Knowledge and Data Sharing

The CCAFS Knowledge and Data Sharing team helps to establish processes for the capture and sharing of knowledge and information generated by the program, working closely with CCAFS partners and researchers worldwide.

Key functions include:

  • Coordinating multilateral collaboration with CCAFS data management focal points and the broader CGIAR community of scientific data management professionals.
  • Interacting with CGIAR scientists and national research partners to support and mentor them on issues related to open access and data management
  • Supporting production and curation of high-quality reusable databases and datasets suitable for dissemination via CCAFS data portals.
  • Actively participating in management dialog in the CCAFS Program Management Unit, offering strategic advice on compliance with open access policy and standards.
  • Leading the development of MARLO (Managing Agricultural Research for Learning and Outcomes), an online platform assisting multiple CRPs in strategic, results-based management, planning and reporting of research programs. 

CCAFS aims to provide a “one-stop-shop” for the information and data products it generates, as well as to attract data contributions from scientists working in related areas even if not directly funded by CCAFS. With development outcomes in mind, the program seeks to increase accessibility, visibility and usability of scientific outputs by a global community. 

In accordance with the CGIAR Open Access and Data Management Policy (OADM), CCAFS is mandated to produce international public goods and ensure that they are open via FAIR data principlesFindable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usableto enhance innovation, impact, and uptake. CCAFS has developed its Data Management Strategy (DMS) to enable the program to fulfil its obligations with respect to making information from and data products supporting documentation of its research globally available.

Data Management

CCAFS has developed a Data Management Strategy and it aims to support and guide researchers and partners in producing and sharing high quality data outputs, while at the same time enabling a variety of data management procedures and good practices at project level. Much of this process is being guided by the CCAFS/The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT Data Management Support Pack. The pack provides resources for researchers to produce well managed, high quality and well documented datasets that are easy to use, both now and into the future.

Various data portals, including Dataverse, GCM Downscaled Data Portal (CCAFS-Climate), CCAFS Analogues, AgTrials Database, and CGSpace all serve as entry points for accessing the data that is being produced. A number of other data products are hosted through the CGIAR Research Centers themselves and not just through the above portals. These portals have been specifically designed for common types of data where researchers can publish their data. These significantly increase the accessibility and visibility of scientific outputs to the global community.

Goal and Guiding Principles 

The goal of CCAFS Data Management Strategy (DMS) is for CCAFS information and data products to be available for long-term use by partners and the scientific community.

In defining the DMS, the following principles were adopted:

  • Accessibility 
  • Ease of use  
  • Ethical use and sharing of personal and private data  
  • Provision of support for data generators 
  • Ensuring that credit and visibility go to data generators 
  • Adherence to international standards for data storage 

The objectives of this strategy are as follows:  

  1. To guide CCAFS in designing and implementing support mechanisms to reach the goal.
  2. To make available high quality data to potential users now and well into the future.
  3. To encourage appropriate levels of standardization, adoption of international standards and harmonization so that data from separate research activities can be brought together to enrich our understanding of processes, outcomes and impacts in the areas of the world where CCAFS Works.
  4. To promote the production of FAIR outputs. 

Coordination and decision making

The development and implementation of the CCAFS DMS is coordinated by the CCAFS Knowledge and Data Sharing team at The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. Decisions are closely coordinated with the CCAFS PMC as well as the monitoring, evaluation and learning team (MEL). Strategies and other key decisions go to ISC for approval. To ensure the adherence to common standards CCAFS collaborates closely with the Knowledge and Data Management teams of CIAT, System Office, CGIAR Research Centers and key partners (e.g. System Management Office and Stats4SD). 

Promoting CCAFS DMS Implementation  

Three key elements are essential to the implementation of this strategy:

1. Establishing a process

A clear process for data sharing and management must be established, from legal agreements through to operating and reporting principles. This conveyor belt is implemented by CCAFS through an online ICT planning and reporting system that identifies the information and data products that are being generated, and ensures that products are made publicly available within the timeframes agreed upon with partners.

