"We are also evaluating tools to facilitate open access to learning resources and data" Open access interview with Federico Sancho from IICA

Federico Sancho is the Head of the Inter-American Information and Editorial Production Center for Agriculture at Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Headquarters.The AIMS editorial team invited Federico Sancho to share ideas and his institution's experiences on openning up access to research outputs and he shares this with the agricultural information management community. Federico also is an active member of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD)

Tell us briefly about yourself and related work on Open Access in IICA?

I worked in the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for the past 16 years, especially in agribusiness, rural development and agricultural innovation projects. Recently, as Head of the Information and Editorial Production Center for Agriculture in IICA, I have focused more on programs and projects related to information knowledge management. I contribute to strengthening the Alliance of Agricultural Information Services (SIDALC), space considered as one of the largest windows in the world for agricultural knowledge. I have also had the honor of serving this past year as President of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists -IAALD.

Briefly what Open Access activities are being undertaken at IICA, and what specific challenges are being experienced by advocates of openness in agriculture within your institution and also within the region (Latin America)?

In IICA  at the level of editorial production, our work on open access is about releasing all of the Institute publishing, making it available online and under creative common licenses. Additionally, we have rescued from the shelves all the IICA material since 1942 available only on paper, which was digitized with the support of the Google Archive Scanning. Now all is available for free online.

In terms of agricultural information services, IICA has been a leader and a key partner integrating information resources, especially agricultural library catalogs in a standardized way which have permitted these content to be available in one place and facilitate better access to information resources. In principle references, today more and more full-text material. The alliance of agricultural information services SIDALC becomes an important opportunity for those interested in agriculture to access explicit knowledge. In this context, we support IICA member states (34 countries of the Americas) to adopt policies, strategies, projects and activities related with a more open information management.

In tacit knowledge organization, we have already started adapting the Semantic Web tool to manage professional profiles known as VIVO and developed by Cornell University. To facilitate better access to the professionals in agriculture, their knowledge and services offered is a short-term goal we have set. We're also evaluating tools to facilitate open access to learning resources and data.

Latin America has naturally grown under the culture of open access, so the opportunity to become a role model for the World is huge.

In the agricultural domain there is a challenge in gathering un published research works and data from scientists and research institutions. Does IICA face the same challenge and what is your comment on this?

The Institute establish a while ago a policy of publications and public documents that allow us to recover more and more all the knowledge we produce. Our work is considered an international public good that should be displayed without any restrictions or limitations of format. At the agricultural domain and in our countries there is a need to clarify on the methodologies and tools to have knowledge  in a more accessible way. If we teach these roads much of agricultural research and data will be available.

AIMS is working with partners within the CIARD umbrella to promote Openness to Agricultural Research Outputs. In this regard, we have also collaborated with your organisation during the Open Access Week@AIMS and also on subsequent webinars. How do you think these webinars can be improved  and what are the specific needs in South America?

As indicated, there is a great opportunity for learning the tools, techniques and standard for open access. The webinars are the way forward to show the region about the importance of open access and its practical operation for agriculture. Under the CIARD movement we all address, the Webinar needs to be more frequent, in Spanish and concrete. We need to show evidence that the theory is supporting change and will support better change in the future.  The amount of solutions is large, so we have to make a great effort to identify and showcase those that are useful, low cost and sustainable for our partners. 

AIMS is seeking to influence Openness to data, and is participating in various regional and international lobbying for Open Data, any suggestions of making research data more usable, meaningful and easily accessible?

 It is essential to start with simple and clear concepts. Its utility and expected outcomes of its adoption is a must to have clearly display prior any action. Only then will there be better understanding and adoption of this.