Friday, May 22, 2015

The GODAN White Paper is (almost) ready to go public

It has been more than one month since I started working as an external consultant/researcher for the GODAN White Paper, after my application for the corresponding GODAN/Open Data Institute call was accepted - this work is now over.

Since then, there has been a lot of work (and I mean a lot!) in the context of this report: I identified more than 30 use cases making use of open agri-food and nutrition data (less than half of them made it in the final version of the paper - I admit that some of them were weaker than the others), drafted additional parts of the paper, collected more than 40 related references (including publications, articles, blog posts, reports, presentations etc.), interviewed several people looking for substantial feedback in terms of insights and quotes for the potential and current issues of open agricultural data, compiled lists of open agri-food datasets, data sources and other types of resources (like repository software, data management software and other tools), collected quotes and other bits from the preliminary GODAN survey results  - this was a time-consuming analysis that was reported in about 35 pages, including text, lists and tables (also some images and screenshots at some point). Use cases were elaborated, revised & re-written, additional drafting of text was required in some instances, details were needed for vague use cases, formatting of text and so on.

What I really appreciated throughout this process was the fact that I had the opportunity to get close to some really important people working with open data, such as Dr. Daniel Jimenez from CIAT (The leader of the winning team of the United Nation's 2014 Big Data Climate Challenge), Dr. Glenn Hyman & Andrew Farrow from AgTrials, Gerber Roerink from (the last three through the precious introduction and help from SemaGrow partner Dr. Sander Janssen), Graham Mullier (Head Data Sciences, R&D IS at Syngenta), Christopher Brewster (an old friend from Aston University, with experience in open food data) as well as Dr. Shaun Hobbs, the Director of CABI's Plantwise Knowledge Bank (I hope I am not forgetting anyone here!). All of them have made a significant impact in their fields so I felt honored to have the opportunity to get in touch with them.

I also felt really glad to have the opportunity to work with the ODI team on the development of this report; Liz Carolan had the overview of the work and was the person connecting the team working on the report with both the GODAN Secretariat (CABI) and the ODI Execs, Fiona Smith was my project manager, ensuring that my contributions would always be according to the (tight) schedule and acting as my contact with the rest of team (and the GODAN partners several cases); on top of that, ensuring that all bits and pieces would nicely fit in the report, Anna Scott did her magic with copy editing - transforming typical text into high-quality, catchy and easy to read one, Ellen Broad contributing her open data policy parts and experience and there were even more involved! As you understand, this was a great collaborative work, which also included previous input from Tim Davies, and help from Ben Schaap and Ana Brandusescu (WUR/GODAN Secretariat through CABI). Big thanks to everyone for their contributions and help!

All work took place through a GDoc where everyone from the team was invited to work by drafting text, editing, suggesting and commenting; I found this to be a really efficient way of developing a document. Additional (and frequent) communication took place through emails and Skype calls; this allowed to stay connected with the rest of the team and ongoing work, despite the fact that I was remotely working (I didn't manage to visit the ODI headquarters, even though I'd love to).
The White Paper (which has now been renamed to Discussion Paper) is currently open for comments to the GODAN partners (sorry, not publicly available yet!) and is almost ready to go into printing; it will be publicly announced and presented during the Open Data Conference 2015, in Ottawa, Canada in less than one week (28-29/5/2015)!

If you ask me, it was a great experience that allowed to me to get in touch with some really nice and interesting people and contribute to a report that will have significant impact at a global level; what more could I ask for? :-)