“A practical benefit for the organic sector”

In 2015, the third era of CORE Organic research began. Eleven new projects are receiving 11.3 million euros of funding. In this interview, CORE Organic coordinator Ulla Sonne Bertelsen speaks about the lessons learnt when selecting excellent research projects. She also discusses the special challenges arising in the process of choosing projects that have an impact on the organic sector while reconciling the different research priorities of more than twenty funding bodies.

Interview: Thomas Alföldi, FiBL

What are the thematic areas funded in the third period of CORE Organic?

The new projects will cover four different thematic areas: Crop production with a focus on plant-soil interaction and, secondly, functional biodiversity to improve management of diseases, weeds and pests. The third topic is on livestock health, and the fourth on quality and safety of organic food. For each topic, three projects have been selected, except for functional biodiversity where there are two projects. In total, eleven new projects just have started. The monitoring team has made short stories in this newsletter linking to more information.

These topics are rather broad and not really surprising. How did you select them?

The selection of research priorities was done by the funding bodies. Due to the different development stages of organic research and organic markets in their countries, our partners have different research priorities. When selecting the topics and the projects, our guiding question was: Will the project, the research question, benefit from transnational cooperation? We also had to find a balance between broad issues which would result in many proposals and narrow specific issues where only a few proposals could be expected. With over fifty proposals submitted we have achieved a good response.

Which other challenges is CORE Organic facing?

Regarding the selection process, another challenge was to strike a balance between the funds a given country had pledged to the call and the number of researchers from that country in the applying consortia. We had to find ways to ensure that the EC cofunds are not used to close the gaps of only a couple of countries, and to use as much as possible of the funds allocated by the countries. I think in the end we managed quite well as the partners really brought their European spirit to the negotiation table in order to be able to select additional projects.

Any lessons learnt from the two previous CORE Organic eras?

In CORE Organic I and II most of the projects had an excellent scientific output. And we had some projects which also produced valuable tools for the end-users. In the new round, we hope that all projects will be able to perform strong dissemination activities. To achieve this, we emphasised the issue of dissemination already in the call description and followed it up throughout the selection process. The eleven new projects thus have a built-in focus on implementation of results. We have also improved the framework conditions on our side: A CORE Organic monitoring team will follow the work of the consortia closely and make sure the end-user focus is maintained throughout the project period. Furthermore, we are now in a position to support the consortia in their dissemination activities.

Why does CORE Organic pay so much attention to dissemination to the end user?

Of course, scientific publications from CORE Organic projects are important. However, materials directed to the extension services and farmers are really needed by the organic sector. To increase the impact of public funds, materials from these transnational projects should be made available and implemented on a national level, when relevant, in as many countries as possible. By becoming a subscriber of the CORE Organic newsletter, you will receive news and results from the funded projects. Please help us to judge if the results are relevant in your country, and forward the small articles to relevant people. If you would like to become a partner in a transnational dissemination network sharing results from organic research, please send me an e-mail.

Contact information, CORE Organic manager:

Ulla Sonne Bertelsen
E-mail: coreorganic@icrofs.org 
Phone number: +45 8715 7716

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