The Research Methods Support team (RMS) is based out of University of Reading’s Statistical Services Centre (SSC). Funded through a grant from CCRP, RMS is designed to increase the capacity of a project team to produce strategic and credible research results. The goal of RMS is to increase the chances of success of research results as tools and mechanisms to promote development, encourage the use of agroecological intensification as a means to increase agricultural production and better nutrition among the communities targeted by CCRP projects. At the center of the concept of success is the idea that good quality research results reduce the risk that users would take in adopting the strategies or technologies that are proposed by CCRP.
The research methods support team is also part of the leadership team of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP), contributing to the program's strategic frameworks and operational approaches. The team leads the CCRP Multi-Environment Trials Initiative (METI), which supports the ongoing efforts of grantees to effectively match options with the diverse contexts of local farmers.
Support from the team is available at multiple points in a CCRP project lifecycle. The team may help brainstorm and clarify the general research objectives during the inception meeting, provide advice on data design and analysis, review research outputs, consult on publications, etc. In practice the RMS project works through a number of mechanisms including:
1. Direct Project Support
This area is central to the support provided to projects and includes activities such as:
- Data Clinics - Members of selected projects and members of the RMS team come together to work with them to tackle their priority problems. Data clinics have been successful in solving project’s technical problems and providing one-to-one support.
- Engagement during Community of Practice (CoP) meetings - Annual CoP meetings provide an opportunity for direct support to projects. Side meetings with project teams, particularly on research design, are an opportunity for projects to incorporate emerging themes and ideas into their project work plans.
- Regional support partnerships - To provide support on-time and close to the project location RMS currently has regional support partners in East Africa and West Africa.
2. Testing alternative means of bringing research methods support and capacity building to CCRP projects and their institution.
The need and demand for research methods support is greater than what is possible to offer through the means described above. RMS is implementing new initiatives to make the support more effective and efficient. These include:
- Establishment of a Methods Exchange (Mx), a series of discussion forums and depository of resources about research methods using the facilities provided by AEIx
- Work with the institutions where grantees are based to encourage the establishment of research support services and development of local capacity
3. Sharing RM support ideas and tools for Agroecologial Intensification (AEI) beyond CCRP
Research methods resources can stimulate discussion or promote improve research practices among CCRP grantees. RMS both shares and creates such resources.
4. Developing, documenting and describing key research methods and approaches needed for the AEI R+D agenda
- Multiple Environment Trial Initiatives (METI)
- Farmer Research Networks
- Geographic Information Systems
- Options by Context