Last week marked a step forward by the CGIAR Consortium towards achieving the goal of open access of its data and information. A workshop on Data and Knowledge Management (D&KM), attended by almost fifty representatives from CGIAR Research Programs and members of the CGIAR Consortium, has drawn up a roadmap of five key initiatives and a major milestone of having a set of open access guidelines presented to the Consortium Board for approval in May 2013.
The workshop held in the home of the Consortium Office in Montpellier, France, aimed to provide a space to share and take stock of existing D&KM efforts across CGIAR and beyond, review the ‘islands of success’ and determine how to scale them up with the support of key Communities of Practice towards identifying and developing a set of ambitious activities to move CGIAR towards open access.
The CGIAR Consortium in March 2012 approved “CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets“: this provides the necessary legal framework for supporting the goal of making accessible a whole range of information products. “Open access is now the default, and it is now the time to decide what we are going to do to make it happen” said Michael Marus from the Consortium Office Knowledge Management and Communication Team.
While tasked by CEO Frank Rijsberman with coming up with some ‘big ideas’, the workshop participants actually determined some key ‘big results’ that they would like to see from actions towards open access, with a series of activities for reaching each result. These are:
- CGIAR Open Access Policy/Guidelines
- A Plant Breeding Data Management System
- A Spatial Information System
- A Research Project Management System
- CGIAR Knowledge Commons
And how did the workshop arrive at these results?
At the start of the first day, a panel of participants from WRI, CABI (e.g Plantwise), DFID (e.g Research Open and Enhanced Access Policy) and K4Health helped to provide some experiences, ideas and inspirations from outside of CGIAR. Stanley Wood from IFPRI who has been leading the Community of Practice on Spatial Information (CSI) and Phillip Thornton from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) both also had an opportunity to discuss some of the lessons and ideas raised in the context of two CGIAR programs already working on data and knowledge management.
Through a number of brainstorming exercises as well as plenary discussions, the participants were able to share their ideas and put forward some proposals for activities. The response by the participants was overwhelming. “The collection, range and aspiration of the ideas put forward is extremely impressive,” remarked Frank Rijsberman.
To make sense of all of the ideas and find a way to make an initial selection, the ‘Gain/Pain Matrix’ methodology used in the report on ‘Support Services in the new Consortium of the CGIAR Centres: Key Findings and Recommendations’ by Accenture in 2009 (page 19 – PDF 1.2MB) was employed to help define those opportunities to move the implementation of open access forward within the Consortium. Participants were asked to ‘plot’ their ideas for activities in the matrix considering the overall value (Gain) of an initiative in terms of its benefit to open access across the CGIAR Research programs (CRPs), as well as the difficulty in implementing the initiative (Pain), such as cost, time, and capacity.
According to the Accenture report, “Opportunities with a high level of value (qualitative and quantitative) and a relatively low level of risk and implementation difficulty are more attractive to implement earlier. Some opportunities that are more difficult to implement, but promise high returns, may be better considered for longer-term investments.” What emerged, however, from this exercise was a number of clear streams of activities leading to some ‘big results’- big changes in the way that data and information are managed and shared by CGIAR. Ideas that appeared in the ‘Longer term investment’ quadrant were seen as the big results to work towards, but which involved a number of activities starting from those that were ‘Quick wins’ (Low Gain-Low Pain) and ‘Clear Winners’ (High Gain-Low Pain).
The five areas agreed upon, to start with, were further fleshed out in group work. This allowed participants to sit together with others interested in a particular initiative to map out for each a vision for the next 3 to 5 years, a key set of initial activities to happen within 9 months for some progress and examples to be showcased in May 2013, and the necessary people to be involved.
Following on from this workshop will be the further formulation of the five initiatives identified, with working groups and activity plans established to take these ideas forward towards the first major milestone in May 2013 on the road to open access. On that date ‘CGIAR Open Access Guidelines’ will be submitted for approval to the CGIAR Board.