How’s our driving?

Incorporating user feedback ensures that agricultural research actually gets used for development – that it is appropriate, effective, and useful. Photo: Neil Palmer

Imagine if we were to ask the same question, only with a twist: How’s our researching?

The challenge of making user voices heard is not a new one in agricultural research. The concept of feedback loops, that is, information coming from the end users of a research product to inform the development of further research, is making strides to turn agricultural research for development into a demand-driven process.

In his presentation on day 1 of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), Wilson Dogbe of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR – Ghana) explained the possibilities present in feedback loops for optimizing research in food security.

“Within the CGIAR, we are seeing the desire to shift from agricultural research to agricultural research for development,” Dogbe explained. That means research agendas are being reframed and project objectives re-conceptualized.

User feedback is going to have to take “center stage” if this shift is to be carried to fruition, emphasized Dogbe.

Dogbe used the case study of the Global Rice Science Partnership, or GRiSP, and rice research and development in Ghana to illustrate his point.

“The framing of GRiSP is radical,” he said, “because it changes the focus on output to a focus on product.” The users of a research product provide data on that product, when later goes to inform the product development process.

But projects like GRiSP are still little-known and under-appreciated. There are some links in the feedback loop that are weaker than others, making for incomplete analyses. Sometimes product expectations are specified at such a high level that they are virtually useless without more detail. So the methodology isn’t yet perfect.

Nevertheless, says Dogbe, “the language of products and product-lines allows GRiSP to crack the door for change in publicly-funded agricultural research for development.” He maintains that the feedback loop methodology has the potential to direct research that is more relevant, useful, and effective.

The next step? To find a range of different research areas where high-quality feedback is required, and then define the products needed in much greater detail.

The hope is that agricultural research for development will become a user-driven concept, rather than a researcher-driven concept. And maybe we could get some bumper-stickers printed, too?

Keep track of happenings at GCARD2 on the GCARD2 Social Media Platform.

Blogpost by Caity Peterson, one of the GCARD2 social reporters.

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