Interview with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) about the importance and impact of FAO’s AGORA
In anticipation of the launch of the new, updated AGORA content portal, Anil Kumar Jha, Senior Information Resource Centre Associate at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) offered his thoughts about the platform and how his organization engages with and utilizes AGORA.
What does AGORA provide to you and your organization?
AGORA provides ICIMOD a base for our work in research, innovation, and generation of new knowledge. It provides essential and easy access to academic and professional scientific literature. Given resources and access constraints in our geographical region of the Hindu Kush Himalaya, this free and easy access to journals, books, and databases allows us a single channel through which we can access resources to which we would otherwise not have access. This allows us to remain up-to-date on global scientific developments that informs our work. It also provides access to the Scopus database which helps our staff to discover the most reliable, relevant, and up-to-date research. Overall it provides a complete package of very relevant information resources.
How long have you been utilizing AGORA and for what kind of research/activities?
ICIMOD has had access to AGORA since its launch in 2003 although there was a temporary gap in access that was resolved in 2007. Since that time, we have been using it heavily. We use AGORA across all our activities, which range greatly from hands-on research and piloting of solutions to policy implementation with governments and mountain advocacy on the global stage. Our multidisciplinary research activities on environmental and social science research in the Hindu Kush Himalaya including: agriculture, food security, resilient solutions, water and disaster preparedness, glaciers, biodiversity, ecosystems, forests, atmospheric pollution, livelihoods, poverty alleviation, gender and equity, tourism, renewable energy resources, Earth observation, and climate change.
Have you utilized any of the training resources available? And if so, how have they helped you/your organization? Is there a use case you would like to share with us?
We are very thankful to FAO for providing us with various training opportunities and promotional materials. In 2018, in collaboration with FAO, we organized a two-day national workshop in Nepal on AGORA at ICIMOD. In the same year, I have actively attended the online course on Fundamentals of Information Literacy and AGORA. We have been organizing in-house training for staff on AGORA annually. The available training resources are very helpful for this purpose. We are also continuously guiding our staff on Research4Life, AGORA use issues and promoting its use as a prime content portal. Overall, the training, advocacy toolkits and promotional materials like posters, brochures, and recordings of the training webinars are very helpful resources.
What do you think about the new content portal?
I would like to congratulate the AGORA team and the entire Research4Life team on the launch of the new Research4Life website and content portals. I had been advocating for some improvements in the content portals to enhance browsing and search. Now it’s great to see the new content portal. It has a beautiful look and the contents are very well organized. Its browning and faceted filter options have added value, allowing for selecting of specific required resources. The ‘search site content' is also an excellent feature added in the new content portal. The personal sign-in feature is a good addition for individual users who will now be able to save searches, create search alerts and set up a favourites list. The 'recent resources' menu is also helpful to see new contents collectively. I would suggest putting the 'site content' in the front line menu. Missing in the new version are the ‘browse all’ and ‘download all’ (journals, books) features which were helpful.
Do you have any advice for new or potential members of AGORA?
My advice is that using AGORA is easy, it is a tremendously valuable resource, and there are many ways to get help in using the resources. Among our eight member countries, six are eligible to access AGORA and we have sought through our Himalayan University Consortium to form knowledge partnerships between and among universities, ICIMOD, and partners. AGORA can help to support these academic institutions to strengthen their capacity to access and generate high-quality knowledge. Perhaps ICIMOD with FAO could lead the promotion of AGORA, discovering potential members, and conducting capacity building activities among universities and other research partners in this region. Here in Nepal, there are a good number of AGORA users although colleges such as IOF Campus - Hetauda and the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science - Paklihawa do not seem to be in the registered institution list. I am surprised to see Nepal Agricultural Research Council also not there.