  • Legal Agreements: The Program Participant Agreements (PPA) established with CGIAR Centers and other partners stipulate that data is to be made freely available and set up the timeframes for data publishing by scientists involved in CCAFS research activities. 
  • Operating and Reporting Principles: The CCAFS Data Management Strategy and The CGIAR Open Access and Data Management Policy. 

2. Supporting compliance

Support and encourage the design and implementation of data management plans and repositories that enable projects to comply with the CGIAR OADM Policy. 

  • Data Management Process 
  • Result-Based Management 
  • Increase the Accessibility and Visibility of CCAFS Scientific Outputs 

3. Enabling a data culture

CCAFS developed and implemented an internal communications strategy that deals with a spectrum of users and activities, including:  

  • Training Open Access Ambassadors from CCAFS Flagships, Regions and Centers. 
  • Presence on CCAFS Intranet and website of open access guidelines, tips and tools. 
  • Annual statistics report of CCAFS information and data products. 
  • Content from CCAFS repositories automatically fed to CCAFS website to showcase information and data products and raise awareness of the repository and its uses.  
  • Communications staff share new products and publications via social media and other channels in order to enhance dissemination and generate enthusiasm for information and data products 
  • Participate in a The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT-led community of practice of data managers and focal points for data management, and in CGIAR-wide communities of practices on Knowledge Management, Open Access Implementation Working Group and Data Management Task Force.  
  • Inclusion of Open Access and Open Data targets in internal performance management indicators, to monitor progress on targets.  
  • Develop awareness amongst key CCAFS people of CCAFS policies and guidelines. 


Managing Agricultural Research for Learning and Outcomes (MARLO) is an online program management tool for planning and reporting designed by a group of nine CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and two Platforms. MARLO is a significant adaptation of an online tool called P&R for short, which was developed by the CCAFS. In November 2015, CCAFS approached the three other integrative CGIAR Research Programs – Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) – to consider working together to adapt P&R into a common tool that could be used by, at least, the integrative CRPs for planning, monitoring, and reporting during Phase II of the CRPs (2017-2022). The four CRPs agreed and representatives from each CRP began meeting in early 2016. The CRP on Livestock joined mid-way through the year and representatives from Livestock attended the next face-to-face meeting of what had become known as the ‘MARLO family’. In 2017, two more CRPs - Maize and Wheat - and one of the CGIAR platforms - Excellence in Breeding - all led by CIMMYT, joined the MARLO family. In 2018, two more CRPs – FTA and RICE joint to the MARLO family too. 

CGIAR Research Programs bring together scientists from around the world to work together to improve global food security, reduce poverty, and better manage natural resources. Twelve CRPs carry out this work in partnership with a range of organizations, including academic, civic, and private sector partners. The complexity and range of work conducted by CRPs, however, can make it difficult to coordinate activities, synthesize research, and share knowledge. Establishing common standards across CRPs will not only allow researchers to learn from one another, but will satisfy funders’ requests for standardized reporting.  

The development in 2013 of an online planning and reporting system (P&R) by CCAFS led to an agreement in 2016 between CCAFS and three other CRPs – Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) – on adopting an integrated system. Shortly thereafter, the four CRPs began to create an online platform for results-based management called Managing Agricultural Research for Learning and Outcomes (MARLO). 

The success of MARLO depended on a number of initial factors. A belief in the need for standardization was central to buy-in by CRPs. Additionally, “impact pathways” were put forth by each CRP to explain the relationship between deliverables, outputs and outcomes. The entire project cycle, including planning, reporting, and disseminating knowledge, is also covered by MARLO, allowing CRPs to produce reports which focus on outcomes and which integrate information across CRPs. 

