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The Enabling Data Access project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to support the improved design of grants with data components in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI). The core goal of the project is to understand the various challenges faced by grantmakers and those who manage grants (Program Officers (POs)) within the Digital Farming Services Gates Foundation portfolio, notably in relation to data access, sharing and use as well as the skills, understanding and support needed throughout the grant development and management processes.  

The project builds on previous work done by CABI and the ODI on the FAIR data principles and open agricultural data ecosystems. The FAIR data principles are a set of guidelines for promoting the collecting, storing and sharing of data which can be adopted into any system using an integrated approach in response to specific challenges and processes. By improving data practices in line with the FAIR principles, specifically in India and Ethiopia, the project aims to promote and support innovation and decision-making in agriculture. 

The key project workstreams target data literacy, awareness, knowledge and sharing practices with support from POs. In response to known gaps in these areas, an online Data Sharing Toolkit was developed containing modules that promote the uptake of FAIR data within grant processes. Several studies were also carried out among donors on enabling data sharing to promote good data practices, conversations and alignment around policies and practices.  

Participants at a data ecosystem mapping workshop in India 2020, held by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and CABI (Image by CABI)

An independent evaluation led by Jonathan van Geuns was carried out to review the Enabling Data Access project and assess the extent that the project has contributed to outcomes such as changed behaviours, activities and stakeholders. Some highlights of the study are listed below: 

– All workstreams were successful in achieving their proposed outcomes, with some deliverables exceeding expectations.  

– The evidence gathered showed an increase in literacy and confidence among POs in the FAIR principles and safeguarding data. 

– CABI and the ODI contributed to improved learning environments regarding these data-related areas in the Ag Dev portfolio.  

– In India, CABI and the ODI helped develop the understanding and awareness of the importance of data sharing and recorded an increased interest among stakeholders to adopt FAIR practices.

– The team were successful in promoting an open and trustworthy space of knowledge sharing and collaboration among grantees and stakeholders across both Ethiopia and India.  

– Highlighted project achievements are a working data sharing agreement that will ensure compliance with the FAIR framework in India and a set of engagement deliverables in Ethiopia.

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