Reinventing agricultural science – first blog post

Climate & Natural resources15 Jun 2009Dominic Glover

The world has changed a great deal since the CGIAR – the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research – was established in 1971. As the CGIAR system struggles to get to grips with the challenges of climate change, population growth and increasing pressure on resources, it also needs to adapt to a new institutional landscape in which ‘developing countries’ like India, China and Brazil, not to mention the private sector, now have significant capacity to carry out agricultural research and development programmes of their own.

The 16th and 17th June 2009 will see the first CGIAR Science Forum take place in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The conference promises to be fascinating opportunity to glimpse the kind of issues and debates that the various stakeholders and partners of the CGIAR – the– are currently grappling with.

The event will be ground-breaking, for the simple reason that this is intended to be the first in an ongoing series of biennial science conferences, sponsored by the CGIAR’s Science Council. The inauguration of this new forum reflects the CGIAR’s ongoing efforts to reinvent itself for a new era in international agricultural research and development.

The CGIAR has undergone protracted cycles of criticism, strategic review and attempted reinvention. The latest plan, finalized in 2008 and being implemented this year, is intended to deliver a ‘Revitalised CGIAR’. The new model is organized around a ‘consortium’ design that emphasizes ‘mega programmes’ and multiple strategic partnerships.

Thus, it is not surprising to see that the theme for the 2009 Science Forum is about partnerships and ‘mobilising global linkages’. But the conference also promises to shed light on current thinking on several key technical areas – parallel workshops will address the contributions of information and communication technologies and biotechnologies, for instance, as well as new opportunities to exploit crops for feed, fibre and – especially – energy.

In this blog, I will aim to provide readers with a flavour of everything that happens during the two days of the Science Forum – the keynote addresses, the parallel workshops, the poster sessions and, not least, those many and varied corridor conversations and coffee-break chats that provide much of the richness of a multinational conference like this one.

I hope that both participants and non-participants in this conference will find the blog informative and useful. Your comments will be welcome.