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COGENT International Thematic Action Groups

by Administrator - 19 Sep 2020 666 Views

1.  History, structure, membership and current status

COGENT has (re-)established four International Thematic Action Groups (ITAGs) to lead in the identification and coordination of priority projects for germplasm conservation and use, linked to implementing COGENT’s Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources.

During the 2012 SC meeting, participants from 18 countries recognized the need to create six International Thematic Action Groups (ITAGs), aiming to promote and coordinate international theme-specific research related to coconut genetic resources. The terms of reference for these ITAGs were discussed during the SC meeting (see section 3). ITAGs are not decision-making bodies. Their objectives are to:

  • Assemble a group of the best thematic specialists
  • Strengthen communications between researchers working in different countries but in the same thematic field.
  • Provide useful recommendations to COGENT’s SC, (the decision-making body) and secretariat.
  • Provide new research ideas to spearhead the implementation of the Global Strategy in the relevant thematic area, and develop funding proposals (see below for list of current priority projects).
  • Help to protect the specific research interests of COGENT member countries

The 2012 recommended 6 ITAGs were: i) Ex situ conservation; ii) Genomics; iii) Breeding; iv) Phytopathology & germplasm movement; v) Ethnobiology & Socioeconomics and vi) In vitro culture. During the funding hiatus little was further developed until the ACIAR/DFAT proposal development. In 2018 the SC recommended the addition of one new ITAG and slight changes to ITAGs 5 and 6 as follows: v) Farmers’ Participatory Research, Ethnobiology & Socioeconomics, and vi) In vitro culture and cryopreservation, and the new group vii) dedicated to value-chain research.

In 2019, ACIAR/DFAT endorsed the proposal to support revitalizing COGENT, as a programme within ICC (see section 6), with a caveat that the ITAGs be rationalized to 3-4 in number. Also, since COGENT is now an ICC programme, the socioeconomic and value-chain work can be housed in other ICC programmes. The 4 proposed ITAGs are:

-  Ex- & in-situ conservation

-  Genomics & breeding

-  Phytopathology, entomology & germplasm movement

-  In vitro culture & cryo-preservation

Figure 1 articulates the current nominated group leaders and initial members, which has been developed from recommendations arising from the 18th SC meeting and subsequent interactions. The groups have been convening virtually to design the ITAG-linked priority projects and help to develop funding proposals with the support of COGENT-ICC. The COGENT coordinators and chair of ICC’s technical working group have drafted a first non-exhaustive list of priority projects (see below), and Figure 2 summarises the proposals pipeline with which we have been engaged since January 2020.

See Figure 1, click here

            2.  COGENT Priority research areas for ITAGs (first discussion 24 Jan 2020)

a.    PROGRAM 1: Coconut Genetic Resources Conservation

       (Program Title: Support to Replanting Programmes)

1.1. Project 1: Strengthening the International Coconut Genebanks

1.2. Project 2: Strengthening the National Coconut Genebanks

1.3. Project 3: Implementation of the Global Strategy for Conservation of Coconut Genetic Resources

1.3.1.   Study 1: Genomics and Breeding

1.3.2.   Study 2: Ex-and In-situ Conservation

1.3.3.   Study 3: Pest management and Germplasm movement

1.3.4.   Study 4 In vitro culture and cryo-preservation

1.3.5.   Study 5: Infrastructure development of the International Coconut Genebanks

1.4. Project 4: Capacity Building

1.4.1.   Study 1: Controlled Hand Pollination

1.4.2.   Study 2: Genetic resources database development & management

1.4.3.   Study 3: Molecular and morphological characterisation

1.4.4.   Study 4: Germplasm prospecting and collecting

1.5. Masters and PhD fellowships, short term training to address key challenges


b.    PROGRAM 2: Coconut Genetic Resources Utilisation


1.6. Project 1: Tissue culture for rapid coconut planting material propagation

1.7. Project 2: Massive selection of priority varieties linked to effective nursery management and replanting programmes

1.8. Project 3: Hybridisation of priority varieties for precocity, productivity, HVP, tolerance to priority abiotic and biotic stresses

1.9. Project 4: Supporting national replanting programmes and planting expansion in coastal areas


c.    PROGRAM 3: Strengthening Cogent Management to Provide Greater Service to Member-Countries

Project 1: Sustainability plan for COGENT- Study on how different countries private sector/ government levy schemes 

3.  Proposals Pipeline

See the proposals pipeline from this link :  click here

1.    4. Original terms of reference for ITAGs 

Role of the International Thematic Action Groups (ITAGs)

ITAGs are not decision-making bodies. Their objectives are to:

1.       gather the best specialists in order to strengthen communications between researchers working in different countries but in the same thematic field

2.       provide useful recommendations to the COGENT SC, (the decision-making body, and to the COGENT Program

3.       to provide new research ideas

4.       to help to protect the specific research interests of COGENT member countries.

The ITAGs are created by following 3 successive phases: 1) designation of a leader; 2) extension to 5 members; 3) extension up to 12 official members plus up to 10 students as “junior” members. The process will be the following:

1.       The ITAG leader will be designated by a consensus or a voting process (during SC meeting or at distance) according to the proposals of country members.

2.       The ITAG leader will designate 4 researchers all belonging to institutions and countries from the COGENT network.

3.       Then the team of 5 researchers will start to designate new ITAG members by consensus or voting process. The maximum size of the ITAGs will be 20 researchers, as acting members, and 10 junior non-voting members (students). As soon a researcher is involved as acting member, he can participate to the selection of next ITAG members.

4.       Researchers from countries which are not members of COGENT countries are welcome in ITAGs, as far their number does not overcome half of the number of researchers from COGENT member-countries.

The initial mandate of the ITAG leader will be for 2 years. Then the ITAG will have to choose his leader by a consensus or voting process. The ITAGs leaders and members should preferably not be members of the SC, but other researchers from the same countries. The ITAGs will be renewed each 2 years on proposals of the ITAGs Leaders or on proposal of the COGENT Program after consultation with the ITAG members.

Within the ITAG, most of recommendations will be produced by consensus, or as in cases not achieved by voting, at the request of the ITAG leader or of the COGENT Program. If the official ITAG leaders are not carrying out their roles, the COGENT Program will have the right to request the ITAG to shift the leadership to another researcher from the ITAG by using a vote process. A small annual fee will be allocated to each thematic group leader for communication purposes from COGENT’s budget.