Providing access to agricultural information to developing countries through the AGORA programme.

Dr. Johannes Keizer is the AGORA Programme Manager and Team Leader of the AIMS Team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. We asked him a few questions as the new AGORA Programme Manager and he shares his views below.

Briefly explain your new role and vision as a AGORA Programme Manager

As the new AGORA Programme Manager, I am involved in a wide range of inputs on collaboration and coordination with the partners in Research4Life, as well as supervising the AGORA team in my unit at FAO. It is also key to ensure that Research4Life and AGORA in particular are leveraged through my group’s other programs that focus on opening agricultural knowledge and information, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. 

There is a need for scholarly information in under-resourced countries, how do you seek to steer the AGORA into fulfilling that quest for knowledge?

The principal purpose of AGORA is to enhance innovation and learning in agriculture in low- and middle-income countries. This is achieved through improved access to scientific information for the agriculture sector institutions. Almost three quarters of the institutions registered for AGORA are in the arenas of academia and research, in the form of universities/colleges and research institutes. The next most important group includes ministries and other government offices. Using AGORA, researchers and academics have been able to plan their research more effectively, update their curricula, ensure that their work is not duplicative and find new technologies developed outside their own areas. There is still much to be done to ensure that scientific information reaches those who need, whether that is through AGORA or Open Access initiatives. 

You have been an Open Access Advocate through works in CIARD/GODAN and AIMS, and now you are managing AGORA program. How do you combine the two aspects of providing agricultural information (when one is OA and other not)?

AGORA is about opening access, and includes many open access materials, but is not itself an open access initiative. However, Open Access and AGORA need to  be seen as complementary initiatives.

Our goal is to make scientific knowledge available throughout low and medium income countries. We encourage "Gold open access"publishers to waive publishing fees for contributions from those countries. We are acknowledging that now most publishers now endorse (with some restrictions in cases) "green open access" publishing  through institutional repositories.  AGORA/R4L is another necessary tool to achieve our goal. It will not prevent more "open access" publishing.  On the contrary it will motivate open access publishing in low income countries.

The recent CIARD/GODAN consultation reviewed progress, achievements and future prospects of all international initiatives related to open data and knowledge in agriculture, including especially CIARD and GODAN, and considered experiences of selected national systems and international/regional agencies in development of effective policies and practices in opening agricultural knowledge and data. AGORA and Research4Life will be sensitive to these global trends, and we will adapt to changing circumstances to continue supporting information access needs in low- and middle- income countries.