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Message from Masa: CIMMYT’s research

Masa Iwanaga, CIMMYT Director General, on CIMMYT's research agenda & publications

CIMMYT has a science-based humanitarian mission. One of the main reasons why we work for CIMMYT is that we want to apply our particular areas of technical expertise (for example as geneticist, economist, soil scientist etc.) to make a difference in the lives of millions of the resource poor. This differentiates CIMMYT as workplace from purely academic organizations (e.g. universities) or technology transfer organizations (e.g. development agencies) and was probably part of your motivation for having applied for a CIMMYT job.

CIMMYT’s main output is new knowledge relevant to achieving our mission. Journal publication is a very important instrument to disseminate new knowledge and scientific achievements. Science publication is often cited as an example of International Public Goods. I am very pleased that CIMMYT’s journal publication number per IRS has doubled during the last three years compared to the period 1997-2002. In 2005 we recorded 1.6 journal publications per IRS (the highest number in CIMMYT 40 years of history, although still slightly less than the overall CGIAR average).

While I believe that our research agenda and our activities should not be driven by the opportunity to publish, I also believe that we as scientists should have a good record of journal publication. I started my career with the CGIAR as pre-Doc and went through all rank and file positions. Before I moved to a senior management position (DDG-R), I as a CG scientist, had published reasonably well and regarded it as part of my job.

I would like to make few points on the importance of journal publication and how we can achieve it based on my observations and experience over the last 25 years or so within the CG system.

CIMMYT should be influential globally. That influence comes mainly from respect we have earned from others. Good publication is one mechanism to attract respect from our partners. A good publication record gives us our peer’s respect, professional credentials and enhances our marketability. Manuscript writing gives us the opportunity to analyze our own/team achievements and see the scientific challenges still pending.

We too often argue why we are not able to publish. Three main inter-linked arguments people make are: (1) Our main job objective is to produce products (relevant to our target beneficiaries), not to publish. (2) Our specific job responsibility (e.g. regional office, fieldoriented breeding, coordination role, serviceoriented function) does not present publication opportunities. (3) We are all too busy to find time to write manuscripts.

I do not think that any of above arguments really works. We just have to look at some of the CIMMYT staff with a good publishing record. I examined the list of journal publications by CIMMYT staff in 2005. The following names show up frequently (of course this is not an exhaustive list): Zhonghu. He, Richard Trethowan, Manilal Williams, Hugo De Groote, Etienne Duveiller, Ravi Sign, Javier Pena, Ivan Ortiz- Monasterio, Matthew Reynolds, Marilyn Warburton, and Jose Crossa. If they had wanted to use any of above arguments to avoid publishing, they could have easily done so. But they did not, and they command natural respect internally and externally.

During the annual evaluation process, you and your Director discuss publication so that your leader (science mentor) and CIMMYT as workplace can explicitly assist you in that area. I was pleased to note that as a result of last year’s evaluation/ discussion some staff proposed taking time explicitly for publication or proposed ministudy leaves. CIMMYT is very keen to support your professional development including science credential development through journal publication.