Science for Impact – Extending the Accessibility of CIAT Research

20 May, 2009 by (comments)

KSW - Opening Session 1 Ruben Echeverría shares some perspectives on an agenda for CIAT …

On the first day of this KSW, some 50 staff members joined a session organized with the support of the ICT-KM program to discuss the availability and accessibility of CIAT’s research outputs [see presentations].

At the end of the session, I asked the session organizers to come up with some concrete actions that CIAT could consider implementing. I’m pleased to share some of the promising ideas that emerged:

In the very short term, I would like to see us consolidate available knowledge information and data in CIAT, investing in these, and perhaps other, actions to maximize the accessibility of our work.

What might this include?

  • I would like to see us use ‘open’ as the default setting to share our research outputs. With support from the CGIAR CAS-IP and borrowing from IRRI, we can adopt a suitable ‘creative commons’ license for all of our Center-produced outputs.
  • Where we publish elsewhere, we need to ensure that copyright agreements with publishers allow us to retain CIAT rights to re-use the publications and for us to deposit them in our open repositories.
  • We also need to look at our agreements with partners, collaborators, funders and others to ensure any outputs they generate are also published and deposited under similar licenses.
  • We urgently need an ‘all of CIAT’ approach and strategy to guide information, knowledge, data and communication policies and investments. This needs to tackle some of the important issues raised on Monday – such as the concern for quality, prioritization, and management of expectations and real demands.
  • We must deposit all CIAT research outputs in publicly-accessible repositories where they are permanently available and can easily be found and re-used. Some of our internal repositories need to be reviewed and migrated outside our intranet to be publicly accessible. If we don’t know all that we know, we can hardly share it!
  • Many of us need to brush up our skills in this area. I would like to see concrete activities that equip staff to become ‘smarter’ communicators and sharers throughout the research cycle. We need to better understand the possibilities open to us, even if we continue to rely on expert colleagues for some help.
  • Simone’s presentation and indeed the efforts of our CCC and IT teams this week to open up and share KSW discussions, suggest that we can gain a lot from social media like blogs and video that can increase our ‘social footprint’ – beyond words and text!
  • Beyond these trendy social tools, we should also continue to support other innovative applications, such as geo-spatial applications where we have a lot already to build on. There may be other applications like mobile devices or participatory video that are worth exploring.


  • We need to look at our web presence – our main website should offer gateways to CIAT knowledge, with appropriate mechanisms for decentralized content management and editing. We also need to examine the Forages platform to see if indeed it is a model to develop other specialized knowledge sharing platforms that reinforce and give greater visibility to what we do.
  • A recurring theme is the incentives – why should staff engage in all of this? I will propose that we look at our personnel systems to see how we can encourage and recognize activities that result in open and accessible, as well as high quality, research.
  • Finally, we will need sufficient bandwidth in all of our offices to ensure we can indeed support some of these new kinds of ‘e-science.’ Appropriate use of this bandwidth will be encouraged.

Alongside these internal interventions, we can extend this approach with our partners across this region, and perhaps beyond, to help create a Latin American ‘Agricultural Commons’ that transforms the way knowledge is generated and applied in the region. This resonates with our Wednesday discussions on ‘reaching end users’ that calls on us to work with partners to get our research out, to make sure we do science for impact!

How do we take this forward? We need a Center-wide forum that brings the different perspectives and expertise together. Perhaps we can set up a knowledge ‘task force’ to give us impetus and guidance in the coming months?

We will discuss some of these plans again in this knowledge sharing week; I welcome feedback and suggestions from CIAT colleagues and partners … and look forward to continue this discussion.


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