how this new project and the use of knowledge sharing tools was going. And of course we wanted to share it with you all too- in this follow up film.
Pathways to move along
One of the key messages from Lieven was that he felt that he was not well enough equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience of ‘communication’ tools to help him better share knowledge from his project–and he urged other researchers to also seek out help in these matters.
Lieven and his project chose to use stakeholder meetings/platforms as a pathway to make their knowledge move along. There are a number of other pathways which research projects could make use of depending on the type of project and knowledge generated, target audiences, and overall goals. A choice of pathways offer a range of opportunities to
- Develop institutional readiness to better support open access and knowledge sharing, such as through improving the licensing and copyright options to encourage use and re-use of knowledge assets
- Increase the availability and accessibility of research outputs through good methods of collection and preservation, such as developing an open repository for digital content
- Make content widely accessible on the web, such as using social media to communicate research outputs
- Make knowledge travel through face to face activities such as roundtables
- Share knowledge in alternative ways which may be more applicable to various groups, such as through photos, videos or presentations
But whether you are a researcher- who does or doesn’t have ideas for more broader sharing of knowledge- a research manager, or even a communications or knowledge sharing professional, alot of work is being put into exploring, understanding, developing, and promoting useful tools, methods, and the necessary support mechanisms that can be used to make knowledge travel, which is available for example in:
- A number of pathways which have been documented and are available on the CIARD website
- A ‘How can I…’ series available on this CGIAR site which can help to guide you through using some key tools and methods for sharing knowledge by providing easy steps based on real and useful experiences
- The Knowledge Sharing Toolkit which is jam-packed with ideas, information and insights about using tools and methods for sharing knowledge
So if you want to get started and move on…it’s as easy as ABC!
– Thumbnail Uploaded by hbrinkman on Nov 3, 2007 at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/899883
– Photo of group of people by Nadia Manning-Thomas
Video credits: Lieven Claessens, Peter Casier, Bart Sels, Noah Kebede, Nadia Manning-Thomas. Francesca Pelloni, Enrica Porcari