Writing a competitive research proposal requires an understanding of the writing techniques, tools, and skills to articulate scientific ideas and concepts into a clear and concise proposal while bearing in mind how the proposals are going to be evaluated. In this light, a virtual training-workshop using the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) platform held on 14 October 2020 titled “Higher Education Institutions’ Training-Workshop on Research Project Development for Agriculture 4.0” was organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in collaboration with Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Philippines.
The training-workshop aimed to assist higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines in developing competitive research proposals for external funding by capacitating its faculty members, researchers, and staff on technical writing and grant writing. It was conducted to address the needs of the HEIs, mostly colleges and universities. The training also sought to enhance skills of HEI faculty and researchers in conceptualizing researches that contribute to the society's welfare. Understanding the technical know-how on scientific writing will be of great help in translating academic knowledge into research proposals relevant to provide solutions to existing and emerging issues and challenges faced by the country.
Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, mentioned in his welcome remarks that the current situation has given more opportunity to put emphasis and highlight the importance of agriculture. In line with this, SEARCA recently launched its 11th Five-Year Plan which is focused on "Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation" (ATTAIN). Dr. Gregorio reiterated that research proposals and partnerships are needed to make this happen. Further, he stressed that research and extension are valued at SEARCA, and innovative models and systems as well as developing management system infrastructure are more important than ever.
SEARCA has been working on capacity building carried out through its core programs on Education and Collective Learning, Research and Thought Leadership, and Emerging Innovation for Growth. Research studies as well as knowledge and learning events contributing to a better understanding of the audience have been developed to cope with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasized that "it is up to us researchers how to mitigate solutions to create peace and order in our society and clean the whole country." He encouraged everyone that with the right mindset and attitude we could attain a BETTER, BIGGER, and SMARTER environment to move forward to Agriculture 4.0 for our respective farmers and farming communities.
Dr. J. Prospero E. de Vera, Chairperson of CHED, was represented by Professor Nelson G. Cainghog, CHED Director for Planning, Research and Knowledge Management. He said CHED is extending its gratitude to SEARCA for the initiative in the conduct of training-workshop on research proposals. He said CHED is mandated to formulate plans and priorities in research and higher education and the crafting of quality research proposals, especially in a crucial field for the national development of agriculture and its related fields. He also shared that CHED is partnering with SEARCA to ensure that CHED will continue to have quality proposals that they can support to advance research in various fields. Further, he expressed that everyone is needed, including researchers from universities and colleges and partner institutions all over the country, to put together their expertise. Time and commitment are very important to prepare quality proposals to advance research, especially in agriculture.
On the first session of the training-workshop, Dr. Maria Cristeta N. Cuaresma, SEARCA Program Head for Education and Collective Learning, gave an introduction to the training-workshop of Higher Education Research Project Development for Agriculture 4.0. She mentioned that HEIs have the three-fold operational function that falls on education, research, and extension. HEIs need to develop human resources with the necessary knowledge and skills for teaching as well as in conceptualizing researches that contribute to society and its welfare. This training is intended to be able to translate academic knowledge to research proposals that are relevant in providing solutions to existing and emerging issues and challenges. It was also emphasized that there is a need to develop or enhance technical skills in scientific writing.
Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership, shared his insights on the project development principles, fundamentals, and concepts. He emphasized that the project proposal is a fundamental part of an overall development process where plans, policies, and programs are operationalized or realized: the "cutting edge" of development. He said "today's problems are yesterday's solutions and today's solutions are tomorrow's problems" indicating that research has complex interaction viewed through emergent properties in the system.
Additionally, the research priorities for Agriculture 4.0 were discussed by Dr. Rico C. Ancog, SEARCA Operations Consultant for Emerging and Innovations for Growth as well as Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños-School of Environmental Science and Management. He said the training design was focused primarily on project development and geared towards Agriculture 4.0 and that proposals to be developed should be in response to the economic, social, and environmental aspects, which are the three pillars of development. He added that there should be a clear definition of the overall development goals that need to be achieved. He said “with this, there should be a clear understanding of how our products should be made useful in the entire development of our country. As there are many global trends influencing poverty and overall food security in the agricultural food systems brought by the situation of the pandemic, these present opportunities for HEIs in terms of transformative solutions which are the core of Agri 4.0.”
In his lecture, Dr. Gregorio discussed his insights on how to write a winning and competitive research and development proposal. He mentioned how important it is to make the farmers equipped to tap modern markets. He said available technologies and techniques of today and tomorrow should be utilized and enhanced to bring food to consumers while increasing efficiency in the food chain. He stressed that this should be considered in the preparation of project proposals. He also discussed the specific pointers, essential research elements and parts, and the different guidelines for a good research proposal and methodologies. Further, he noted that proposals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART). He reiterated that "there's no such thing as a good research proposal writer, only good rewriter".
The speakers highlighted that HEIs are faced with more challenges since the pandemic has greatly affected the education sector, but with the right mindset and tools, HEIs can adequately address the need in developing competitive and fundable research proposals that would undertake the changing landscape of our agriculture sector.