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Advantages and Challenges in Coordinating and Collaborating in Cocoa Research Activities

Michelle End's picture

In this my first (ever!) blog, I thought it might be interesting to try to stimulate some discussion on the advantages that improved coordination and collaboration in research activities could bring, the challenges that must be overcome and the opportunities that might be out there. Of course, there will always be areas of research which will be highly sensitive from a National or commercial perspective, but there are other areas where there might be a common interest, and with the limited resources available, big advantages in making sure that our research isn’t unwittingly duplicating work already done or currently in progress elsewhere.

Working together with other institutes often brings access to complementary expertise, facilities, equipment and support in areas such as statistical analysis and information technology. It also offers the prospect of replicating experiments under contrasting environmental conditions or designing them on a larger scale than might have been possible if the resources of only one institute were available. It might also improve the chances of access to sources of new funding, especially since many donors and companies interested in developing research partnerships are looking for projects which will have at least regional, if not global impact, whilst other sources of funding may stipulate that more than one institute/country be involved.

But we all know this is a competitive world, both in commercial and research circles. Intellectual Property Rights issues are becoming ever more important to the research institutes and those supporting their research. Scientists may be wary of sharing their ideas for new research approaches as well as their unpublished data with those they don’t know and trust. There may even be a reluctance to present their findings at conferences since this may hinder their chances of getting their papers accepted for publication in high quality academic journals, and thus affect the progression of their career. The pressure to publish can also lead to a bias in their research focus away from the type of long-term field based activities such as breeding which are essential for the future of cocoa production, but won’t deliver a rapid stream of publications in the top international journals.

So what can we do to support the development of collaborative activities and knowledge sharing? How can we best use facilities provided by platforms such as CocoaConnect? What role could there be for the informal research network groups, INGENIC (the International Group for Genetic Improvement of Cocoa), INCOPED (the Permanent Working Group for Cocoa Pests and Diseases) and INAFORESTA (focussed on agroforestry and the environment)? Your ideas please!


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We will be presenting the results of a survey in which 70+ organisations particpated, giving thier ideas of research needs, priorities and possibilites to develop a long term agenda for sustainable cocoa
Michelle makes some pertinent and intriuging points: how to balance pre-competitive and confidential, local national and international interests? at what scale can collaborative research work best? and how to coordinate ? looking forward to the first round of discussions on 23 May in Wageningen
Michelle makes some pertinent points: how to balance pre-competitive with local, naitonal and international interests? and the interests of different users and beneficiatries? and how to build on exsisting initiatives? looking forward to discuss this on 23 May at Wageningen and again on 9 June in Amsterdam
the research agenda survey is open again!
Thank you Michelle for your interesting post. I'm glad you mentioned the point of working together between institutions. I think there should be a stronger link between research institutions and the private sector. The syngergies between both should be used to the benefit of the entire cocoa sector. The private sector is for us, the researchers, an important source of funds. On the other hand, we as researchers are in the best position to conduct research and produce results that will shed light on any given issue. As a researcher at the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Switzeland), I have seen first hand how strengthening this link is benefitial to multiple parties. We're very often involved in collaborative projects with private partners in, for example, the food industry. Our students and staff work together with companies to find innovative approaches to solving problems, creating new methods of doing things or simply coming up with new products. If we were to rely only on public funding for our projects, we would certainly not be able to produce results in the same way. To achieve the goal of increasing cocoa production in a sustainable way and meet the increasing demand expected in the next decades, we have to act now. Linking both sides is extremely important. Continuing with research activities on different aspects, from agronomic practices to socio-economic issues, is imperative. But only through mutual collaboration will we be able to produce results and make up for lost time. Dr. Ingrid Fromm Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences


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