AIMS Newsletter no.78, November 2018

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“Do less: if someone else is doing it - link to it!” (UK Digital Design principle 2)

Data governance, data management, data integrity, data security, FAIR data… have one thing in common: data quality that should exist throughout the data lifecycle in any data collection. To approach the state of the art of some agriculture data collection processes in Africa, within the frame of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) 12th Plenary Meeting (part of the International Data Week, IDW 2018, 5-8 November 2018, in Gaborone, Botswana, Africa), the RDA Interest Group on Agricultural Data (IGAD) organized a landmark event entitled:


Formed in 2013, since its inception, the IGAD has grown in a community of practice strength to over 200 members, becoming one of the RDA’s most prominent Thematic Groups. IGAD is a domain-oriented group working on all issues related to global agriculture data, with the main objective to consolidate the RDA’s work in building social and technological bridges towards open data sharing.

Through its five Working Groups (WGs) - Wheat Data InteroperabilityRice Data InteroperabilityAgriSemanticsOn-Farm Data Sharing and Capacity Development, - IGAD supports stakeholders in producing, aggregating,  managing, consuming data for agricultural research and innovation.

Join IGAD here for free and make your voice count within the international community!

The IGAD RDA's 12th pre-meeting brought its participants into discussions around case-studies on Open Data collections taking into account that the establishment of in situ data sharing practices within research institutions in low/middle-income countries (LMIC) is vital for the development of the reusable Open Data landscape in the Global South (Global Bioethics, Volume 29, 2018 - Issue 1).

Drawing on several examples, impacts and open issues on streamlining of data collections in Africa, IGAD sees opportunities to improve agriculture data community engagement, raise awareness and build capacity, all towards improving research through increased responsible data sharing and interoperability involving researchers in Africa and other LMICs. For example, the implementation/replication of the recommendations of the IGAD Wheat Data Interoperability WG have already proved to be a success in different agriculture communities of practice, forged new alliances, as well as created new offshoot groups aimed at specific data interoperability solutions at the international level.

During the RDA Plenary sessions, IGAD has hosted a wide array of speakers and discussions and it continues to work alongside major international initiatives such as: FAO of the UNGODANCGIARCTAEMBRAPACAASINRACiMMYTCODATANARIs/NARS, among other parties that are critical to IGAD’s success!

If you are a technology specialist, researcher, librarian, farmer, journalist, communication officer… interested in commenting, contributing, advocating for IGAD initiatives… Join IGAD here for free and make your voice count within the international community!

IGAD is looking forward to working with all in taking Open Agriculture Data forward along with key stakeholders globally.

During the IGAD RDA's 12th pre-meeting, researchers, policy makers, practitioners discussed on the basis of several presentations of good practices and research projects about data usage, data collection and digitalization in relation to farmers and agriculture in Africa.


Pioneering agriculture and nutrition research information combined and re-used in accessible machine-readable formats (under public licences) with up-to-date information on soil, weather, land ownership, market price and similar data:

* enables a more effective, customer-focused data collection process;
* fosters innovative projects and knowledge networks;
* helps efficiently monitor, measure, and improve their impact.

Even though open research and public open data are an essential fuel towards a digital transformation of agriculture, this is not the only component that triggers such transformation. To turn open data into effective decision-making services in agricultural sector, there is a need for creating an ecosystem of interactions between business (farmers, agribusiness, advisors, governments, innovation brokers, start-ups, investors, ICT developers...) and research entities.

@IGAD RDA's 12th Plenary delegates: Thank you for being an important part of our community!

Built around the IGAD pre-meeting topic: ‘DATA COLLECTION IN AFRICA: STATE OF THE ART, CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS’, 48 IGAD attendees participated in a series of events, including:

A one-day meeting dedicated to the theme ‘How agriculture in Africa can benefit from Data Collection’. During this day, participants:

* explored several data collection practices in Africa and associated challenges;
* discussed benefits of data collection for farmers; and
* shared straightforward and low cost data collection methods. The importance of capacity development in this regard was highlighted in most of the discussions.

