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News article26 November 2020

Horizon Scanning and Foresight through Text Mining - Exploring the agricultural research landscape in Africa


The use of digital text data text analytics reduces the time required to conduct an evaluation. Is text analytics relevant in providing intelligent insights into a research and innovation field? Furthermore, is it of any relevance as a horizon scanning tool to identify gaps and avenues at the science-policy interface to best respond to emerging policy needs?

Applications of big data analysis are found in many industries where they help provide insights for informed business and operational decisions. In the research and innovation fields, advanced data mining techniques have been applied to tools and technologies such as to identify the emergence of photovoltaic technology. Only recently, their relevance has gained attention on scanning institutional landscapes and thematic research fields.

As part of its knowledge management activities, a recent JRC report presents methodological aspects and the results of a horizon scanning exercise where the text mining capacities of the Joint Research Centre’s "Tools for Innovation Monitoring" were harnessed to analyse bibliometric data in the field of agricultural research and innovation in Africa in the past five years.

The exercise included scanning the institutional landscape and partnerships, resuming key thematic areas, and identifying new emerging fields of research, capturing trends, weak signals and the innovation uptake inside particular topics.

The relevance of the exercise is discussed in the context of enhancing research capacities and strengthening weak institutional networks. The authors proposed enriching the data collection with grey literature to better catch the broad and multifaceted thematic content of agricultural research in Africa.

Going further, it will be interesting to add more recent bibliometric data to cover the COVID-19 crisis, reprocess the data and examine the results in relation to core priorities of the European Commission for 2019-2024.

In particular, the derived institutional landscape and thematic research blocks could be examined in the context of the global transition priorities to sustainable agri-food systems in line with the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies under the European Green deal, and further, in the light of the cooperation priorities on food research and innovation within the Africa-EU Partnership.

Findings could help structure science-policy dialogues within participatory horizon scanning exercises to then conduct more specific foresight activities.

Further information

Related Content

Text Mining for Horizon Scanning, An Insight into Agricultural Research and Innovation in Africa

Tools for Innovation Monitoring


Publication date
26 November 2020