Good news for open access supporters! Four European research donors will mandate that research outputs from their funding be freely available through the UK PubMed Central (UKPMC). (The Health Research Board Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Telethon Italy and the Austrian Science Fund). Stipulation from the donor is an extremely effective route to open access, removing institutional barriers and boosting motivation to get this done! And, as the article points out there are benefits to the funder; “…providing the functionality – through text and data mining technologies – to integrate research articles with a range of other online sources”
See the Wellcome Trust press release with the news for more details.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, one of the principal funders of UKPMC said:
“Free access to peer-reviewed research is essential for facilitating progress in biomedicine. I am delighted that these European funders have thrown their support behind UKPMC, and hope that other European research funders will follow their example. This should enable us to build on the success of the repository and expand to a Europe-wide service.””
Some background to UKPMC:
“Launched in January 2007, UKPMC is a free-to-access digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed biomedical and life sciences research. As of February 2010, it holds over 1.7 million full text articles. The ambition of the repository is to become the information resource of choice for the UK biomedical and health research communities and eventually to expand to become ‘Europe PubMed Central’.
(I first spotted this item on the “Ninth Level Ireland blog” so thanks to them for picking it up and passing it on!)
Keith Jones sent me this link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/10/AR2009111017483.html (you have to sign up to access the archives, but it is free and quick). Rajiv Shah, who worked for the Gates Foundation and then served as under-secretary for agriculture, has been nominated to head USAID. This article observes that:
“Shah’s nomination, which must be approved by the Senate, comes as the White House and the State Department are studying how to redesign a U.S. aid system widely viewed as uncoordinated and wasteful. In addition, Congress is considering overhauling the 1960s-era legislation governing assistance.”
…and provides a link to a speech that Secretary of State Clinton delivered at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Shah helped to write this speech and you can read it by visiting this link:
Here is an excerpt from Clinton’s speech that may provide some insight into the future evolution of USAID:
“After years of effort and billions of dollars, we have not achieved the lasting results we desire. But we have learned some very valuable lessons. We know that the most effective strategies emanate from those closest to the problems, not governments or institutions hundreds or thousands of miles away….And we know that development works best when it is based not in aid, but in investment.”
The White House press release announcing the nomination is at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/president-obama-announces-usaid-administrator And politico covered the story. In this excerpt from the politico blog story, reference is made to greater collaboration:
“Shah seemed to anticipate working closely with Clinton and USAID when he gave an interview to his hometown Seattle paper in May upon taking the USDA job. “There are times in history when presidents have succeeded in bringing together very powerful people,” Shah told the Seattle Post Intelligencer, noting that he was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. “He anticipates the Ag Department, the State Department, and Agency for International Development ‘will work together as a team’ on food issues inside and outside America’s borders,” the paper added.”
Aid as investment is a pathway that USAID has in fact been pursuing through its Global Development Alliance (GDA) initiative. GDAs take a market-based approach to partnerships between the public and private sectors to address jointly defined objectives. The ICRISAT led West Africa Seed Alliance is receiving funding from USAID through a GDA. In 2001-2009 USAID launched 900 alliances with 1,700+ partners, and reports that they have leveraged their overall investments by 2.7:1 as a result of Alliance member contributions.
The nomination of a scientist who is also an agriculture expert and an innovator is good news for the CGIAR. And the Change Management process has underscored the need for the “new” CG to leverage Center resources by forming partnerships to pursue shared goals.
A new focus by USAID on investment and by the CG on partnerships suggests that if CG centers can be creative, there will be plentiful opportunities to build PPPs with USAID support and funding as Global Development Alliances.
Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP
Simon Johnson, Chief Economist at the IMF from March 2007 to August 2008, writes in the October 19th issue of Business Week that:
“To be effective, an international lending organization must be trusted by potential borrowers”.
Unfortunately, many developing countries do not trust the IMF, and Johnson proposes the creation of a new entity – an EMF, or Emerging Monetary Fund.
Johnson’s proposes that
“The EMF would be like your friendly neighborhood physician; the IMF could run intensive care”.