Two parallel workshops held (for researchers and infomediaries) - hosted by IGAD together with GODAN Action and CTA. These workshops aim at sharing first-hand knowledge of the advantages of use of open dataopen data impacts in agriculture & nutrition, as well as insights on applying research storylines to the new data management cycle.

GODAN Action fosters several capacity development activities (e.g., free Open Data Management in Agriculture and Nutrition Online Course) to help current, new and potential stakeholders to fully understand the benefits of open data sharing for agriculture and nutrition and basically engage in open data.


Open Land Use for Africa (OLU4Africa) project

Presented by: Karel Charvat (Czech Center for Science and Society/Plan4all, Czech Republic)

Based on Plan4all - Aggregation of large open datasets related to planning activities and SDI 4 APPS - Uptake of Open Geographic Information through innovative Services Based on Linked Data initiatives, the idea to extend Open Land Use map for Africa for different planning activities is based on available land use data on a local level (in selected countries) from various sources that can be combined at different levels of detail into a seamless map.

As it is seen now, the land used in Africa is mostly defined by data (available to download) coming from Africover project (which has done land cover mapping in particular African countries), GHSL (Global Human Settlement Layer) dataset (from which areas of residential land use has been identified), OSM LanduseLancover. An important aspect is that data are available as open data, and the innovative aspect is that data are not only combined into a seamless database, but also used in crowdsourcing for data collection and update. Newly identified data sources will be integrated into the map. More details here.

Opening access to data: how to balance Open Access and Privacy Rights

Presented by: Leanne Wiseman (Griffith University, Australia) and Jay Sanderson, (USC, Australia)

Recent developments in Privacy law, such as the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has focused attention around the world on the way in which 'personal data' is being currently managed and shared. While not all agricultural data is 'personal data' there is certainly the need for a clearer understanding within the agricultural community of what types of agricultural data may also contain or become 'personal data.'

Distinguishing between 'personal data' and non-personal data/non-personally identifiable information (non-PII) is an important first step in determining the most appropriate policy, regulatory and practical approach to managing the opening of access to agricultural data in Africa. More details here.

Role of competence research centers & open science movement in the framework of digital innovation hubs in agriculture. Example of #DigitAg convergence lab

Presented by: Pascal Bonnet (CIRAD)

Even though nowadays Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) provide services to the agricultural sector and ICT business (farmers, agribusiness, advisors, governments, innovation brokers, start-ups, investors, ICT developers...), DIHs also need to facilitate access to competence centers (universities, research and technology organizations, incubators) which offer access to various infrastructures and research platforms and open information (data, algorithms, models, thematic knowledge).

The presentation focused on the formation of the digitalagriculture #DigitAg convergence laboratory in the French region of Occitania, and was an attempt to boost interaction and interdisciplinary work among various scientific laboratories engaged in digital agriculture research. #DigitAg has helped create new networking between two domains of digital and agricultural science, with mobilized elements of open science (open data, open source...). More details here.

Data4Ag: Farmers benefit from data and digitalisation

Presented by: Chipo Msengezi (CTA)

Even though Farmers’ organisations (FOs) and agribusiness companies are important players in providing services to farmers in Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries, they often face a limited performance of delivering better (precision agriculture data) services to support better decision-making based on adequate access, handling and sharing of aggregated data.

CTA’s Data4Ag programme addresses the following four components to support FOs in their approach to digitalisation using a data strategy that positions them to extend data services for the benefit of smallholder farmers:

* Field proofing and farmer profiling to deliver better services to smallholder farmers;
* Scaling up data services for farmers through extensive consultation with farmers’ organisations;
* Working in collaboration with stakeholders to raise awareness and inform policy on data management issues in order to support and improve farmer registration and data management by FOs;
* Capacity building on data management particularly focussed on shared data.

