14 November 2008

Making our agricultural information accessible

Yesterday a small group of aginfo enthusiasts met at Wageningen UR to exchange experiences on the ways they make their information more accessible. It offered a rich insight into some practicalities of becoming ‘truly accessible’ – as the CIARD initiative calls on us to be.

IAALD Board member Barbara Hutchinson opened, explaining AgNIC’s ‘born digital’ and ‘re-born digital’ initiatives that aim to provide “persistent long-term access" to the research outputs of US agricultural research and extension. She particularly highlighted the issue of ‘link rot’ – where after even a short period, many web resources can no longer be found via their URL. See her presentation; and further reading.

Ingeborg Nagel and Harry Heemskerk introduced ‘Search4Dev’ a new repository that the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) will soon launch. “For Dutch development organizations”, the new site will harvest and make accessible a much wider set of outputs than is normally found in research and academic repositories. The project is a close collaboration with DPRN and their ‘global-connections’ portal. The Dutch national Royal Library will take care of the long term preservation of the repository content.  See their presentation.

Hugo Besemer of WUR explained two projects from Wageningen UR: ‘Wageningen Yield’ and ‘Groen Kennisnet’ – or ‘green knowledge net.’ The former is the primary system/repository of WUR, where according to Besemer, they “make public whatever we can.”

Hugo's colleague Ger Naber introduced the world soil information database at ISRIC. According to Naber, this was a "small library" whose content - soil maps and related resources - was only accessible to people that visited. For the past two years, the emphasis has shifted towards digital resources and services - 'bringing the services to the people'. Much of the emphasis now is on ‘re-born digital’ efforts: They have started digitizing maps and reports of Senegal, Mozambique, Fiji and Jamaica. The ISRIC database can be searched at http://library.wur.nl/isric/.

Continuing the agricultural focus, Wilma Roem explained how the LEISA repository of ILEIA and its 6 partner organizations works to make accessible the practical information on sustainable agriculture they have created in the past 25 years.

Finally, we switched from what Hugo Besemer called the ‘data layer’ of repositories to the ‘services layer’ with our next speaker. CTA’s Kevin Painting introduced the www.news4dev.org RSS aggregator that takes content from different collections and repositories, making it even more accessible. For more information and a video interview with Kevin, read this earlier story.

Peter Ballantyne shares some take away ideas from the discussions.

More from the 13 November meeting

Story by Peter Ballantyne

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