Progress in implementing the CGIAR’s policy on open access and open data

31 August, 2015 by (comments)

Five of the 13 proposals submitted by CGIAR centers for phase II of the CGIAR’s Research Programs (CRP) mention and clearly include the subject of open access and open data as a priority, which means the issue is hot and current.

Specialists in managing knowledge, databases, statistics, and data from the International Potato Center (CIP), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and CIAT came together at CIAT Headquarters in Colombia on 18–21 August to attend the 3rd Regional Workshop on Open Access/Open Data of the CGIAR Consortium. Other similar workshops have been held in Asia and Africa to help the centers and CRPs put together their implementation plans.

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According to Medha Devare, leader of data and knowledge management at CGIAR, the current situation at the centers is characterized by their growing interest in re-using data; recognition of the urgent need to carry out monitoring and evaluation, both internally and externally, so that donors will know how their investments are doing and how much adoption is being achieved; and interest in using the links and information exchange taking place between CRP’s lead centers and global programs.

One of the main objectives of the workshop was to evaluate the CGIAR’s open access and open data capacity; set up a common framework for prioritizing data; provide coordinated support to the centers and the CRPs; and together build a plan for implementing the common policy on open access and open data. These plans are made up of nine chapters and allow each center or CRP to specify their own processes in areas such as technical infrastructure, intellectual property, human resources and incentives, among others. Amalia Perochena from CIP feels there is “a very promising ambience despite the strong pressure to implement the work plan at each center.”

How do we transition from being isolated data and information silos to become interconnected silos?

Most of the answer to this question can be achieved by building a kind of cyber infrastructure for the information generated by agricultural research. The key lies in the interoperability of information reserves, for which new agreements on taxonomy, semantics and use of metadata, to mention a few, are needed.

On the other hand, this also requires fostering a change in culture through incentives, since most researchers are used to managing their own data and information as they see fit and within very restricted partnerships. The availability of solutions and tools that would allow the scientific community to adapt to change, as well as join international initiatives, should contribute significantly to achieving the goal of putting knowledge in the hands of people who are eager to consult it and apply it.

Luz Marina Alvaré, leader of knowledge management at IFPRI, said that “thanks to the dissemination of subjects such as Big Data, today there is more awareness of the enormous amount of curating work that goes on behind the scenes. The goal is to make knowledge reach the communities and networks that are working on different issues derived from or related to agricultural research for development.”

What’s next?

This year, all CGIAR centers need to finish putting together their plans for implementing the open access/open data policy. Based on the interest expressed by some donors in their own policies that the subject of open access be included as a condition for donating funds, the work teams will continue to focus on three main issues: implementing open access/open data, continually promoting this issue both inside and outside the Consortium, and strengthening the capacity of both information professionals and scientists.

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