8th Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) Workshop 2007

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

The Eighth Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) Workshop brought together key stakeholders Information and Knowledge Managers from Agricultural Institutions, who are working on development of semantic standards and their application. The workshop focused on assessing the work done since the first workshop of 2000 in Rometo date. The achievements of the past seven years and the lessons learnt were used to pave the road for the next steps.

At its inception, the Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) was intended to structure and provide agricultural vocabularies, terminology and information exchange standards in multiple languages for use by any number of different systems. The AOS was envisioned to help increase the efficiency and consistency of describing and relating multilingual agricultural resources, to decrease the random nature and increasing the functionality for accessing these resources, and to enable sharing of common descriptions, definitions and relations within the agricultural community.  Since 2000, there have been various achievements within the AOS initiative such as:

  • The coverage of AGROVOC thesaurus has been dramatically extended to cover more topics, language and user base.  The latter of which increased substantially with an average of approximately 100 downloads of the thesaurus per month in the last years.
  • Within this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization will release the AGROVOC concept server for distributed management of multilingual concepts and relations.
  • The AGRIS application profile as a data exchange format for document-like objects has been released and is being used by partners within the community as the de-facto standard.
  • Application Profiles for events, learning resources and organizations have been released for comments while those for projects and experts are currently being formulated.
  • The Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS) Web site has been published.
  • Domain Ontologies have been created and  Ontology-based web applications have been tested and published.

However, there is still a lack of coherence and consistency in the work being done by FAO and its partners. The main objectives of the two day workshop were to:

  • assess the current status of the AOS and other ontology related projects in the domain of agriculture (in its broadest sense);
  • form a taskforce with interested partners from the community of practice who want to collaborate in the future development and management of various AOS projects; and
  • establish guidelines and projects that the taskforce should carry out in the coming years.

1.2. Process

The Workshop had been convened to consider the current developments of the partners. Breakout sessions were organized to discuss, based on the work done to date as presented by partners, the future direction that the AOS Community should take. 

2. Areas for Collaboration

During the Workshop the participants were able to discuss the current status of the AOS Community, channels and principals for future collaboration and come up with possible strategies for advocacy.  In general, before making evaluation of the priority areas for the community, what the community platform should provide, and how and what to advocate our work, many participants mentioned that we need a road map with description of the vision of the group, with clear definition of our users, benefits of being part of this community and with clear indication of expected benefits for participants who share standards, tools and expertise. 

2.1 Priority areas

The main areas identified by the group were those of ontology development, making available the content to everyone with links to mappings and registries.  The community should also work on producing guidelines for using ontologies in producing ontology based applications. More specifically, the group also identified the need to resolve problems with AGROVOC content, development of guidelines to allow deploying of standards and tools, improvement of the KOSregistry on the AIMS website, localization of the developed standards and guidelines.  The participants also identified that there is a clear need for creating killer applications where the ontology helps to put more food on the table. The ontologies should be used to make powerful assessments that lead to better management and policy decisions.

2.2 Principles for Collaboration

For the collaboration to be successful it is important that all participants are committed. There is a need to reach a more formal expression of participation/contribution with a clear agreement to use and share.  In cases of conflict, clear and correct means should be available to resolve them.  Although it was expressed that the process of the different groups in this community should be open to all, there might be a need for one champion with facilitation role.  Working groups (working on topics of common interests) should undertake joint development tasks (creation of metadata standards, tools, services and applications).  The working group could consist of inter-disciplinary teams to allow cross-fertilization of the products.

2.3 Community Platform

Currently the AIMS website is available as a possible platform for the users to share their research and learn from each other. However, AIMS website needs to be restructured, some elements are not clear, and there are missing elements (e.g. e-learning modules with indication about topics, promotions of tools e.g. Magpie). People need to get data and tools and it is not clear how to access them. Additionally, the website is perceived too much FAO centric and AGROVOC centric and needs to make it more clear for other domains (forestry, fisheries).  The website is also a ‘static’ publication site rather than being a dynamic open space for partners to share their information. The “community platform” should be human driven but it should not be a “wiki” but bring together new techniques and functionalities such as forums, blogs, feeds etc.  All these new “applications” should allow for multi-partner collaboration (rather than one-to-one a more many-to-many).

The website currently has only FAO publication publications and information produced for information management. It needs to be expanded to contain information from the partners, however, ensuring that no chaos will arise.  This also depends on appropriate funding and being available to all partners to participate.  This then could be mirrored with other languages or similar structure; this makes the community more responsive and allows going further on services and providing multilingual search and semantic search.  The content should also be made available to partners with poor internet connection so that they can exploit our work and contribute to improve it further.   In all these cases, clear users/stakeholders should be identified. The community platform should provide list of persons and organizations (with even pictures) to bring a more personal touch to the site and the community. There is a need also to establish also means in the website to discuss (and disseminate) specific issues such as application development, ontology and metadata standards development etc.

2.4 Advocacy

The work of the AOS community at the moment is perceived to target Knowledge intermediaries/brokers: ICT experts, extension workers as well as agriculture researchers, scientists, students and teachers. However, we should also target policy-makers and decision-makers (public and private funding agencies, and governments), farmers, traders and practitioners.  To achieve this, we need killer applications and pilot/prototype experiments as showcase the impact of the AOS technologies. We need these prototypes to link, even directly, with agriculture production and productivity.  The use-cases and demos should also help enhance uptake on AOS work by the knowledge brokers.  A mechanism for sensitizing a larger and wider audience would be associating with workshops such as AFITA/EFITA where there is a higher participation of different group and other constituencies in general. Additionally, we should also align the AOS community to standard setting organizations such as W3C and alike.  The group should also interact with the Web2.0 technologies.  The work done in the community also needs to be promoted via training to universities, libraries.  These trainings could be done via face-to-face workshops by AOS community partners in their own language.  Regional events by partners in their own languages should bring different communities together (reach communities that do not have direct access via attending cross-disciplinary events).

3. Conclusion

The discussions and breakout sessions provided the participants with possibilities to share their ideas on how the AOS community can proceed.  Cross national, cross languages, cross context, case studies should be provided to show advantage of using the AOS. The projects undertaken by AOS community should be documented to show the decision maker the benefits. A “Cookbook” with guidelines on development of ontologies (domain modelling), implementation of common standards and creation of ontology based applications.  These should also include the dos and don’ts based on the lessons learned from previous projects.  A specific recommendation, in addition to all the actions recommended during breakout sessions was made to set up an AOS Committee which will act as advisory board and steering committee to the future activities.  This AOS Committee should facilitate the work of the AOS community between the workshops.  It was decided that Asanee Kawtrakul would coordinate the setup of the AOS Committee and that nominations for the committee should be sent to her. The AOS Committee should be representative of the AOS community and should be created by seeking consensus of the community.

Presentations of the Eight Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) Workshop