Tag Archives: research

Two Fully Funded PhD Opportunities

I received a notice from the Hutton Institute who are offering two fully funded PhD studentships for international students in 2012.  Topics include: plant genetics, plant pathogens, land use, socio-economics, soils and biodiversity.

Full details of the projects offered can be viewed on FindaPhD.com.

Closing date for applications is 13 February 2012.

“The James Hutton Institute recognises and values the expertise, talent and knowledge international students can bring to our research community and the important contribution they make to the development of our scientific excellence and are offering two fully funded PhD studentships to international students for 2012.

PhD opportunities are offered from all our science groups and cover many aspects of our work including plant genetics, plant pathogens, land use, socio-economics, soils and biodiversity. The James Hutton Institute’s International PhD Studentship programme is highly competitive and attracts international students of the highest calibre.”

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Food security and the need to educate the public

In the May/June issue of Foreign Policy, Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute writes about The New Geopolitics of Food.

Brown’s launching pad:

Already in 2011, the U.N. Food Price Index has eclipsed its previous all-time global high; as of March it had climbed for eight consecutive months. With this year’s harvest predicted to fall short, with governments in the Middle East and Africa teetering as a result of the price spikes, and with anxious markets sustaining one shock after another, food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics. And crises like these are going to become increasingly common. The new geopolitics of food looks a whole lot more volatile — and a whole lot more contentious — than it used to. Scarcity is the new norm.

The bottom line?  Consumers in the North will be the last to feel the impact of increasing commodity prices, while – as we know from food riots over the last few years – consumers in the South feel these impacts immediately.  Positioning the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, Brown argues persuasively that we have now entered an era in which the food supply, rather than oil, will be the key geopolitical driver of the global economy.

Food Ark (National Geographic, July 2011) addresses a more mainstream audience and approaches the same challenge.  Its tight focus is, however, on the increasing threats to biodiversity and on the key role of seed.

The headline for this comprehensible primer:

A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

What is of note is that both articles address non-scientific audiences and both explain the role of agricultural research, underlining the need for more of it.  As “food security” hits the mainstream, it seems important that consumers understand the issues and the critical role that research plays.  This may be a good time for the ag research community to get involved in further increasing public awareness.  It’s not just about money; an informed press and public can create an environment in which challenges to progress can be more easily navigated.  It’s called public relations.

Post written by Peter Bloch

How to cite e-books

I spotted an item today in which a blogger was pondering how one should cite an e-book, in particular the kind you download to read from a device such as the Kindle (note to fellow book lovers: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, I was actually pleasantly surprised!)  The post was called “The Future of Footnotes” and it talked about the difficulties of using these non-traditional sources when one needs to cite for academic purposes.

He (Jonathan Rees) said:

“…I think I expected e-books to look something like the screen on Google Books: All the pages are intact, but they’re electronic [however] … at least when using the Kindle for iPad app, there are no page numbers at all. There are these long 4+ digit location numbers, but they don’t precisely match the words on the page and I don’t see any way to use them to locate particular snippets of text. I suspect this is because page numbers would differ depending upon what device you read the e-book on or even at what magnification you set your own device. While this is perfectly fine for reading a novel that you’ll never open again, for historians this ought to pose a problem. How can we tell people where we found what we found?”

There is some help online, and not surprisingly Mr Rees wasn’t alone in his frustration.  The question of page numbers was dealt with on Teleread.com “How do you cite an e-book’s ‘page number’?

From the teleread.com article :

 “In the follow-up discussion of the article, some readers point out that the Chicago Manual of Style offers a guide to citing e-books:

“If a book is available in more than one format, cite the version you consulted. For books consulted online, list a URL; include an access date only if one is required by your publisher or discipline. If no fixed page numbers are available, you can include a section title or a chapter or other number.”

And it includes an example of a “Kindle edition”. A “location” number would seem to be a perfect example of an “other” number. In fact, it might even be more useful than a page number, because the “location” would be about the same no matter which device you read a Kindle e-book on, whereas a page number only applies to one specific version of the printed book.”

Along with the guide in the quote above there are many  other sites to help with citation such as “How to Cite E-Books” from ehow.com.  And as the Teleread article concluded:

“the academic world does need to come to terms with how to do citation of e-books without page numbering, because e-books are only going to get more popular from here”

Licensing of Modified Virgin Coconut Oil in Malaysia

The National Partners Initiative (NPI) of CAS-IP is publishing 5 working papers from 5 Agricultural Research Institutions in developing countries.  These case studies aim to share country experiences from developing countries in the areas surrounding IP policy making, policy implementation and use of IPRs by researchers for leveraging more benefits to the stakeholders, people, institutions and countries. The results of the five studies have been prepared as five working papers.

The first one from MARDI in Malaysia is entitled: “Pre-Commercialisation and Licensing of Modified Virgin Coconut Oil” written by Guat Hong Teh (CAS-IP) and Rafeah A. Rahman (MARDI).

