New open data platform to advance robust and comprehensive research in the agricultural sector

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The Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative today launched a data portal to share harmonized data from randomized evaluations of agriculture programs

BERKELEY, CA (September 5, 2023) – A research initiative that evaluates programs to increase small-scale farmer welfare through the use of agricultural technologies launched a new open data platform today: By making causal evidence easily accessible to researchers and policymakers alike, the data portal aims to foster collaboration and evidence-informed decision-making in the agricultural sector, ultimately contributing to the advancement of the most effective agricultural practices and improving farmer welfare.

Developed through a partnership between the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), a research hub at UC Berkeley that generates innovative evidence leaders use to reduce global poverty, and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, the ATAI data portal is an important new approach to sharing open data in social science. 

“This portal is a first step in an effort to allow datasets from randomized controlled trials to be put to a broader set of uses,” says Craig McIntosh, ATAI co-chair and professor of economics at UC San Diego. “By harmonizing core agricultural variables to the extent possible as well as providing broad access to raw data, the portal will allow the research community to aggregate across studies and geographies in a way not possible in any single study.”

In recent years, many funders, journals, and research organizations have implemented policies that require open data publication to promote greater scientific transparency. One benefit of these policies is that they allow greater re-use of collected data. The ATAI data portal advances this approach through harmonization, or the process of collating data from multiple datasets to provide users with a comparable view of data from different studies. Examples of large harmonization efforts include sites such as IPUMS, which specializes in government census surveys.

The ATAI Data Portal also improves the richness and quality of datasets from ATAI-funded projects in several ways. For instance, a number of ATAI-funded studies contain georeferencing, or latitude and longitude coordinates for agricultural fields, households, or study administrative boundaries. When geographic coordinates are available, the ATAI Data Portal overlays the project dataset with environmental variables — such as temperature, precipitation, night lights, and forest cover –- to expand the richness and utility of the data. (Many predictive models rely on this kind of information as ground truth data.) 

Edward Miguel, CEGA faculty co-director and professor of economics at UC Berkeley, has long advocated for greater reproducibility, rigor, and ethics in research.

“The ATAI Data Portal showcases the power of open science principles at work,” said Miguel. “By harmonizing open data and outfitting it with geospatial variables, ATAI has delivered incredible value from existing data that will facilitate new scientific inquiries.” launched with seventeen datasets from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zambia. The portal will continue to grow, as more research teams complete and submit their datasets to ATAI. 

To learn more about and to request interviews with researchers, please reach out to CEGA program manager Jenna Fahle at [email protected]


About the Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI)
The Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative (ATAI) evaluates programs that increase farmer welfare through the broader use of productive technologies in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. ATAI generates a rigorous evidence base that helps carefully identify whether particular approaches improve farmer productivity, strengthen farmer linkages to markets, and expand commercialization, each key steps in a process of agricultural transformation. ATAI is co-managed by the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), with generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Learn more on our website.

About CEGA
The Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) is a hub for research, training and innovation headquartered at the University of California, Berkeley. CEGA generates insights that leaders can use to improve policies, programs, and people’s lives. Its academic network includes more than 160 faculty, 65 scholars from low- and middle-income countries, and hundreds of graduate students — from diverse academic disciplines around the world — that produce rigorous evidence about what works to expand education, health, and economic opportunities for people living in poverty.

About J-PAL
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of over 870 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty.