Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)
Draft 2011 Workplan for the CIARD RING
1. Increasing the coverage
The usefulness of the RING as an infrastructure for interoperability is proportional to the number and relevance of the information services / sources featured in the system.
Currently, 130 services and 109 providers are featured in the RING.
Proposed steps in order to increase the number of featured services:
- A. Import all RSS feeds from AgriFeeds
AgriFeeds is already considered as a CIARD service and it seems quite natural that the RSS feeds registered in AgriFeeds are also featured in the RING.
Besides, asking providers to separately register their feeds both in AgriFeeds and in the RING would look like a duplication of data and efforts, while harvesting and therefore synchronizing the two services would be more efficient and more in line with the CIARD principles.
This operation would result in over 90 new services added to the RING.
- the providers / “owner” organizations would have to be informed that by accepting that their feeds are included in the RING they become CIARD partners and given the option to say no;
- the providers’ names imported from AgriFeeds may not have the exact same names as used in the RING and this could create duplicate records in the RING: some manual checking and merging may be needed.
- B. Run a survey on “Management Information Systems” (MIS) in agriculture
Last year, FAO run a survey on Open Access repositories in agriculture using the RING infrastructure and the survey resulted in 83 new services (document repositories) added to the system.
GFAR has always been the CIARD partner with the strongest interest in information on “research management” (organizations, experts, projects, project outputs) and this is an area where information systems in agriculture are much less advanced than for instance Institutional repositories or research / academic libraries.
The survey could be run in the RING, publishing a dedicated web page that would direct users to the appropriate input form(s) depending on the type of MIS they want to register..
It is difficult to predict how many new services could be registered in the system as a result of this survey, as the availability of MIS in agriculture is not well known, except for big global projects like AiDA, the Wisard database (former AGRIS/CARIS) and the new CGMap. The results of this survey will also be interesting to understand if and how NARS are managing this type of information.
- C. Run a survey on Linked Data sources in agriculture
This survey should be run some months after the one above, towards the end the year.
With the Linked Data (or Linked Open Data, LOD) approach the semantic web is finally starting to take shape and a few important agricultural information services are being published as LOD in these months. LOD sources are only useful in as much as they are linked to each other, and an “agricultural semantic web” can only develop if more and more sources are published as LOD and, above all, are linked to each other by means of common vocabularies and mapped URIs.
The RING would be the perfect place where to start collecting information on new available Linked Data sources in agriculture. Besides, technical details collected by the RING (such as KOS and metadata (vocabulary) used, protocols used etc.) will be particularly meaningful for this type of service.
- D. Promotion and demonstration of benefits
(See chapter 3 below)
After a first phase of importing records from other systems and running surveys in order to reach a critical mass of data, all managers of agricultural information services worldwide should be aware of the existence and potential benefits of the RING and the population of the RING should then proceed on a spontaneous basis.
At a certain point, the RING should be sufficiently well known and reputed to bring managers to want their services featured there, even if just for increased visibility.
Promotion should result in a steady increase in the number of registered services independent of our intervention with surveys or imports.
2. Improving the infrastructure
The RING is at the moment a highly structured directory offering several ways of searching and browsing the registered services plus some basic statistics, charts and maps.
While the usefulness of such a service has been illustrated in papers and discussed in workshops, it seems clear from the feedback received that the benefits are not clear to everybody at this stage. Improving the infrastructure, offering value-added services and clear examples of how the service can be exploited seems the best way to demonstrate its value.
- A. Better user experience
- Better guidance and user interface in data entry (e.g. multi-step data entry)
- Better browsing experience and better visualization of relations between services
- B. Value-added services
Mann Library of Cornell University has started collaborating on this and is willing to continue. We could contribute to a small LoA between FAO and Cornell.
- More statistics and charts
- More customized services like RSS feeds that partners can re-use
- Sample OAI harvester
- RDF store and SPARQL engine for a Linked Data infrastructure
- C. Revision of data quality
In order to make the data entry process easier, especially at the beginning, many fields in the data entry form have been made optional. This does not ensure the necessary quality of the data in the RING, but was considered essential in order not to discourage users from registering their services at all.
At a later stage, following a review of the data and depending on an evaluation of how efficiently the data can be exploited for creating value-added services, a revision of the data may be necessary.
The revision should be done by the maintainer of the records, who should be alerted and requested to update their records and provide missing information if necessary.
- D. Exchange of data with other relevant registries
The achievement of the tasks under this section would be facilitated by the approval of the AgINFRA (“A data infrastructure to support agricultural scientific communities”) project, presented for the EU FP7 call on topic “INFRA-2011-1.2.2”, where FAO is a participant and GFAR is providing staff.
- The registries of KOS and metadata sets hosted by AIMS are already exploited in the RING: their records are harvested and used for indexing records in the RING. It is also planned to use the registry of tools (also hosted on AIMS and in the process of being revamped) in order to index the services in the RING (indicating the software tools used for their implementation). Discussions are going on with the AIMS team on the option of moving the KOS, metadata and tool registries to the RING infrastructure.
- Besides AgriFeeds (already mentioned above) and the AIMS registries, there are other existing registries with which data could be exchanged and synchronized: VOA3R, a “virtual repository” for agriculture and aquaculture giving access to several thematic repositories; OAIster, a global registry of open archives; AGRIS, a database collecting records from several repositories, etc.
The approval of the AgINFRA project would be particularly significant for the achievement of these goals.
- E. More tutorials and examples
Mann Library of Cornell University has already contributed to this and still has material to contribute.
The RING has only been presented at a few regional venues as a pilot project and to a few strategic national Institutions. It has not been widely promoted so far, which was also good because it gave us time to fine-tune it and collect an initial core set of records from pioneer partners and from the OA survey.
Now the platform has some good content and we can promote it with more confidence, especially after we have made the data entry a little more user-friendly and we have finished importing the AgriFeeds sources.
Proposed promotional activities:
- A. Targeted presentations
- One presentation for technical (IT) people, focusing on the technical information available in the RING, its exploitation for better interoperability and the whole Linked Data context
- One presentation for information service managers, giving enough technical information related to information management without going into IT details and focusing on benefits in terms of information sharing, increasing the visibility of their services, identifying new sources / contents for their services. This presentation would also present the RING in the whole CIARD – AIMS - AGRIS – Agrovoc – Linked Data context, at a high non-technical level.
- One presentation for high-level managers and policy makers, focusing on the role the RING can have in supporting Institutional policies about information management and information sharing and in general Open Access in agriculture. This presentation would also present the RING in the whole CIARD – AIMS - AGRIS – Agrovoc – Linked Data context, at a very high non-technical level.
- B. Workshops
- CIARD workshop in Bejing, China, in June
- 2-3 regional workshops?