Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making a (brand new) start in Agro-Know

Let's start with the basics: I am an agronomist with a PhD in Agricultural Biotechnology and I have experience in metadata and digital repositories, as well as related stuff. Due to some internal re-organization in Agro-Know I have recently switched to another position, moving from the data team to the business development one. This means that I have to finish all my data-related pending tasks and delegate the ongoing ones to my colleagues in the data team. From now on, I will deal with issues related to the marketing of Agro-Know, related networks, the social media of AK as well as marketing material.

I have to admit that it is rather awkward, as I have been working with metadata, digital collections and related topics since I started working with EU projects, some 5 years ago. At the same time, it is really challenging, as I will get to work more on stuff that I really like, such as blogging, social media etc., while I will also check my ability on handling stuff like printed marketing material, communication with graphic designers and web developers, stuff that I am not really comfortable with. I guess that this transition is fully compliant (and a result I would say) of the fact that in AK everyone gets the opportunity to be more involved in what he/she really likes and less in things that he/she would rather avoid - see the related blog post here.

It is strange how I ended up in this new placement; through my involvement with the dissemination of the projects that AK was involved using social media and the fact that I keep this blog for describing mostly what I am dealing with in my working days, I was eventually made responsible for the AK blog, then for the AK Twitter account, the rest of the AK social media channels and now I find myself in a totally different position in the company.

In any case, this change of responsibilities is combined with a change of working space; I will get to move in one of the more quiet rooms of AK which is pretty cool! I will miss direct communication with my colleagues but I admit that I enjoy the silence more than most of my colleagues... :-P

In addition, this will be an opportunity for me to spend some time on getting rid of things that tend to accumulate on my desk but I don't use; a part of them will be data-related deliverables, notes etc. but I suppose that I will be surprised by what I will find among my stuff!

Messy desk, and this is only a part of it!

Friday, June 6, 2014

International Conference "Agriculture for Life, Life for Agriculture"

The International Conference "Agriculture for Life, Life for Agriculture" was organized by  the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest (USAMVB) between June 5 - 7, 2014 in Bucharest, Romania, at the USAMVB premises. By conveniently collocating the Herbal.Mednet 4th project meeting with the Conference, the Herbal.Mednet project partners were allowed to participate in the second day of the Conference and actively contribute to it by delivering a number of presentations.

The Conference covered a wide variety of topics and consisted of the following 7 sessions
  1. Agronomy
  2. Horticulture
  3. Animal Science
  4. Veterinary Medicine
  5. Land Reclamation, Earth Observation & Surveying, Environmental Engineering
  6. Biotechnology
  7. Management and Engineering in Rural Areas
In addition, it included a number of keynote speeches from various speakers. You may find the full program of the Conference here.

The 2nd day of the Conference, which we attended and participated in, was well-organized and attended by about 100 people, including university staff, students as well as participants from other organizations and initatives. Dr. Salvador Sanchez was in the panel of the specific session of the Conference and he also presented the case of the Open Discovery Space (ODS) project. His presentation was followed by the one by Prof. Vicente Castell-Zeising from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, on the cultivation of organic medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) in Spain. Then, Marta di Pierro from AIAB, the new Herbal.Mednet project partner, presented the marketing aspect of the MAPs in Italy using a Prezi-based presentation, which came out really interesting. She has a really interesting story to share about her participation in the Conference, the preparation of her slides and how she managed to transfer the slides from her iPad to a USB stick! ;-)

Created with flickr slideshow.

Victor Gonzalvez from SEAE made a presentation on MAPs in Mediterranean countries in general. The session closed with a presentation by me, on agriMoodle, as an adapted version of the popular Moodle platform, for delivering online agriculture-related courses. The presentation was based on a paper that we have recently submitted to the AGRIS Online Journal, describing the agriMoodle platform to be used by Herbal.Mednet during the online trainings which are to take place mainly during the summer of 2014. For some strange reason, for once more I found myself as the last in the list of presenters for the specific section and we had already ran out of time when I started my presentation; as a result, I had to skip some slides and make a summary of the others and this was not exactly how I have planned my presentation. However, I am always flexible and easy-going, so there was nothing wrong with that. I have to admit that the audience was really interested in the presentation, a fact I really enjoyed!

Overall, it was a nice opportunity for Herbal.Mednet project partners to expose their experiences and knowledge to a wider audience and I believe that the partners made good use of this opportunity. It was also an interesting contribution to the whole Conference, providing a set of presentations on MAPs, which receive an increased interest by various stakeholders during the last years, due to their useful properties. On top of that, the presentations on the ODS approach and the agriMoodle development provided a view on the educational and learning approaches followed at a European level, both as methodology (ODS) and as actual software tools (agriMoodle).

Herbal.Mednet 4th project meeting

Some weeks ago I was asked to represent Agro-Know in the 4th project meeting of the Herbal.Mednet project, replacing my colleague Andreas who would not be available at that time (4-6/6/2014). That would be a nice opportunity for me to get to see old friends like the local hosts of the project, as well as the rest of the project consortium, which I have met in the previous project meetings. Despite the fact that I am not directly involved in the project, I always keep an eye on its progress and outcomes and of course I am checking out how the agriMoodle platform developed by Organic.Lingua is (going to be) used by the Herbal.Mednet project.

Flights were booked (direct ones!), hotel room was booked, arrangements were made so I found myself in Bucharest, outside my hotel at about 11.30 in the morning. However, the room would not be ready before 13.30, so I decided to leave my stuff and take a walk around the city. The walk in the huge park near Arcul de Triumf should have been refreshing; however, the weather was rather warm and humid, so walking around was rather difficult.

The first day of the meeting started early in the afternoon of 4/6 and was dedicated to the results received by the Spanish National Agency after the interim reporting. Some issues were identified and solutions were proposed for the partners responsible to address them. The meeting took longer than expected, due to the fruitful discussions among the project partners. This time, we had the pleasure to meet two new faces in the consortium: Marta di Pierro from Associazione Italiana per l’Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB), Italy, Italy, which replaced the ex-partner SERIFO and Kostas Gardikis from Apivita, replacing Tasos Choukalas who usually represents the company in the project meetings. In both cases, we were really glad to meet the new persons, who managed to positively affect the meeting with their fresh ideas.

The participants of the Herbal.Mednet 4th project meeting

The second day of the meeting included discussions on the financial aspects of the project and the remaining issues to be resolved. Apart from that, the plan for the pilots in each user country was presented in some details, while additional presentations provided information on the progress related to the revisions of the project's website and the course management platform to be used for delivering the online courses. During the afternoon of the 2nd day, we had the pleasure to meet Prof. Vicente Castell-Zeising from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, who is a member of SEAE as well. The 2nd day ended with a classy joint dinner provided by our local hosts (Prof. Roman and Dr. Maria Toader).

The 3rd day of the meeting included the participation of the project consortium in the "Agriculture for Life, Life for Agriculture" International Conference, the first session of which was dedicated to presentations from the Herbal.Mednet project partners.