PlantwisePlus Blog

Promoting good data practices is crucial with the rise in digital uptake across the agricultural sector (© Pexels)

With many areas of our day-to-day lives becoming digital, from how we communicate to the exposure of previously trapped knowledge across geographic and social boundaries, it is not a surprise that the agricultural sector is also shifting to digital platforms.

As such, the adoption of good digital practices at a global scale is important for agricultural development programs to follow so that we can support and improve systems and infrastructure to be more sustainable within the digital world.

As part of CABI’s digital development strategy, we aim to follow and incorporate the nine Principles for Digital Development into our project planning and in-country digital activities. These are a set of guidelines for technology-enabled programs to support the integration of digital tools for improved accessibility, usability and sustainability.

One of these principles is being data-driven. For digitalisation to have lasting impacts, it needs to be used in suitably structured processes and systems to inform and support decision making. When a specific program is data-driven, high-quality information is available to all who may benefit for accessing it.

With advances in technology and the way in which we record and store data, the sharing of data itself is becoming an increasingly important subject. Improved published data results in user access to more high-quality information which promotes decision making. Therefore CABI advocates for an Open Agriculture approach, with data shared widely in an open format.

Open data can be accessed and utilised anywhere around the world without limitations such as terms of use or costs. In an ideal world, a much larger proportion of data outputs would be open. In reality, there some types of data which should remain restricted, such as personal or sensitive information. Instead of completely open or closed, data can be shared across a spectrum, with tightly restricted data at one end and completely open access at the other.

A representation of the data spectrum (© ODI)

Much of CABI’s data-driven developments are framed around the FAIR data principles, which advocates for data to be made:

– Findable – people know how to look for it.

– Accessible – those who need it can access it.

– Interoperable – it can be readily understood by others and exchangeable between systems.

– Reusable – people understand where the data has come from and how they are allowed to use it

CABI works on a number of projects from across the agricultural research ecosystem, as such we have been developing our own data repository using the CKAN open data platform to help our researchers share data. Registering data in an online store such as CKAN makes it much easier for people to access and utilise. The data stored on such platforms are becoming increasingly FAIR, most recently we instituted a system which allows researchers to automatically receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for their submitted data. DOIs track datasets online, making them more findable and are becoming increasingly requested by publishers and project donors to accompany published research.

The online data store can also link with a mobile data collection app called the Open Data Kit, which allows data collection directly from the field. Thus reducing the need for lengthy collection processes across teams. This helps to securely collect and store more accurate data which has already been undertaken by existing CABI projects such as Parthenium in Pakistan.

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