Wetenschap - 30 april 2012

INREF wants to reach top sectors

INREF, the development oriented interdisciplinary research programme of Wageningen UR, wants more involvement from the Dutch government, development organizations and businesses in setting up, financing and implementing projects. The programme therefore hopes to get into the Dutch top sector policy.


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The first step towards this aim has already been taken. Wageningen researchers will from now on only be given funds from the INREF programme if external partners bear 30 percent of the costs. INREF has existed for more than 10 years, so it was time to take stock during a conference on 23 and 24 April in Wageningen.
The aim of the conference was to cull lessons from the experiences of the past years, and to revitalize the research concept, says conference chairman Gert Spaargaren. INREF relies on interdisciplinary cooperation between researchers and community organizations to solve complex problems in developing countries. This Wageningen programme aims to contribute to the millennium objectives and sustainable development.
The British researcher John Imgram, who is involved in a global network of food security and climate change, has offered several tips 'which we can work on', says Spaargaren.
Tip 1: Formulate a simple and easily understandable opening question, which is a facade for a world of knowledge, opinions and organizations. Then associate this opening question to several underlying issues or problems.
Tip 2: Do not solve the problem with a simple story - you'll need more knowledge and technology - but outline the methods and organization which you intend to use to tackle the problem.
Tip 3: Work together with businesses, NGO's and policy makers.
Tip 4: Focus on the long run. Development and climate problems cannot be solved within five years. Long term programmes, knowledge networks and community relations are crucial.
Although this approach sounds very procedural and complicated, it is the right one for the top sectors, says Spaargaren, professor in the Environmental Policy Group. To illustrate, he points to a new INREF project from his colleague Simon Bush, which is about sustainable tuna fishing in Southeast Asia. Essentially, the project concerns the management of the world's biggest tuna reserve in the waters bounded by Indonesia, the Philippines and the west side of the Pacific Ocean. Several tuna species are dying off in large numbers due to current fishing practices.
Bush outlines the network of partners which has enabled a new method of sustainable tuna management - bearing the MSC quality label - to become successful. Among these partners are the Worldwide Funds for Nature, Dutch tuna importers, regional fisheries organizations and a multinational directional organ. The cooperation started with an informal tuna think tank in Heelsum. Since then, Bush has succeeded in getting these external partners to conribute the 30 percent funding needed for his research. In the project, Bush the geographer works together with a Wageningen fisheries researcher, an aquatic ecologist, an economist and a market expert, in addition to researchers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Oceania and Australia.