No. 1 · May 2005

What is the outcome of CORE Organic?

CORE Organic is to step up cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at partner states. This is to be done through the networking of research activities conducted at national level and the coordination of future national and regional research programmes.

In order to provide a foundation for enhanced cooperation and coordination the following tasks will be carried out:

Setting up of a common Internet portal for communication

Building open common Internet databases for publications, research programmes, etc.

Mapping and analysing existing research programmes, activities and facilities

Coordinating existing research and integrating knowledge within organic research

Sharing and developing best practice for evaluating organic research

Identifying and prioritising future research topics in organic food and farming

Coordinating and implementing future research topics with joint funding

Internet portal will give easy access and overviews

CORE Organic will establish a European Internet portal with the objective to provide a picture of the overall structure and content of research in CORE Organic partner countries. This will include general overview of organisation, programmes, institutes, coordination, facilities, etc. for the individual countries.

For each area described, a link library to relevant web sites in the individual country will be given allowing visitors to seek further information. However, this “further information” will in most cases be available only in the national language. The rationale for the portal is thus to offer consistent and comparable information in English, understandable to most actors in the area, together with links to national information systems.

The portal will open up in November 2005. Helga Willer, Switzerland will be the editor.

Facts collected in a common database on Internet

During the last decade a number of national research programmes and projects in organic farming have emerged. There is a lot of scattered information available, however the programmes are often very different which makes it difficult to compare or utilise this information on a larger scale.

In CORE Organic we are collecting facts on programmes, projects, institutions, facilities national budgets for organic research in the participating countries. This information will be stored in a common web-based database, open to everyone seeking current, relevant and consistent facts on organic research activities in Europe. “Organic Eprints”, an already existing database for publications, mostly used in Denmark, Switzerland and Germany, will be modified and extended to serve also this purpose. The user interface will allow national and continuously updating.

Ongoing projects starting from the year 2000 and onwards will be stored in the database. To enable a good overview, all projects will be classified in a hierarchy (“Animal husbandry; Health and welfare; Poultry”, “Farming systems; Social aspects” etc). More interdisciplinary projects can have more than one classification. Information on project leaders, runtime, funding body, budget, relevant links etc. will be included. On each project there will be a short abstract in English.

In the database there will be possibilities to search for relevant institutions by country, research field or characters like “higher education institution”. Facts on technical environments, equipment and infrastructures of high quality value will be stored under the category “facilities”. Experimental farms, long-term experiments, stables or greenhouses are examples of facilities that will be described.

The participating countries will start to use “Organic Eprints” also to store research publications. For each country a national editor for “Organic E-prints” has been appointed. The editor will be responsible for classification and relevance of the information. They will also give technical assistance to users of the database.

Stefan Lange, Germany, is leading the “mapping” part of CORE Organic. Co-leader is Arja Nykänen, Finland. For questions regarding “Organic Eprints”, please contact Hugo Fjelsted Alrøe.

To improve efficiency in European organic farming research: CORE Organic analyses ongoing activities

How can we accomplish maximum exchange of research results? Are there possibilities to become more effective by to a greater extent sharing research facilities and research expertise? In which areas of research can increased co-operation bring major synergies and progress? An analyse in order to answer questions like this will be made on basis of the facts on research activities that is collected and mapped in CORE Organic.

Laps and overlaps of research topics will be identified. A proposal with suggestions to more effective and improved use of research facilities and topics relevant for integration in joint research projects will be made, as well as a scheme for training of research personnel and exchange of experts.

The analysing tasks are lead by Arja Nykänen, Finland. Stefano Catali from Italy is co-leader.

How to evaluate research in organic food and farming?

National research programmes in organic farming vary strongly in size, complexity, depth and duration they have been in place. In all countries funding agencies have entered new ground with these programmes and face various problems when evaluating proposals and monitoring the outreach of programmes and projects. Although the criteria for excellent research are the same for organic research as other research activities, some additional requirements have to be met. Whereas most of the agricultural research projects are disciplinary and programmes are designed in a multidisciplinary way, organic farming research requires a consistent interdisciplinary understanding of methods and results. In addition, organic farm and food systems make a strong claim to consider social and ethical impacts of farming and how research interferes, a claim often difficult for funding agencies and researchers to cope with.

CORE Organic will develop a new set of common evaluation criteria to facilitate evaluations at project and programme levels. Experts will be trained in evaluation processes.

This work is lead by Urs Niggli, Switzerland. Bertil Sylvander, France is co-leader.

Which are the topics for future research?

CORE Organic will identify and prioritise topics for future research. The level of interest in co-funding projects will be assessed.

Workshops will be held to create a list of such knowledge that is needed to improve the performance of organic farming and food production. This list will be compared with the information on existing research collected in the project. In this way knowledge gaps will be identified and a list of topics for potential future research will be created.

Each participant country will independently prioritise the topics on this list. Those priorities will be shared between all the participants, and a prioritisation matrix showing the overall priority for each topic will be generated. The matrix will be used in negotiations between countries about involvement in jointly funded projects. It will also assist each participant in assessing the priorities for research in their own national programmes and provide a basis for possible future collaboration between national programmes.

Countries interested in any of the priority topics, will work together to develop specification for the research, and agree how it should be realised and funded.

Leader of this work is Donal Murphy-Bokern, UK, assisted by Stefan Lange.

Coordinating and implementing future research with joint funding

It is generally agreed by the CORE Organic partners that transnational funding of research in organic food and farming is necessary and will help to ensure the coordination and optimal utilisation of the disperse resources available in each country.

Based on the prioritised research topics that will be identified in the project, specific research projects in organic food and farming will be initiated and coordinated. It is the goal to establish a pool of 3 million ¤ per year for funding of transnational research by the end of the project.

The goal is based on the fact that the CORE Organic countries put approximately 60 million ¤ into research in organic food and farming per year.

This part of CORE Organic is lead by Ulrika Geber, Sweden. Elfriede Fuhrmann, Austria is the co-leader.