Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
 


CGMap Ongoing Research in Africa: Empowering, Newsbyte informative, exciting
Collective Action News: Issue No 17
February 2010

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as the source of this issue


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One year since the first prototype map previewed in the Collective Action News, we are pleased to report that the revamped CGMap Ongoing Research in Africa (http://ongoing-research.cgiar.org/) has been officially released.

The CGIAR is making a concerted effort to coordinate many of its activities with the aim of collectively responding to common challenges. There were concerns that, for a number of years, CG Centers had continued to work independently, with research outputs and outcomes strewn across different media. The initiative titled “CGMap Ongoing Research in Africa,” seeks to provide a systematic way of collating, sharing and disseminating outputs and outcomes from the 15 CGIAR centers.

The Ongoing Research Map has seen the inclusion of features that will revolutionise the way users search for agricultural information. These new features include a more specific and targeted search tool, the ability to add links to a project’s output, relevant documents and Websites and presents a more robust geographical user interface. The map has an interactive information management system for contributors, where project managers have complete ownership over their information. Most of these innovations are a result of monitoring the map’s use, feedback from users and an evaluation survey carried out in October 2009.

A key ingredient of the map is the network of scientists and contributors. By establishing relationships with colleagues who conduct research, it has been possible to obtain a very high coverage of ongoing research particularly in Eastern and Southern Africa, with 95% of projects in the region already included in the map. Additionally, since the system does not have geographical limits, data are being collected for other areas outside the African continent. This makes the Ongoing Research Map easily extensible for the creation of additional focused maps. Contributors can also share projects and invite colleagues to become contributors, thus encouraging the feeling of ownership of their information.

The Ongoing Research Map has been built with search engines in mind to grant maximum accessibility online to key research information. While being built into the system, searches are also available for users whenever they click either on a scientist’s name or on descriptive keywords in a project fact sheet. These links fire off queries on a Google-customized search engine that retrieves results at the same time from the Ongoing Research Map, CGMap and a selection of CGIAR Websites, thus giving users the possibility to continue their search across a range of quality-controlled sources.

How is all this possible? The system relies on a very lean definition of, project, which captures four pieces of information: Scientists (the scientists and the project coordinator who can also be directly contacted via the system); Partners (grouped in a standardized way); Research areas (a broad and refined classification reflecting the CG’s agricultural commodities and areas of work), and Countries of research.

With a brief project overview and related online resources, the simple project fact sheets available in the Ongoing Research Map answer the basic question: who is doing what, where and with whom? Plans are underway to measure the impact of the map through reported collaboration and partnership, as well as feedback from users. In view of the new CG and Mega Programs, the map can provide a vivid example of open access to core research information for a wide range of audiences, while emphasizing the role and direct contribution of scientists.

Timely, valid, well documented and easily accessible information is crucial to the entire research process. Resources can be saved if we replicate successes and learn from the oversight of past projects. With every new record entered, and with every click and every connection made through the research map, we are inching closer to bridging the knowledge gap and to reaping the benefits of collective action and effective collaboration.

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