Unleashing AGROVOC semantics coverage in Turkish. An interview with Yasemin Çevik - Part 1

AIMS is pleased to share with you Part 1 of the interview with Yasemin Çevik who is actively contributing to the increase and improvement of the coverage in Turkish of the AGROVOC multilingual thesaurus which is coordinated by the FAO of the UN. As of December 2017, the Turkish AGROVOC version has reached 33,680 preferred terms.

You can discover more about AGROVOC concepts, terms and their relationships - by starting with searching and browsing in SKOSMOS.

Yasemin Çevik works as an agricultural engineer at the Publication Department of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock in Turkey, where the Turkish National AGRIS Center is located. The Center has been supporting AGRIS activities in Turkey since 1986. A voluntary project for the Turkish AGROVOC thesaurus was initiated in 2008.

AIMS reached out to Yasemin Çevik with some questions, to which she graciously and promptly responded (Part 2 of the interview can be found here).



Dear Yasemin, nice to meet you and it is our pleasure to have this opportunity to interview you.

Your thoughts are very important as it would allow the AGROVOC Team, Community of Editors, and also a wider AGROVOC community - to understand better the existing issues/problems and to think how to approach them in the future in a more innovative and collaborative way.

Yasemin Çevik (Y. Ç.): 

First of all, thank you for inviting me to this interview; I would like to express my sincere gratitude for this initiative !


Could you, please, tell us what was it that sparked your interest in pursuing an “AGROVOC Translation Agenda” nine years ago?

Y. Ç.:

Well, first of all, the “knowledge action range” of AGROVOC fits my background. After I graduated in Dairy Science, I was working at a University Library for 3 years, and, thereafter in the General Directorate of Agricultural Research.

Since 1999, I have covered the role of an agricultural engineer at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (in Turkey). For ten years, I have been engaged in communicating (via the “Türktarım” Ministerial Journal : Science and Technology writing corner) the results of interesting agricultural research use cases (including AGRIS & AGROVOC) to readers worldwide. The “Türktarım” Journal was populated with farmer profiles that were constantly updated with methods for sustainable farming,  cropping systems, and soil applications.

Over my career, I have also published a number of articles about innovative applications in agriculture, as well as guidebooks for teachers and students about school gardening, different illustrative brochures, activity pages, puzzles for children. These explained the importance of agriculture, and encouraged readers to loving agriculture in all its facets. Moreover, with support of Ankara University, I was engaged in preparing a one-week agriculture camp program for primary schools 8-12 ages. Our team produced a Turkish educational film about this camp.​

It was in the context of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock that I was first  acquainted with the AGROVOC thesaurus. As an agricultural engineer, I was directly engaged (1999-2007) in indexing (with AGROVOC) documents in the AGRIS system. Already at the beginning of this challenging engagement,  our team realized that for different people in Turkey, it was difficult to use AGRIS exposing items indexed only with English AGROVOC entries. That’s why we started to align English AGROVOC items with Turkish terms, starting from AGRIN and WEBAGRIS programs.

Many concepts and their synonyms that would precisely convey different subject research profiles (e.g., related to diseases and pests, livestock, fisheries and forestry, flora and fauna)  were still missing. I'm sure that the same knowledge gaps exist also in other languages. These circumstances sparked the thought and realization that our team might provide our support to AGROVOC on cross-multilingual level; in our case, from English into Turkish. The process of preparing AGROVOC in Turkish started in 2008, with help of Mr. Keizer, Ms. Johansen and Ms. Sini.


The current number of translated concepts - which you have covered in the AGROVOC Turkish version so far - strikes the AGROVOC international users community as particularly interesting.

Could you, please, tell us how do you organize your work in a so professional way, to proceed with AGROVOC translation, to keep the AGROVOC knowledge base up to date in your language, and to promote awareness about this semantics product?

Y. Ç. : 

At the beginning of my engagement with AGROVOC translations, I participated in a one-week certified terminology specialization training provided by Hacettepe University Terminology Research Center. At the meantime, I studied how AGROVOC was prepared in other languages. I also reviewed many documents, and meetings presentations related to AGROVOC.

Afterwards, I started to look for universities and our ministry research institutes, interpreters and language specialists who would like to join (on a voluntary basis) our translation group to help us unleash a workflow on support of our AGROVOC translation Working Group (*see our workflow diagram below).

My shared ideas on how to proceed with AGROVOC translation were approved by our Center, which helped set up a team of experts in different areas and push awareness about AGROVOC, through different educational events. Initially, our AGROVOC Working Group was supported by fifteen domain specialists in various fields related to agriculture, one translator and one language expert. To ensure their proactive participation, I established a Google discussion group where we exchanged our ideas 4-5 times per month.

All our translated contributions were traced into an Excel file (English terms, Turkish equivalents, synonyms, notes), which - at the beginning of the existence of the VocBench web editor tool - were transferred in the online AGROVOC environment by the AGROVOC FAO Team. With help of a language expert, I constantly make updates on this file, to prevent duplication, correct mistakes, and to arrange synonyms and abbreviations, to improve the semantics of AGROVOC coverage in Turkish. To date (December 2017),  the Turkish AGROVOC has reached 33,680 concepts and terms.

Currently, our Center aims at increasing the number of the AGROVOC concepts and their synonyms translated into Turkish to at least 100,000 concepts.  The more concepts and terms translated and added, the higher the quality of research representation, the better the quality index, search, the faster and easier it will be to make Turkish research results visible on the international research arena.

I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve the development flow of the AGROVOC. Surely, only my or someone else editing - autonomously - is not enough... We need to improve/enhance together the AGROVOC editing workflow, that means - in a more coordinated way, and in a shorter time.

With this in mind, I think also, that to be competitive on the international arena, AGROVOC should become more consistent with the same or similar semantics items from NALT and CABI Thesaurus. Our Center is very keen to know if there will be integration of AGROVOC with these two knowledge products, may be via the GACS scheme?  

My work plan for AGROVOC helps me stay organized, meet deadlines and complete all the steps included in the AGRIS-AGROVOC project within our Center’s Agenda. It is my intention to work hard on AGROVOC by creating a Core Team formed by domain knowledge and IT experts, to help expand the translated and added content and to learn more from the international AGROVOC community of practice how to do it better.

“Taking into account that AGROVOC is under continuous development, we need to question the underlying principles, methods and suggestions about the AGROVOC development. We need to think about how AGROVOC can better unlatch knowledge in agriculture and related domains on international level, and the steps that will get us to that point”, - the AGROVOC team.

P.S. :  “Languages are still a major barrier to global science” (PLOS Biology paper, 2016)

Related :  Creating the Turkish AGROVOC version. Interview with Yasemin Çevik (AIMS, 2012)

Turkish AGROVOC Preparation Flow Chart :