Gene Hettel

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 IRRI hostorian and Rice Today magazine editor-in-chief Gene Hettel in his work station

As head of Communication and Publications Services (CPS) at IRRI from 1997 to 2013, Gene Hettel—award-winning writer, editor, and photographer—led a 20-member team of communication specialists who conceptualized and produced information materials about IRRI and its research. CPS aimed to efficiently provide more people with access to information resources in various print formats; supplemented by audio, video, photography, and the Web. Gene and his CPS team worked with other communication professionals across IRRI to help deliver a full complement of communication services to the Institute.

Stepping down as CPS head in October 2013 to make way for a reorganization of Communication at IRRI, Gene worked on special projects, including delving into the Institute's rich 54-year history, until his retirement in January 2016. He is currently a consulting editor and content specialist working on various communications projects.

Over his 21-year career at IRRI, Gene has been involved in many facets of communication at the Institute. This includes science writing, editing, and publishing; multimedia and video production; photography; printing; and product distribution. Up until 2014, he had been responsible for IRRI’s presence on the World Wide Web since the Institute’s first Web site went online in 1996.

Beginning in 1999, he led the digitization of IRRI’s publications and photographs. This ultimately led to the wide availability of these on Google Book Search and flickr, respectively. In 2007, he started to build IRRI’s presence on YouTube which currently has around 940 videos that have accumulated more than 1.7 million views via more than 3,600 subscribers and others through January 2016.

Gene championed IRRI’s Creative Commons Policy, adopted by the IRRI Board of Trustees in 2006, for distributing the Institute’s information products and facilitating the dissemination of rice knowledge and technology. He has given several international presentations, including in Taiwan, on promoting this concept of making information freely available to all for unrestricted use in the digital age.

In 2005 (five years in advance of IRRI’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2010), Gene began an oral history project to preserve various accounts of and interpretations of Institute’s rich history and legacy on videotape. To date, he has logged more than 100 hours of interviews with nearly 60 pioneers; ranging from IRRI’s early researchers, to others recently retired, to researchers’ spouses and children, to its research partners, and to farmers themselves. Some clips of these interviews are currently on YouTube along with other historic videos about IRRI and persons associated with the Institute. He maintains an up-to-date IRRI timeline starting 1959. He recently completed year-long monthly and weekly blogs on IRRI history. An award-winning 12-part series has been published in Rice Today magazine. He continues to conduct interviews since many of IRRI’s historical figures have many stories and insights that have not yet been captured.


  • Science writing, editing, and publishing
  • International agricultural communication
  • Public awareness of science
  • Photography
  • Oral history





Gene HettelGene Hettel
Senior Consulting Editor and Content Specialist

International Rice Research Institute
Los Baños, Laguna

+63 2 580 5600
ext 2752
Mobile: +63 916 453 7636