The CGIAR Open Access and Data Management Policy, supported unanimously by all 15 members of the CGIAR Consortium, is now in place. The policy marks a ground-breaking effort to address Open Access publishing system-wide, committing CGIAR to making information products – including spatial, crop, and socio-economic and genomic datasets –Open Access (OA) over the next 5 years. CGIAR strongly believes that this clear commitment to Open Access will improve the efficiency, efficacy, and impact of its research; aid interdisciplinary research and novel computation of research literature; and allow the global public to further benefit from the wealth of CGIAR research.
“Our basic philosophy remains very much the same” says Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. “We receive funding from tax payers, and make our results publicly available to use. This has always been part of the ideology of CGIAR, which hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way we need to do it. Easy access as well as Open Access is required to ensure the most effective use of research results. The potential benefits of the Policy are considerable, it will allow us to share lessons learned and scale up the successes – placing the partnership in a prime position to increase the pace of innovation and direct positive impact of agricultural research on the ground.’’
To start moving this effort forward, the CGIAR Consortium is currently engaged in a Data Standards Summit. Participants from CGIAR, FAO and other partner organizations are meeting this week to work collaboratively to develop a practical roadmap for the adoption of Open Data Management Standards. The group will discuss the Draft CGIAR Open Access and Data Management Implementation Guidelines, with a focus on consolidating current practices across CGIAR and its partners, Data Management, Data Standards; and agree on metadata standards and vocabulary that can be applied to all data domains (broadly categorized as genomic, genetic, crop / breeding, spatial and socio-economic data).
Institutional policies generally concentrate on offering Open Access to traditional forms of academic research output (i.e. journals and books), and if data comes into the equation, the focus is normally on linking research papers back to the underlying data for that paper. CGIAR, however, took the decision to tackle Open Access and Open Data simultaneously, under a single policy umbrella -seeking to ensure all data with potential for impact is shared – as opposed to solely data underlying research papers. Academic journals remain an important distribution mechanism for CGIAR research findings, however it is CGIAR’s combined commitment to Open Access and Open Data that has the potential to create even greater opportunities for CGIAR research and its use for on-the-ground impact.
Why Open Data?
Timing is of the essence when it comes to making new agricultural data available. It took just six months from the launch of the NEXTGEN Cassava project for scientists to release their Open Access cassava database, widely held as marking a milestone for data sharing in agricultural research. IITA cassava breeder Peter Kulakow hailed the launch of Cassavabase as a major step towards increasing yields and quality of cassava crops for African farmers.
“Sharing information will create the opportunity for all African farmers to benefit from the best technologies available to improve the yield and quality of cassava that is needed for food and income,” said Kulakow.
Meanwhile, an online mapping initiative which catalyzed knowledge sharing and collaboration across CGIAR Research Centers won a top international award earlier this year. RTBMaps designed as a platform to help scientists set priorities for interventions to improve production of cassava, yam, potato, sweet potato, banana and plantain, allows users to overlay 25 sets of variables onto a world map. These cover a wide range of factors related to production, as well as constraints and social indicators associated with RTB crops.
“What’s really great is that you have all layers available on the cloud, for anyone to access, free-of-charge,” said CIAT’s Glenn Hyman, who helped to develop the CGIAR mapping tool. “To use the maps and run your own analysis, all anyone needs is a web browser… RTBMaps brings GIS capability out of the laboratory and directly onto the desks of scientists.”
There are a myriad of innovative products and ideas across the CGIAR Consortium. Some notable examples were highlighted earlier this year when several members of the CGIAR Consortium, and partners took part in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture held in Washington D.C. Highlights included:
- The International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Food Security Portal, a platform designed to provide detailed country-by-country information on food policy developments.
- The CGIAR Generation Challenge Program’s Integrated Breeding Workflow System (IBWS), an information system linking local and current breeding data to public crop information.
- The Iraq Salinity platform, developed by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). This platform brings together all information generated by the Iraq Salinity initiative – a research and advocacy project on approaches to reduce the effect of salinity on agriculture and food security, and make it more widely available as a public good.
- The Data Harvester – Test Bed. Developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), this platform is a test bed open agri datasets harvester. It harvests metadata from institutional data repositories and aggregates them, offering choices of access points.
Putting theory into practice: the Implementation Phase
Open Access isn’t a new concept to CGIAR. Open Access policies have been in place in many Centers for years –and system-level initiatives such as ICT-KM’s ‘Triple A Framework’,and involvement in initiatives such as the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) have paved the way for the common policy that is in place today. The pace of development in Open Access and Open Data for agriculture is now greater than ever –and the reformed CGIAR now has the means and the will to take a consolidated and leading role.
Over the past 8 months, the draft Open Access and Data Management Policy was shared with numerous stakeholders who welcomed the spirit and intent behind it, contributing insightful comments on some of the probable challenges in implementing the Policy. This valuable feedback was collected and considered, and has been incorporated into draft Open Access Implementation Guidelines, which will accompany the Policy.
Public access to key documents relevant to CGIAR and Open Access, including drafts of documents for consideration, are available at www.cgiar.org/open.
For questions, comments, concerns or ideas, please contact us at open [at] cgiar.org.
For more information
CGIAR is committed to Open Access (CGIAR.org, includes links to the policy and draft implementation guidelines)