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ILRI emerging career researchers learn to use ‘paperless’ data collection techniques

This post is re-posted with permission thanks to Joyce Maru from The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). For the original post, please follow this link.


Emerging career researchers (ECRs) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) were recently trained to better collect, organize and manage the data they generate during their day-to-day research activities, starting from data collection in the lab or field through to publishing of research results and archiving.


Using the Open Data Kit at ILRI Ethiopia


One of the tools introduced in the training was the Open Data Kit (ODK) which is an open-source suite of tools that helps organizations to author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions. ILRI’s research activities are moving from paper-based data-collection methods to mobile-based options like ODK; therefore there’s a need to ensure that the emerging researchers who support ILRI scientists in the field are up-to-date with these new methodologies.


The combination of affordable, powerful, mobile devices (e.g. phones, tablets) and easy-to-use readily-available (open-source) software has significantly lowered the barriers to electronic-based data-collection. ODK tools are fairly easy to develop & use and help to speed up the processing for getting data ready for analysis. Furthermore these tools have the potential to decrease research costs, particularly in the long run, by using standard tools and databases and reduced cleaning time if pre-validation quality assurance has been included in the tool design.
This is the stuff that takes data collection to a new level, aids in collecting and accessing data, thus moves the cleaning work faster.
Jesse Owino, PhD fellow
The ECRs were also introduced to ILRI’s biorepository popularly known as Azizi which is a Swahili word meaning ‘precious’. ILRI biorepository is a research service unit at ILRI tasked with ensuring safe, secure and efficient storage of biological materials and their related data. The aim is to develop a collaborative network of partners who share their samples and data, by encouraging the use of common protocols and systems, creating a virtual, distributed resource for probing the diversity of African livestock. The unit currently preserves a wide range of biological materials and has over 84,000 materials which are open source and can be widely used by the research community.
Thanks to CapDev and RMG for closing the tech gap between social and physical science through this training. I feel very equipped and ready to develop my first ODK data tool!
Violet Barasa, research assistant
The training was conducted by ILRI’s Research Methods Group (RMG) working closely with ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit (CapDev) and the People and Organizational Development Unit (POD) units. Twenty two participants, including PhD and MSc fellows and early career researchers (research assistants and technicians) attended the workshop.


The course was part of an initiative to provide learning opportunities to graduate fellows and staff that include a blend of a series of “bite-size” modular courses in cross-cutting skills areas, e-learning opportunities, effective mentorship support, evidence and assessment to further enrich the their learning experience at ILRI.

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