There are some terms and concepts important to define and explain related to CIARD and the promotion of 'opening up agricultural knowledge for all' and other ongoing initiatives and movements:

  • Coherence: This has two dimensions: (a) to adopt effective organizational approaches to sharing agricultural research outputs; and (b) to use global information and knowledge standards for making digital information and data visible, accessible and meaningful on the Internet.
  • Open Access (OA): OA is the provision of unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, and increasingly it is also being used to cover a wide range of research outputs such as theses, scholarly monographs or book chapters.

CIARD aims to make all agricultural knowledge, information and data 'accessible' and 'open', from documents - including journal articles, book chapters or reports, to research data, statistics, etc . (CIARD Issues Paper and http://ictkm.cgiar.org/2010/05/26/please-make-all-cgiar-research-open-access-an-open-response/ )

Assessing the Situation and Defining the Challenge

Analyze your own organization : The first action you need to take to build your advocacy approach for opening up agricultural knowledge is to analyze the existing policies and resources to make your own organization research outputs accessible. You should start the advocacy process by finding two key facts:

Key Advocacy Fact 1: What % of the organization's research outputs and knowledge products are (a) available in digital format, and (b) accessible publicly on the Internet?

Key Advocacy Fact 2: What policy/strategy does your organization presently have regarding sharing and communication of knowledge, information and data?

You can also assess the status of your organization with regard to the CIARD Checklist of Good Practices, which represents a set of items through which organizations and individuals can progress towards and monitor their progress towards opening up agricultural knowledge.

The answer to these questions will set the scale of the challenge which your organization faces, and will be the root issues to open the discussions with your management and colleagues.

The Challenge: Changing Attitudes and Behaviours of Researchers

This is the real objective of your advocacy. The CIARD Survey "Researcher Attitudes and Behaviour Towards the 'Openness' of Research Outputs in Agriculture and Related Fields"(2011) showed that researchers are affected by a variety of interacting motivations. Organizational factors were shown to have great influence over their approach to making their research outputs openly accessible. So organizations need to put in place policies and provide resources to change individuals' behaviour.

Defining the Solution - Building the Advocacy Case

There is no universal blueprint to opening up agricultural knowledge. Some key points and issues were identified in the Survey which are important in preparing advocacy approaches. These fall into three major categories as in the table below, which affect either organizations or individuals.

Categories which affect
Benefits to be gained Organizations /Individuals
Barriers to be overcome Organizations
Incentives to be provided Individuals

Here are some of the Benefits of opening up research outputs and knowledge for individuals, organizations and research itself which you can present to your management and colleagues as part of your advocacy case.

Greater openness of research outputs and knowledge…
…improves the potential social and economic impact of research: higher probability that the knowledge generated reaches the right people in a useful way. Greater accessibility does not necessarily mean greater use and impact - but without accessibility there can be NO uptake. This is the most obvious benefit, but this may not be a strong enough argument to change policies and behaviour on its own. But you can gather evidence of the effects, through actions such as monitoring visitors to your website, and even conducting some surveys of target groups. A CIARD Pathway describes how to monitor your website.
…makes research outputs travel further : greater visibility of your own and research outputs is key if people are to use it for their decision making and if the knowledge is to have impact. Maximizing the visibility of your research outputs increases the chances of them being found, an essential step prior to use, but visibility isn't automatic given the quantity of information on the Internet. So it is vital that methods and tools are used to ensure that outputs are more visible. Information and data available in repositories have a greater chance of being discovered through web search mechanisms if appropriate standards are used. Repositories should be registered in international directories for agricultural information services like the CIARD RING to maximize their visibility. Then new communication approaches should be considered to reach large numbers of people beyond the usual audiences, and the CIARD Pathways highlight how to exploit online tools and social media .
…enables researchers themselves to benefit: greater awareness and uptake of the outputs supports the research itself. Greater awareness and uptake of research outputs supports efforts to undertake the research itself. However, the importance of this benefit will depend on the nature of your organization's funding sources, and whether financing partners are influenced by the accessibility of your research outputs.
provides greater value for money to funding bodies: greater return on investment from funds provided for your research. This is an obligation/duty which every public or private organization should be trying to achieve, and is part of their accountability.

If you know of other Benefits, please add them here through the wiki or send them to us at information@ciard.net

There are still a lot of constraints, concerns and fears to opening up research outputs, and you may have to investigate to better understand why knowledge is not currently shared enough. Here are some of the Barriers you may find that mean your organization is not opening up access and some potential solutions to those.

The Barriers The solution - build this into your advocacy case
The organization provides no mandate for its researchers to make their data, information and knowledge publicly accessible. A new organizational policy could be proposed to enable/mandate researchers to make their outputs accessible, for instance an Open Access mandate, with leadership provided by management. There is a specific CIARD Pathway that provides guidance on developing this type of policy. The CIARD website also provides some examples .
The organization does not have easy-to-use and affordable tools to make data, information and knowledge openly accessible. There are several information management open source tools that can be used for making content accessible. CIARD provides information on tools and through the Virtual Fair , and a network of organizations that can provide advice (e.g. the Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS) website provides tools and practices for creating information services).
The organization has inadequate mechanisms to protect intellectual property rights when research results are openly accessible. If researchers' recognition and career progression are based to some extent on public accessibility of their data/outputs, it is important to reassure them that these are protected. The organization should adopt/adapt policies to protect intellectual property rights adequately. CIARD provides advice on how to do this through a Pathway .
The organization has insufficient technical expertise on opening up access to knowledge Management needs to ensure that staff can use appropriate and widely-used methods in knowledge sharing. CIARD links to e-learning courses such as Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) (available in English, French and Spanish) on how the various Pathways can be achieved through the Virtual Fair.
The organization allows researchers insufficient time to make research outputs accessible and applicable to audiences. Organizations can adopt policies that ensure that its researchers allocate some of their time to doing this, and CIARD provides you with examples of such policies.
The organization has insufficient funds to open up access to research outputs. Management should aim to allocate a proportion of the organization's research budget to activities related to communication of research outputs, in the region of 5-10% as an international benchmark.

If you know of other Barriers, please add them here through the wiki, ideally with your ideas for solutions, or send them to us at information@ciard.net.

What's in it for the researcher? In terms of incentives that can be provided to researchers, organizations should consider tangible measures that can be taken to foster opening up access to agricultural research outputs. 

Incentives from the Organization Points to build into your advocacy case
Opportunities for career enhancement based on an individual's track record on communication of his/her outputs. Ideally performance evaluation and career progression of researchers should be directly linked to data sharing, publication and other knowledge sharing approaches. The organization's management may need to consider whether it is viable to revise its personnel policies to incorporate such factors.
Policies/mandates that defines how its researchers should report or communicate their outputs. Such a policy would compel researchers to share their research outputs, but it is only viable if the organization has the human and technological resources to implement it (see Barriers above).
Adequate capabilities such as (a) access to adequate ICT infrastructure and (b) people with the skills to use these properly. This is an essential step, remembering that such resources can also be put in place through partner organizations or consultants.

If you think of other Incentives, please add them here through the wiki, ideally with the supporting points to build into the advocacy case, or send them to us at information@ciard.net