A Global Agricultural Research Partnership

Insights into researcher behavior: attitudes towards opening access

CGIAR is a co-author of a new report entitled ‘Researcher Attitudes and Behaviour Towards the ‘Openness’ of Research Outputs in Agriculture and Related Fields’.

The report, based on an online, worldwide survey of researchers in agriculture and related fields carried out in March 2011 by CGIAR, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), is a product of the global initiative to achieve greater Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD).

CGIAR and CIARD strongly believe in opening access to research, and have been working to develop key pathways and other resources to support research institutions and researchers to achieve this. However, there has been a gap in our own understanding of researcher behaviours and attitudes towards communicating research outputs and making such outputs open and accessible; information which is key to guiding our efforts and activities”, states Nadia Manning-Thomas, one of the authors of the survey and report, from  CGIAR.

The ambitious global survey of researchers working in agriculture and related fields was embarked upon through a collaborative effort led by Philip Edge, Franz Martin, and Stephen Rudgard  of FAO, and Nadia Manning-Thomas of  CGIAR (with support from  many others), to fill this gap.

The almost 1500 responses to the survey, most from Latin America and Africa, have provided interesting and valuable insights and information. The report highlights that, “although researchers are driven in their work by many different and interacting motivations, institutional/organizational factors are very important and have much influence over individuals’ behaviour.” Despite many sharing the vision of making research outputs openly available, especially for “contributing to alleviating hunger and poverty” as 80 per cent of respondents in all regions indicated key barriers such as a lack of required resources and of institutional policies to drive these activities are very real and often impede progress in this area.

The report documents and explores another key finding of the survey that  “current behaviours in choosing routes to communicate research results are still strongly biased toward the traditional routes of publishing in journals and books and appearing at conferences, though the availability and increasing use of digital formats is starting to broaden the spread of communication pathways used.”  CGIAR itself is seeing an increasing trend in use of digital formats and tools for sharing data, information and knowledge both internally as well as with partners and stakeholders.

The full report is available online and will be presented at the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in Uruguay this October 2012.

In an article on SciDevnet (by Imogen Mathers, 10th August 2012) promoting the report- Agricultural research communication ‘needs more support’ – Susan MacMillan, Head of Public Affairs at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a CGIAR Consortium member in Kenya, is quoted as saying that “the survey underlined the importance of improving how research is communicated and of increasing open access to research”. She added, however, that “the really big problem we now have is ensuring access to complete datasets. There’s an enormous need to get datasets out there, so that organisations across the world can have immediate access to them, but this is hugely expensive and resource-heavy.”

A workshop planned for September 11th and 12th 2012 in Montpellier, France- the location of the CGIAR Consortium Office- will be bringing together representatives of various members of the CGIAR Consortium and CGIAR Research Programs to tackle this very issue. By taking stock of existing initiatives, examining lessons learned and looking for new, innovative opportunities, the workshop participants will be defining a vision and key principles along with a set of targeted actions that will lay the foundations for a Data and Knowledge Management Strategy and Action Plan for the CGIAR Consortium.

Note: CGIAR is a main contributor to the CIARD initiative.

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