Commercialisation of publicly-funded research in Malaysia is low. Studies have shown that a complex interaction of policy direction, funding mechanism, innovation structure, diffusion mechanisms and manpower availability is necessary to increase the interaction between public research institutes, universities and the private sector, in order to bring research to market. In this paper, the authors showcase a recently patented product known as modified virgin coconut oil and how the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) has been able to up-scale its production and licence the technology to two private companies. Factors leading to its success include the newly-launched TechnoFund scheme by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI); the selection of the right private sector partners and the building of trust and confidence between them; an extremely dedicated and proactive inventor who is business savvy; and the internal MARDI support to research staff for IP management and business development needs.

The paper concludes by looking into further steps that MARDI can take to exploit the potential of this technology, investments that it should continue to make for augmenting its current internal skill sets, and a recommendation to consider the pros and cons of future models of collaboration with the private sector.

The full text can be viewed HERE.

Post written by Karine Malgrand    , Facilitator of the National Partners Initiative for CAS-IP

“ResearchGATE and Its Savvy Use of the Web”

The ResearchGATE site links researchers from around the world and is driving homegrown, locally relevant innovation in developing nations.

You can read the story at:
http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/dec2009/id2009127_441475.htm?campaign_id=mag_Dec10&link_position=link35

“When Dr. Kelvin Leshabari was studying in 2008 for his medical degree in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, he felt isolated from medical researchers in the rest of the world.  But then he stumbled upon a U.S.-based Web site, ResearchGATE, that takes the social networking concepts underlying popular services such as Facebook and LinkedIn and applies them to the research community.”

We are familiar with The Honeybee Network, a database of grassroots innovations developed by Indian farmers, but a LinkedIn style network for agricultural researchers represents a quantum leap.

ResearchGATE serves a variety of communities of interest, from law and physics to earth science and economics.  And it serves agricultural research at: https://www.researchgate.net/science/748_Agricultural_science
(Subsets (19) include agronomy, irrigation and horticulture.)

ResearchGATE claims 180,000 subscribers, is free of charge, and offers tools that support collaboration and professional networking.  And there is an associated blog at: http://blog.researchgate.net/masterblog/

The rationale for the site is explained by the founders:

“We have also experienced that research collaboration, the exchange of promising ideas or a cooperative grant application work best if the co-researcher is a trusted and known person. In the best case, he’s a good friend.

“Social scientists have long recognized the importance of boundary-spanning individuals in diffusing knowledge (Allen 1977; Tushman 1977), and recently, several papers have rigorously demonstrated that technological knowledge diffuses primarily through social relations, not through publications.”

Sorenson, Olav and Singh, Jasjit, “Science, Social Networks and Spillovers” (December 26, 2006)”

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

A “new biology” for the world’s most pressing problems

Ref: item on MITnews.  An interview with MIT institute Professor Phillip Sharp who recently called for the US to “build upon recent scientific developments” and work towards solving some of the world’s most pressing problems; food, energy, climate and health.

Victoria Henson-Apollonio Senior Scientist and Manager of CAS-IP, spotted the link and made the following comment:

“Agriculture is likely going to get an influx of “new blood”.  Those scientists that have been working in health are going to be looking for conquering new territories.  We should welcome them with open arms.  We are soon going to be in the fast lane and we’ll make lots of technical progress.  We all need to do a better job of translating this into reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in a sustainable way.”

New ideas for the CAS-IP System Dynamics Modelling team

https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/system-dynamics-conference-2009-and-cas-ip-using-sdm-technique-for-research/

Further to the recent posting about the CAS-IP System Dynamics team participating at the 2009 System Dynamics conference the following is an update from the trip report written by Sebastian Derwisch and Sebastian Poehlmann:

 “For this project we are creating a generic model of the seed value chain in West Africa, depicting every step from variety creation in the research and development sector down to the adoption by smallholder farmers.

In the plenary session Sebastian Derwisch presented a paper he co-authored with Birgit Kopainsky on farmers’ adoption in which they are trying to identify a) how farmers’ adoption differs by country and region, b) which policies are suited to enhance the adoption of improved seed as well as c) the role IP strategies play in this process.

CAS-IP at the System Dynamics conference 2009

CAS-IP at the System Dynamics conference 2009

The discussion after the presentation dealt mainly with following:
– Matching reference mode – did we validate the structure with empirical data

– Including bottom up approaches; IP policies are perceived to be top down approaches and we need to include justifications to what extend working top down is in fact necessary if we speak of framing conditions like intellectual property right or to what extent executing IPR is also bottom up

– Including the price as a variable – including financing issues of enhanced agricultural inputs more explicitly would increase confidence in the structure as this is the main inhibiting factor for adoption

– How can we simulate the impact of catastrophic events like droughts?

– What about combining policies?

– What are factors that would make farmers that once used commercial seed start using traditional farm saved seed again

–  is availability an issue here? What else?

The other paper Sebastian Derwisch presented was his work on the issue of enhancing investment into the development of new seed varieties. In this parallel session he received comments on the problem of validating the structure with empirical data.  It was also suggested the project could benefit from looking at other agricultural inputs for traditional and commercial seed systems as influencing factors.

From discussions at the presentations it became clear that embedding seed value chain in the larger context of energy prices, other food chains and the productivity and capacity of soils would be another interesting aspect.

We observed the current trends towards web-based simulation and modelling collaboration with great interest and plan to invest some time in developing web simulations in order to better illustrate and communicate the System Dynamics approach e.g. via the CAS-IP blog.”