The creative writers of the famous TV show “The Simpsons” are ever on the alert for an interesting story about current traditions or themes and that is why they prepared a chapter featuring the parody of a secret society in Springfield called the Stonecutters (known in Spanish as the “Magios”), identified as a group of free-thinking men who carry out activities anonymously, and whose doctrine is service in order for each one of its members to always give their best.
Arturo Franco could well be one of these “Magios,” not only because he has been a member of the Masonic Lodge for 30 years, but also because for a long time his work was done quietly and unseen by many people at CIAT . His work became a platform for collection, organization, and centralization of the data from the Center’s programs, an accomplishment that is now being used by the researchers.
El Rolo, as he is affectionately known by his co-workers, is saying goodbye to CIAT today, after 37 years of work. He is a Mechanical Engineer from the National University of Bogotá, and he was born in the capital city of Colombia as well. He assures us that his spiritual training taught him that he is not the owner of knowledge, because he is obligated to share it and leave a legacy for young people who are interested in learning about technology, data bases, and institutional memory.
The current leader of the Information Systems Unit, Carlos Meneses, describes him as the “precursor of the new era of data base technology at CIAT, who innovated by transferring information from paper to the computer. Together with María Cristina Amézquita, his first boss, he designed and implemented CIAT’s first data base for the International Network for Evaluation of Tropical Trials, a project that was carried out to evaluate germplasm in 400 sites across Tropical America. Using the results obtained in the Germplasm Network, scientists have produced more than 300 publications.”
Most outstanding achievements
The creation and conservation of institutional memory is one of Arturo’s most important achievements. Little by little, he has succeeded in making scientists aware of the importance of the SharePoint platform “collaborative spaces” for uploading data and other relevant documents for the research areas. He remembers that “before, each researcher who came to CIAT generated, collected, and carried out the analysis of his data, and when they finished the projects, they went away without turning over anything. So then I made my proposal that all the information generated in the Center should be kept in repositories, and after that the search criteria were defined. Carlos Meneses bought the idea, we defined a process, and the scientists began to turn over the information. We now have more than four million data points organized by project, country, year, and other metadata.”
Another one of his great achievements was the creation of Project Manager, a software application to administer CIAT’s projects, which included: information about partners, donors, proposals, technical reports, and financial reports, whose documents were centralized in the Virtual Project Documentation Center (Spanish acronym CVDP). This initiative was also implemented in other centers of the CGIAR Consortium such as CIP, CIMMYT, CIFOR, IWMI, and IRRI. This platform was subsequently replaced by Agresso, including more than 5,000 documents associated with the research projects.
Arturo developed a software package called CGMAP for CGIAR to consolidate the plans of the research projects with the support of the CGIAR centers. At CIAT, he created Meteoro, another platform to store data about soils with the field operations area.
Currently, he is promoting the use of the BMS (Breeding Management System) Platform at CIAT, a tool to administer the plant breeding data across their cycles of research. This has been another means of collaborating in the implementation of the open access policy.
His mentors and apprentices
He offers his warm thanks to José María Toledo, leader of the Forages area in the 80s, for everything he learned from him; and likewise to Miriam Cristina Duque, his good friend and colleague, who taught him her knowledge of Genetics and Statistics. Franco recognizes that his growth as a professional was thanks to the support of his work team and his tennis friends and companions. “What I will miss most about CIAT is the people.”
Pleasures and plans for the future
The plans never stop for this engineer with a Master’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Universidad del Valle. Now that he is leaving his activities at CIAT, he plans to carry out a project to help senior citizens, and he will keep practicing tennis at the Cañasgordas club with Carlos Jara and other retirees from CIAT and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA), since he has always been a sportsman and has many medals and trophies to show for it.
He also likes the movies and has a collection of 3,000 DVDs with his favorite films. He likes to collect simple things or things which, according to him, are not worth the trouble. He likes to read about spiritual themes and about history.
Arturo plans to enjoy the time with his family and with his wife, to whom he has been married for 43 years, and will travel to Miami to visit his grandchildren. In addition, as a poetry lover, he will explore the writing side of his personality with a view to publishing a book.