The Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) led activity of building a framework for data and information sharing and exchange for ARD continues to advance with the recent International Expert Consultation (IEC) held between 20-23 June 2011 and hosted by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) and supported by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
Nearly 50 experts from around the world further discussed and worked in resolving various issues related to the building of the framework at the Consultation. This consultation followed an e-consultation on the subject held in April on the e-Agriculture Forum.
The fast developing Internet and especially the Web bring new means to share and exchange data universally. Some examples demonstrated at the IEC such as Vivo and the BBC website which construct information through inter-operatable data indicate how Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) can also benefit using these advances in technology and satisfy the information needs of the agricultural community from scientists, policy makers to resource poor small holder farmers and producers.
The current consultation has led to the consensus that the core element to data (and information objects) sharing is to generate “inter-operatable, linked open data”, make the data accessible and enable its effective use. Inter-operatable data can easily be retrieved, processed, re-used, and re-packaged (“operated”) by other systems. Linked Data is about using the Web to connect related data that wasn't previously linked. “Open data” movement aims at making data freely available to everyone. The CIARD movement shares this ideal and is working to make agricultural research information publicly available and accessible to all.
The on-going consultation recognizes that there are 3 main types of issues that need to be resolved in building a framework for data sharing related to agriculture, agricultural development, research and innovation. The rapidly evolving technologies around the linked open data concepts need to be considered. The Institutional support needed so that inter-operatable linked data is openly available universally needs to be provided and the enabling of the community involved in agriculture and its development to share and use data appropriately needs to be advocated and supported.
The Expert consultation recognized that collaboration and partnerships globally at various levels is a key to enabling sharing of data and its effective use for agricultural development through research and innovation. Building trust and Institutional structures to bring this collaboration and partnerships should be a part of the framework. Information and communications management (ICM) related to agriculture is globally weak with severe lack of financial investment and capacities, especially of the required human skills. The strengthening of ICM for agriculture also forms an integral part of the framework.