Focus on AGRIS multilingual search

In this article, I want to explain the AGRIS multilingual search to avoid confusion about its usage and to highlight its strength.

I have to start this explanation with some words about the AGRIS default search. When a user queries the system, their query refers to metadata available in the AGRIS database. Therefore, if a user searches for “rice”, by default the system returns all bibliographic references containing the word “rice” in the title, in the abstract, or as a keyword. Currently, the system returns 158,469 records for that query. If the user searches for the Chinese word “稻米” (which means “rice” in English), the system only returns 14 results, since only 14 resources have the word “稻米” in their metadata.

The multilingual search is an advanced feature that allows users to query the AGRIS database in their own native language, retrieving also results in different languages. Let’s use again the previous example. The user queries the system using the word “稻米”. The system displays 14 results (click here to see results in AGRIS). On the right part of the results page, the user can enable the multilingual search. The user enables the multilingual search, clicks on “Go” and… the system now displays 166,143 results magically! The new set of results is composed of bibliographic references about the concept “rice”, but only 14 of them contains the Chinese word “稻米” actually!

There is also another interesting aspect, which is the absence of results after a (default) search. Our smart user wants to query AGRIS in Hindi. They decide to use the word “फसलें” (which means “crops” in English). But… the system returns 0 results. What does this mean? It’s easy, it means that there are no resources in the AGRIS database containing the word “फसलें” in the title, in the abstract, or as a keyword. Our smart user decides to enable the multilingual search. Magically, the system now displays 474,143 results! What is the meaning of the new result set? It contains all AGRIS bibliographic resources related to the concept “crops”, in all the available languages! (unfortunately, not in Hindi, as our smart user had the chance to understand)

In closing, just a technical detail about the implementation of the multilingual search. This advanced functionality relies on the AGROVOC thesaurus. When the user enables the multilingual search, the AGRIS system uses AGROVOC to translate the user’s query in all languages available in AGROVOC. Then, the AGRIS system runs a new extended query to include all the possible translations of the user’s terms!

Enjoy AGRIS!