Agricultural data collection and management in Burkina Faso: state of the art & issues

Presented by: Philippe Yanogo, Consultant in agriculture and environment, CEO GENITEC entreprise

Since Burkina Faso has a hydrologic network which is comparable to a funnel from which collected water is drained out of the territory, Burkina’s agriculture sector faces many of problems including degradation of natural resources, reduction of diversity of the ecosystems, just to name a few… Lack of the organization of agricultural actors to access to knowledge worsens the current situation.

Effective collection, managing and sharing data is a prerequisite to produce more relevant information systems, which - in their turn – would be most helpful in promoting better knowledge related to:

* Agricultural meteorology and climate change to prevent or launch alert about precipitation forecasts, extreme events and manage water reserves (develop complementary irrigation regulation, extend drop to drop practice, practices of water conservation, etc.);
* Dam and river watershed management to improve and increase dry season production;
* Soil fertility management to enhance productivity;
* Pest control and alert to protect crops and environment;
* Market information system to improve the income of the farmers.

AgroFIMS, the Agronomy Field Information Management System

Presented by: Céline Aubert, Marie-Angélique Laporte and Medha Devare (CGIAR, Bioversity International, France)

To fully understand the implications of varying factors within any cropping system, it is essential to combine results of field management practices with information on crop phenotypes. The use of ontologies with fieldbooks has proven to be a successful way to harmonize breeding data, such as with the Crop Ontology and Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP). Ontologies proffer further advantages for data mining and exploration, including the possibility for making inferences, and connecting with Linked Data in other related domains (e.g. nutrition and health).

AgroFIMS: (Agronomy Field Information Management System) consists of a web application displaying variables that are concepts in the Agronomy Ontology, relevant crop ontologies, and other related ontologies. These variables are sorted into a series of modules representing the typical cycle of operations in agronomic trial management, such as land preparation, irrigation, weeding, soil fertility, weather and soil parameters, biotic and abiotic stress observation and control, among others. AgroFIMS aims to reduce error and ease data collection via an in-development mobile app that will allow digital data collection in the field; it is also possible to adapt AgroFIMS to other digital data collection platforms such as Open Data Kit (ODK). An AgroFIMS prototype was subject to user testing by agronomists, in September 2018, and garnered interest and enthusiasm. Early adopters will use a first release, in 2019, for field-testing to capture data during the 2019 cropping season.

Showcasing the improvement and uptake of Dataverse through global collaborations & networks

Presented by: Richard Fulss, Jesús Herrera de la Cruz (CIMMYT, Mexico), Sonia Barbosa (Harvard University, USA), Jonathan Crabtree (ODUM Institute, USA)

The Global Dataverse Community Consortium (GDCC), initiated and represented by members of the IQSS at Harvard University, the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science in the US and by DANS in the Netherlands, promoted the creation of an international melting pot where many interactions at global level are conceptualized.

The hosts discussed the current African context including potential use cases as well as an imaginable support infrastructure concept for research data management with Open source research data repository software Dataverse. A selected showcase will demonstrate how the International Maize and Wheat improvement Center (CIMMYT), which is part of the GDCC, utilizes and promotes Dataverse in the international agricultural research area. Thanks to the global partnership network of CIMMYT, including its offices in several African countries, the use of Dataverse has been expanded. It was implemented in collaboration with another research organization in Africa. This could be a use case for adoption not only in the African, but in the global context as well. CIMMYT work in Africa and additional informative material.

Farmers’ rights on data and ownership issues

Presented by: Foteini Zampati  (Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) and Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft (KTBL)

Farmers need to feel and be engaged in the decision process on how collectors will use their data, they need assurance of their privacy and control, seek transparency in their interactions with providers, would like to have access to data and to also receive benefits from their data. In this case, two main challenges need to be overcome: first, to gain access to relevant data and services provided by others and, second, to make sure that any data farmers share does not actually weaken their position. In this concept, the presentation focused on the following issues:

* Who owns data?
* How will that data be used or shared?  
* What about data protection? What do we mean by the farmers’ rights to data?
* What is the state of recognition of these rights at a national and international level?
* What’s the role of GDPR in the agricultural sector?
* How should these rights be implemented in local and international laws, guidelines and policies and how can they be protected?>
* What should be done to include farmers in the mechanisms of data (collection, evaluation, transmission, use)

There is a big need today to address these issues correctly and quickly to ensure farmers’ rights properly.