Read his rationale in the Business Week article, “An IMF Just for Emerging Markets”
Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP
The following is taken from the call for proposals document linked above from the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa
“Title: Scaling up farmer-led seed enterprises for sustained productivity and livelihoods in ECA.
The Upscaling and Knowledge Management Programme of ASARECA seeks concept notes for a regional project that will generate rigorously tested and validated best-bet approaches and models for farmer-led seed enterprises that enhance smallholder access to affordable and quality seeds of improved varieties of AIV in selected countries of the ECA sub-region.“
Please refer to the linked pdf for full details of the call.
Last week I saw that IFPRI had published a new policy brief entitled:
“LOCAL MARKETS, LOCAL VARIETIES. Rising Food Prices and Small Farmers’ Access to Seed.” The full text can be viewed by clicking on the lead link above. The following post consists of comments from Peter Bloch; Peter is a CAS-IP consultant who specialises in technology transfer and IP management. He has been working with the West African Seed Alliance (WASA) on branding. WASA, which is led by ICRISAT, is a highly focused initiative designed to stimulate the development of market driven distribution chains for seed and agricultural products. Peter said:
“The summary references “carefully targeted subsidies” and later talks about “investments”. Donors often use the word “investment” when discussing grant aid mechanisms, but we should be aware of the difference between subsidies, grants and investments. Grants to seed companies are not sustainable; and they distort the market. One grant facility requires seed companies to establish a “charitable” objective, and to sell seed for less than any competitor in the area. WASA chooses to provide business training and technical support, and to facilitate connections between seed companies, merchants, farmers and breeders. Using funding from USAID, companies can qualify for bank loans which are supported by guarantees of up to 50% of the loan amount.
A direction to watch is donor supported investment vehicles such as African Agricultural Capital and the (soon to be launched) African Seed Investment Fund that provide finance (as opposed to grants) to seed and agribusiness companies. These entities will invest (as in equity or debt finance) in agribusinesses that are too small, too risky or not profitable enough for private sector investors. This is social investing (where investors seek a social return in addition to a modest economic return) or, as Bill Gates calls it, “creative capitalism”.
Right now there are initiatives which target market driven increases in agricultural output, and there are initiatives that are giving money (or seed) away. Whichever pathway we believe is the “right” one, a decline in funding from international donors requires that available support be applied to achieve maximum sustainable impact. Surely, then, the various donors should try and align their basic thinking on how best to increase agricultural output in Africa.”
This item from the New York Times online raises some tricky questions about conflicts of interests regarding funding. It describes a situation whereby a student at Harvard Medical School felt some of the information presented in the “protected space” of the learning environment “wasn’t as pure as…it should be” for reasons connected to professors being paid as consultants to drug companies. Reading some letters to the editor connected to this article further complications were raised– for example it was highlighted that often professors receive no income from the University directly, so these contributions maintain their employment.
What is the relevance of this to our CGIAR context? Well, as Public-Private-Partnerships are becoming more common it highlights that one cannot afford be naïve about what this might mean. Working with the private sector may bring up new and unfamiliar issues for centres. It takes time to negotiate and there needs to be a willingness to really go into the details of an agreement. This may well be at odds with a general pressure to reduce transaction time, but one should be realistic about what may be required in order to ensure the right results when entering into an agreement.
Bill Gates has written his first annual letter about the work of the Gates Foundation. The lead link is for an audio slideshow presentation about agricultural innovations. The site quotes:
“Along with health, I think agricultural productivity is one of the most basic things that can help the poor move to a more prosperous life.” —Bill Gates on improvements in agricultural development.
A recent SciDevNet article reported on the news and focused on the fact Bill Gates has said he will increase spending on charitable causes in 2009 (up on 2008 by $500 million). This is good news during the woes of the current economic climate. Gates was reported to have said:
“without sustained investment the world will emerge from the economic downturn with even greater inequalities in health and education”.
For the full letter visit this link. This letter is not to replace the annual report which will be available later in the year at this url: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/Pages/annual-reports.aspx