The work of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its staff collectively results in a wide range of outputs that are ‘published’ in a number of formats or channels. These include, but are not limited to: articles, books, reports, chapters, brochures, flyers, press items, CDs and DVDs, web sites, posters, conference papers and presentations, images, audio files, videos and films, maps, software, datasets and databases.
To generate the research and development outcomes we seek, these outputs and products need to be put to use by others, and across ILRI. This means they need to be as accessible as possible. We also want to make the process of product creation as open as possible, encouraging ILRI staff to look beyond classic scholarly publishing approaches and providing mechanisms for partners and others to observe and engage in our projects.
Like other CGIAR centres and publicly-funded research groups, ILRI aims to produce ‘international public goods’ whose benefits can be accessed and taken up internationally. According to the recent independent review of the CGIAR, we need to make our research available and useful for development.
Concretely, we want our research to be available and accessible, directly or indirectly, to a wide range of stakeholders and clients, with as few technical or financial limitations as possible.
Three ways we do this
First, we have tackled the physical availability of the research we produce. Second, we have tackled the intellectual property rules under which we publish. Third, we are making our research projects and processes more open, visible and transparent.
1.We enhance the physical availability of our products by:
- Establishing an open repository containing the full versions of all products of our research (http://mahider.ilri.org). Some items are physically published on third party locations on the Internet and are indexed in the repository. Some products, notably journal articles, can only be indexed in the repository as we are legally unable to deposit them in full in the repository. The same platform is now being shared with other CGIAR centres.
- Publishing all our legacy publications on Google Books, allowing 100% download of the content (http://books.google.com/books?q=ilri). The same approach is being followed by most CGIAR centres.
- Publishing posters, photos and presentations on social media platforms where they can be viewed in full (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri ; http://www.slideshare.net/ilri).
- Seeking to set up an open data repository. We seek to replicate approaches of other CGIAR partners – such as the World Agroforestry Center (http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/icraf), the International Food Policy Research Institute (http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/ifpri) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/CCAFSbaseline).
- We follow a similar approach to some of the software code we develop or adapt – for some projects we deposit this at http://github.com/ilri for others to build upon.
2. We enhance the accessibility – and potential re-usability – of these products by giving our products an open ‘creative commons’ license. This license has been applied to all ILRI publications since January 2011 and is also applied to our photos, video material, etc.
3. We are opening up some of the processes by which we design and deliver research by:
- Documenting and sharing many of the ‘intermediate’ processes along the research cycle. A good example is the Nile Basin Development Challenge projects in Ethiopia. In such projects, we frequently use blogs to report on meetings, share presentations, engage with stakeholders, and generally report on the activities of the project (even before the ‘science’ is ready to communicate).
- Documenting events and project activities through photos, video and photofilm (http://blip.tv/ilri-photofilm).We encourage researchers to try out different – more open – ways to communicate their research. We also use wikis and video to document workshops and events (see http://nilebdc.wikispaces.com and http://infoilri.wordpress.com/social-reporting).
- The main focus is on open multimedia and ‘social’ tools and platforms (see some examples) we use to plan and report events, publish presentations, reports and photos and generally do research ‘out loud‘ – an interesting new take on interactive, collaborative work in which project staff report or ‘narrate’ what they do openly (on blogs for instance) so others can follow. A more engaging ‘observable’ approach has us creating and storing work in ways and platforms where others can see and comment/modify it, long before it is final. Watch a video interview with ILRI scientist Alan Duncan on this way of working.
Together these efforts represent an effort to make our research much more open. Products can be obtained ‘in full’ with a license that encourages re-use. Project activities can be followed and early choices and decisions are documented and visible. Researchers are trying different, more accessible communication tools to share their work.