Prof.dr.ir. Niels Röling
In 1983 Professor Van den Ban was succeeded by Professor Niels Röling. He recognised quickly that the science-based messages and technologies promoted by change agents were frequently inadequate and inapplicable for prospective clients. He began to problematise how such messages came about, and concluded that it was insufficient to only study communication between change agents and clients. His main argument was that many others (e.g. researchers, policy-makers, agro-industry, bureaucrats, etc.) influenced whether or not appropriate innovations came about.
As an alternative, Röling proposed to analyse and improve the functioning of (agricultural and other) Knowledge and Information Systems.The research of the group shifted to how such systems could be characterised, understood and managed as a whole, and on how science could become a more interactive endeavour. Röling was head of the department until 1989, but he remained member of the group as a special professor until his retirement in 2002. An important theme in his later work became the management of eco-systems and natural resources. A common denominator of Rölings work that is still visible today, is the emphasis on understanding collective learning processes within networks of interdependent actors operating in broader agro-ecological environment.
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Prof. Paul Richards
Paul Richards came to Wageningen in 1993 to start a new research group on Technology & Agrarian Development. The set goal was to establish closer cooperation between social science disciplines and the predominantly technology-focused departments of Wageningen University. The Wageningen environment allowed him to find ‘hard’ evidence for his lifelong study on the profound agro-ecological management skills of African farmers. With an interdisciplinary research team genetic confirmation of farmers’ selection strategies of rice was found. The farmer varieties included (accidental) crosses between African rice (O. glaberrima) and Asian rice (O. sativa), the kind of crosses plant breeders in international research institutes had been working on for years.
The research activities of Richards’ group in Wageningen spanned a variety of topics, all having his signature of paying close attention to people’s perceptions and skills in dealing with the challenges of the environments they live in. After his retirement, in 2010, he continued research in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The 2014-2015 Ebola crisis in the West-African region triggered an in-depth analysis of community health strategies, resulting in a monograph. Ongoing research on this topic is combined with continued interest in African farming.
In 2010 the Technology & Agrarian Development group was merged with the Communication and Innovation Studies group into the current Knowledge, Technology and Innovation group.
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