CTA bridges the gap between researchers and producers
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CTA. 1986. CTA bridges the gap between researchers and producers. Spore 1. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44411
Information should be dissiminated with the end-user In mind. Ease of access to scientific and technical information (STI), is one of the main concerns of those working in development today. In order to bridge the gap between research and fieldwork...
Information should be dissiminated with the end-user In mind. Ease of access to scientific and technical information (STI), is one of the main concerns of those working in development today. In order to bridge the gap between research and fieldwork all possible means of communication must be utilised, including the existing media and any additional media which need to be created, so that information reaches the recipients who need it in a form that is directly usable and useful. It is in this spirit that CTA organized a week-long seminar at Montpellier, France, in December 1984. The aim was to establish some new information networks which would be easily accessible to ACP countries. 'Spore' is one of the results of this seminar and other concrete activities emanating from the meeting are currently being carried out by CTA. Details of these will be published in forthcoming issues of 'Spore'. The Montpellier seminar stressed the big North-South divide as regards STI, and pointed out the difficulty in obtaining information in ACP countries, both in terms of the state of knowledge and in terms of recent research and experience gained through development projects on the ground. Publication of such information should therefore be encouraged, as should the ACP countries' participation in international data systems on agriculture such as AGRIS and CARIS. Assistance should be provided to enable ACP countries to obtain literature relevant to their interests, be it current or retrospective. It would be desirable for contracts signed by governments and research institutions to stipulate explicitly that copies of final reports and studies should be sent to national libraries and made available to national documentation centres. There is a considerable amount of data and expertise which does not exist in a readily communicable form, which is classified as restricted or even confidental. So much for the supply side. Rural radio provides an excellent means of contact. As for demand, requests for information should be expressed clearly and precisely, which means a reasonable understanding of the problem is required. There is also a need to inform those who do not already know what data is available, so that new requests can be made. Various different means of transmitting information should be used. A symposium is an ideal opportunity for professional people to update their knowledge. Data can also be communicated via the written word, but written texts should be edited and disseminated with the end-user in mind. Decision-makers are usually able to understand these issues, but they lack the time to read. Information aimed at them must be concise. Rural radio Agricultural producers need practical information in a language, possibly a local language, that they can understand. In countries with a low literacy rate, priority should be given in natural transmission. It is for this reason that rural radio is a key medium. It reaches a very wide audience and can play a unique role in forming public opinion on day-to-day issues (such as sanitation, nutrition and energy savings), as well as in disseminating news and practical information. Radio should be complemented by the publication of periodicals on agriculture targeted at development workers and literate peasant farmers. The press also has a role to play. It can forge a link between the reader and his newspaper, as papers come out on a regular basis and can thus be used as a permanent source of reference. The language barrier is one of the main constraints in information exchange. Translation of textbooks manuals and reference books in particular can alleviate the problem, provided the text is also adapted. As for secondary documents, such as abstracts, automatic translation by computer is already available for several major languages. The token system STI is expensive. Science books have limited print-runs, postage costs are high, and a considerable amount of surface mail goes astray. Photocopying can cost two to five times as much in ACP countries as in Europe. In addition, information has to be paid for in hard currency. There are solutions to this problem. One could duplicate the UNESCO 'tokens' arrangement, whereby someone in an ACP country wishing to order books buys a token from his government. These tokens form part of the UNDP local currency counterpart expenses. Then the bookseller exchanges the token for currency at a UNESCO office. Another solution is to use microfiches. The size and weight of each microfiche is the same as that of a postcard, and each can contain 90 pages of text. A microfiche costs about $ US 10 to produce, but each subsequent copy costs only two per cent of this. Postage costs are obviously lower than for books. However, the recipient a documentation centre, for example must be equipped with a reader and possibly even a microfiche copier. Lastly, the seminar felt that an important way to reduce costs is to improve the management of documentation centres as well as their coordination at national level. This raises such issues as the need to identify the most effective means of training documentalists and the most satisfactory way of providing library equipment and books, periodicals and works of reference. The proceedings of this seminar, including the preparatory papers, discussions and recommendations, have been published in two volumes. A synopsis has been published in English and French. These documents are available on request from CTA.