Based on the initial favorable outcomes, additional CRPs soon expressed interest in MARLO. In August 2016, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock joined, followed in November of the same year by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, and Excellence in Breeding (EiB). In January 2017, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), CGIAR Research Program on Rice, CGIAR Research Program on Fish, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) started exploring the benefits of joining. There are currently eight CRPs, two CGIAR Research Platforms, and two centers using MARLO for their program management needs. 

MARLO assists in various levels of organizational needs. Project specific planning and reporting incorporates general information about projects and their outcomes, outputs, activities, inputs and budgets. A gender lens is also included, primarily in the reporting and planning of the project’s contribution towards the CRPs' outcomes, deliverables and the planning of activities. At the next level, program managers use MARLO to make decisions, provide feedback and evaluations across portfolios of work. Finally, at the system level, consolidated budgets and reports allow for better long-term planning.  

The development of MARLO follows a number of key principles, including a focus on simplicity with the ability to add project management components as needed. To eliminate redundancies and confusion, projects are only added once, by those closest to the source of information, with the goal to add only the information that people will use. MARLO also stresses the importance of sharing across CRPs. The system will allow CRPs to agree on common standards, share costs and benefits, and collaborate and share knowledge. Together, these principles allow CRPs to build a flexible road map to work together while meeting the unique needs of each program. 

MARLO is, however, still a work in progress. Future plans for the platform include continued improvement that will allow users to query information, run analytical reports and produce bilateral reports. A proposal module is also being explored so that the development of proposals can incorporate already available project data. There is also interest in connecting MARLO to additional systems, both to help eliminate redundancies and link to financial systems. These new developments and improvements will build on the benefits already included in the system.   

Collectively, the 15 CRPs represent more than a two hundred million US dollars of funding intended to solve some of the most pressing needs of our time. MARLO has been designed to help manage these funds well and implement effective projects and programs for agricultural development. 

Which are some of the advantages? 

  • Capturing information for and contributing to the CGIAR results dashboard 
  • Commonality & standards terminology, one system 
  • Customized workflows -  programmatic management processes for planning, reporting, synthesis, quality assurance, encouraging learning and feedback loops 
  • Continuous upkeep of work progress 
  • Interoperability - complementary data/ information entering 
  • Captures W1/W2 and bilateral/W3 contributions to the portfolio 
  • Opportunity to proactively shape the way we report on the CGIAR as a system 
  • Collaboration and learning across CRPs/PTFs 
  • Costs and benefits sharing 

Where we are

Open Access and Fair Principles

Open Access means the immediate, irrevocable, unrestricted and free online access by any user worldwide to information products, and unrestricted re-use of content (which could be restricted to non-commercial use and/or granted subject to appropriate licenses in line with the CGIAR Intellectual Assets Principles), subject to proper attribution.

FAIR Data Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable) support knowledge discovery and innovation as well as data and knowledge integration, and promote sharing and reuse of data. The principles help data and metadata to be ‘machine readable’, supporting new discoveries through the harvest and analysis of multiple datasets. 


  • Gaining maximum potential from data assets 
  • Increasing the visibility and citations of research 
  • Improving the reproducibility and reliability of research 
  • Staying aligned with international standards and approaches 
  • Attracting new partnerships with researchers, business, policy and broader communities 
  • Enabling new research questions to be answered 
  • Using new innovative research approaches and tools 
  • Achieving maximum impact from research 

How to make data FAIR? 

Findable – assigning a globally unique and eternally persistent identifier (like a DOI or Handle), describing the data with rich metadata, and making sure it is findable through disciplinary discovery portals. 

Accessible – data and metadata should be retrievable in a variety of formats that are sensible to humans and machines using persistent identifiers. 

Interoperable – the description of metadata elements should follow community guidelines that use an open, well defined vocabulary. 

Reusable – the data should maintain its initial richness. The description of essential, recommended, and optional metadata elements should be machine processable and verifiable, use should be easy and data should be citable to sustain data sharing and recognize the value of data.