Research to impact "hackathon" on agriculture and nutrition

9 January 2013

IDS Knowledge Services, Research for Development (R4D) and iHub Kenya are joining forces in a four-day "hackathon" from 22 to 25 January 2013. The event will bring together experts on agriculture and nutrition alongside technical developers to create innovative prototypes which aim to increase the use and impact of research in this area.

IDS Knowledge Services Open API workshop in Kampala, Uganda. Image credit: Simon Colmer

Every year institutions, researchers and practitioners generate thousands of datasets, reports and articles about development issues. Yet, much of this knowledge remains underused, locked away in technical or organisational silos. The Institute for Development Studies (IDS), and Research for Development (R4D) have been working to open up access to research information, creating open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which allow anyone to tap into the data behind their large collections of curated development research.

Open data on the web makes it possible to take information on research from many sources and generate 'mashups' (web applications which draw on two or more sources of data, presentation or functionality). These mashups can make information available in different places, on different platforms, and in ways that support action and impact. Open data means that information can be repurposed and remixed to address key development questions in ways that were not possible before.

"Hackathons" (also known as a hackfest or hack day) are events in which computer programmers join forces with a number of other experts, such as designers, investors, project managers, and spend a short intense period together to develop technical ideas and solutions.

This hackathon will focus on research and data relating to agriculture and nutrition. It will bring together subject matter experts with technical developers to explore create innovative prototypes to increase the use and impact of research in development. The hackathon will be hosted by iHub, an open innovation space in Nairobi.

How the agriculture and nutrition hackathon will work

Subject experts are invited to take part in an all day workshop on 22 January to explore key needs for access to research and data. The morning sessions will help devise problem statements to present in the afternoon. Developers are invited to join the workshop from the afternoon to hear about the challenges identified by the subject experts. They will then to spend 23 and 24 January working on building prototype solutions to these challenges.

Subject experts can also choose to take part in this part of the hackathon, where expert support will be available for them to explore the available open data and resources to answer particular policy questions, and there will be opportunities to work with the developers to help shape the prototypes under development.

On the 25 January both subject experts and developers will come back together to review a showcase of the prototypes created. They will judge which is the best prototype for the needs and problems identified, and explore ways to take forward improved use of open data and research to inform practice.

The best prototype will be awarded a package of financial and practical support to take forward future development of the idea.

Image credit: Simon Colmer