CONABIO and SIAgro: capacity development for open agrobiodiversity data

FAO/Alex Webb

by Irene Ramos Pérez, CONABIO

As part of the Mexican Agrobiodiversity GEF project, the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) is developing an Agrobiodiversity Information System (SIAgro), with FAO as the implementing agency. SIAgro gathers diverse data on native crops in traditional agriculture, including biological, agronomic, cultural and nutritional information. Strengthening the participation of the academic community in SIAgro through capacity development for open practices is key to ensure data reuse and tool adoption.

Bridging the gap between open data collection and use

Several research teams collect new data for SIAgro. Most of the group members are students and early career researchers with limited training in open data, so they might not be further involved as users after  the data generation stage. To address this gap, CONABIO organized  a workshop on data literacy skills with mentorship from the Open Life Science program. The material was tailored  for research activities in agrobiodiversity, and focused on FAIR principles, data standards, and  data lifecycle and ethical use. Empowering contributors to use the data they are helping collect increased their awareness of open data as a collaborative effort, and provided an incentive to improve data quality.

Adoption of digital data collection tools

Data collection for SIAgro is managed through standardized surveys in the mobile and desktop KoboToolbox apps. While these tools enable data access and integration, collectors face multiple challenges in the field. For example, local informants were less willing to take the surveys on a mobile, which led the teams toward the adoption of creative strategies to organize their field trips. A workshop organized for groups facilitated the exchange of these strategies and developed recommendations for using KoboToolbox in different contexts, complementing the technical materials used for the training. Inviting this participatory assessment of our tools enhanced their adoption and highlighted the interplay between technical and collaborative challenges.

FAIR and open data require a community approach

These experiences have shown that designing a workflow for open and FAIR data goes beyond technical solutions. Building a common ground on open practices with the academic community is a first step in ensuring data reuse, tool adoption and, in the longer term, the sustainability of SIAgro and other data systems. 

Learn more about SIAgro and its capacity development activities