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The challenge is not to make data theoretically accessible, but also practically usable

Johannes Keizer, Information Systems Officer at FAO of the United Nations, will actively participate in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture which will take place in Washington, D.C., from 29-30 April, 2013.

The goal of this conference is to obtain commitment and action from nations and relevant stakeholders to promote policies and invest in projects that open access to publicly funded global agriculturally relevant data streams, making such data readily accessible to users in Africa and world-wide, and ultimately supporting a sustainable increase in food security in developed and developing countries.

The AIMS editorial team invited Mr. Keizer to share his views on the importance of Open Data for agriculture, the goal of the conference and the role of AIMS in contributing to this goal.

Tell us something about yourself... what is your background and role in the organization you are working for?
For more than 10 years now I am working with FAO. I am leading a team that is delivering AGRIS (the International Information System on Agricultural Science and Technology), is facilitating AIMS, and coordinating AGROVOC. You will find easily more information on AIMS, AGROVOC and AGRIS on the web.

According to you, how can Open Data improve global food security? Could you provide some examples?
It is quite evident that access to data is essential for researchers, extensionists and decision makers.  If all data on the impact of climate change on agriculture would be more readily available, better models could  be constructed and better decisions could be taken. If all data on the toxicity of certain pesticide for a specific species would be easily available expensive repetitions of experiments could be avoided.

The goal of the conference is to share publicly funded agricultural data from G8 countries with the world. What are the challenges to achieve this goal?
I would not limit here to "publicly funded agricultural data".  Many data collected by the civil society, but also from the private sector are of great importance. The institutional challenges are to find the correct and appropriate IPR statements by protecting intellectual property rights and businesses without hampering access to data and information. Technically the challenge is: not to make the data theoretically accessible, but also practically usable. If you put your data on 16,000 HTML pages on the web, this is makes them available, but still very difficult to use. We need to get Linked Open Data, with common vocabularies, using RDF for data exchange and a set of common and clearly documented web services.

In which sessions will your organization be involved?
FAO will contribute mostly in the sessions on "Exploiting open data for integrated information systems" (my contribution)  and "Systems to manage open data (FaoSTAT)"

How do you think the AIMS Community can contribute to obtain this goal?
It does already. Having a platform to easily access standards, tools and methodologies for data sharing and having a platform to discuss among practitioners is very useful. AIMS is still very much concentrated on bibliographical and other textual data, but  we are working to extend our competencies.