IGAD: Identifying training gaps in agricultural data management and interoperability - Findings of the IGAD Capacity Development for Agriculture Data WG

Presented by: Suchith Anand (GODAN), Chipo Msengezi (CTA), Karna Wegner (FAO)

At the RDA9 IGAD Pre-meeting in Barcelona, a strong interest was shown in developing a working group (WG) to look for synergies in capacity development in agricultural research and its potential contribution to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, the IGAD Capacity Development WG was formed and endorsed by the Research Data Alliance (RDA), in August 2018.

The aim of this WG is to develop synergies between existing education and training activities and agricultural science needs by performing a landscape assessment to identify existing gaps and training requirements within the Interest Group on Agricultural Data (IGAD) WGs and related groups. Particular focus will be placed on sharing knowledge about training initiatives and technologies, reducing digital divides so that researchers and practitioners in developing countries can benefit. The WG will also empower the existing collaboration among IGAD, GODAN and GODAN Action. More details here.

THANKS to our host – the UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA – and main organisers Committee on Data of the International Council for Science (CODATA), Research Data Alliance (RDA), World Data System (WDS), and ALL DELEGATES, for an excellent event, fruitful discussions and inspiration provided of the frontier issues of data in research!

We hope you will use RDA IGAD initiatives for innovative ways to collect, manage and re-use high quality (research) open data… since many challenges still lie ahead for the different stakeholders across agriculture value chains and data ecosystems. If you are interested in all IGAD presentations, please visit the F1000Research Open Knowledge in Agricultural Development (OKAD) channel.

IGAD will organize and chair the next RDA IGAD meeting on 2-4 April 2019, in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA), involving stakeholders from over world, with an increased participation from North AmericaDetails on the 13th Plenary meeting.

Twitter hashtags: #IGADRDA#RDAIGAD#RDAplenary

To know more about the RDA IGAD meetings, contact [email protected]

IGAD attendees also participated in side RDA Plenary events aimed at accelerating actions needed to speed up together ‘The Digital Frontiers of Global Science’, in terms of adoption of RDA outputs & recommendations and identifying opportunities to scale-up new RDA successful actions, catalyse cross-sectoral learning and enhance North-South cooperation! The 12th RDA Plenary was attended by over 820 participants from 64 countries and 6 continents, with top numbers from Africa (60%) and the United States.

The 12th RDA Plenary Meeting and SciDataCon2018 (#SciDataCon) were combined in the framework of the International Data Week2018 (#IDW2018) that explored how data can transform agriculture, education, health, contribute to social inclusion and preservation of global heritage, the environment and biodiversity. In this context, participants examined the policy dimensions of Open Science and the technical implementation that enables data to be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) to be managed using trusted platforms (more details: National Research Education Networks NRENs in Africa).

>> Increasing access to data while retaining trust: why is it important? (Open Data Institute)

"Being trustworthy and FAIR requires people, processes, technologies and collaboration...We need skilled people, transparent processes, interoperable technologies and collaboration to build, operate and maintain research data infrastructures", - CESSDA

African research and innovation will require investment in capacity development to advance innovative data skills and thus to take better advantage of data in agriculture and nutrition. This requires coordinated strategies and policies on data curation, access and analysis, the implementation of infrastructures and technologies for data stewardship, and engagement with promotion to all stakeholders - public, private and civil society -   on of the benefits of open approaches to research.

Work together, not alone: doing things the Botswana way”, - Sarah Jones, DCC

Join RDA IGAD here for free! We can definitely learn so much from each other and promote it together!


For more updates follow @AIMS_Community on Twitter... And, thanks again for your interest!