A report of the Agricultural Data Interest Group (IGAD) activities during the RDA 8th Plenary Meeting, Denver (CO), United States

Agricultural Data Interest Group (IGAD) participated through side meetings and in the RDA 8th Plenary Meeting.

The Agricultural Data Interest Group (IGAD) was vibrant within the Research Data Alliance (RDA) 8th plenary’s umbrella of events. The RDA events were held on 15-17 September 2016 in Denver (CO), United States. This eighth edition of the RDA plenary was organised as one of the tripartite sub-events within the International Data Week (IDW) whose theme was ‘From Big Data to Open Data: Mobilizing the Data Revolution’. The other two sub-events were SciDataCon2016  (11-13 September 2016) and an International Data Forum (14 September 2016).

IGAD within the 8th RDA Plenary Meeting

The RDA 8th Plenary Meeting and related sub-events brought together data scientists, researchers, data stewards, policy makers from all disciplines with an interest in research data. Within the RDA programme and during that week, the IGAD held two major meetings. These were:

  1. IGAD: Agricultural Data and Semantics -  state of the art in North America;
  2. Joint meeting of IGAD and Wheat Data Interoperability, Rice Data Interoperability, Agrisemantics and Soil Data Interoperability Working Groups (WGs).

The IGAD panellists endeavoured to highlight the current challenges on research data management in specific domains, provided cases with examples, shared semantic solutions and reviewed policies that support these actions. Below is a summary of the two IGAD meetings that took place during that week.

IGAD breakout session: Agricultural Data and Semantics – state of the art in North America

This session was chaired by Ms Imma Subirats Coll  from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. The following panellists of this breakout group presented practice-based information centered on agricultural research data and semantics in North America, in this order:

The first panellist was Ms. Vessela Ensberg from the University of California, Davis, who presented a case study about the application of genomic data in agriculture. Her presentation covered these issues:

       (i) variation in available genome annotations; 

       (ii) discoverability, readability and re-usability of genomic data;

       (iii) methods for continued support (maintenance and updates) to databases;

       (iv) obstacles and challenges connected with term variation (due to language barriers, and variations in language across local practices) and the importance of term alignment;

       (v) variations in data consumptions and between published and archived data (due to gaps and differences in data extraction methods, and to error reporting data for a given date range).

The second panellist was Ms. Erica Mehan Johns from the Mann Library of Cornell University. She presented the  a joint effort between several key agencies within the USDA and the Mann Library at Cornell University. The USDA-ESMIS contains reports and datasets that cover both United States and international agriculture and related topics. Most data sets are in spreadsheet format and include time-series data updated yearly. In this repository, users can search for information according to geographic locations supported by geographic location ontology.

Ms. Cristina Perez (International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI) was the third panellist and she presented the data management and dissemination practices at the Communications and Knowledge Management (CKM) division of IFPRI. Echoing IFPRI’s mission statement focused on providing research-based policy solutions for low-income countries, the panellist anchored the fact that managing and disseminating open data (as public good) is at the core of IFPRI’s vision of a world free of hunger and malnutrition. The panellist further noted that by keeping up with advanced infrastructure software technologies and practices, the CKM supports knowledge creation by collecting (so far 227 public datasets are available), sharing and connecting data with open data of others. CKM believes that creating, expanding and refining new datasets contributes to development of necessary measures that supports sustainable food production, promotion of healthy food systems, as well as help to build resilience in agriculture. In this context, Ms. Perez stressed the importance ofdata curation (i.e. adding value to data, maximizing access, and ensuring long-term preservation) planning as well as data publication and dissemination planning. With this objective, CKM Division assists IFPRI’s researchers through:

       (i) developing Data Management Plans;

       (ii) connecting datasets with other products of scholarships;

       (iii) using multiple avenues of communication (‘spreading the word’) to attract attention to the published data.

The final panellist was Mr. Andres Ferreyra from the AgConnections who presented the AgGateway - a non-profit consortium of over 200 organizations dedicated to the implementation of data standards for interoperability in agriculture. AgGateway has operated for over ten years in supply-chain processes. For the last five years, AgGateway has also been active in following projects:

SPADE (interoperability in field operations, grain handling and asset management);

PAIL (interoperability in irrigation and observations & measurements), and

ADAPT (implementation of a common object model and format conversion framework).

IGAD breakout session. Joint Session IGAD and the related Working Groups (Rice, Wheat, AgriSemantics and Soil WGs)

The joint plenary meeting of IGAD and the related WGs, that is, Rice, Wheat, AgriSemantics and Soil groups had the following three parts agenda:

       (i) to report on the activities of the IGAD in the last 6 months;

       (ii) to introduce the WGs’ activities and their consolidation, and

       (iii) to present the Wheat Data Interoperability guidelines / to discuss why and how to adopt them.

While stressing the importance of symbiotic relationship between the RDA-IGAD WGs and the RDA-GODAN common goals and potential collaborations, Ms. Imma Subirats reported on the last 6 months activities of the IGAD.

Thereafter, representative presentations from Rice, Wheat, AgriSemantics and Soil Working groups followed:

On behalf of Ms. Esther Dzale from Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA)  it was highlighted the reasons for the creation of the Wheat Data Interoperability WG and explained its purpose and goals. For instance, the framework proposed by the WG consists of guidelines and tools which aim to promote the adoption of common standards, vocabularies and best practices for wheat data management. Afterwards, the panellist presented the talk entitled ’Wheat data interoperability guidelines: why and how to adopt them‘.

The Rice Research Data WG was represented by Mr. Ramil Mauleon from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) who presented on ’A Conceptual Framework and Preliminary Analysis‘.  In his presentation, the panellist highlighted:      

       (i) the important role of rice as a staple food of more than 4 billion people worldwide and that it provides 27% of the calories in low and middle-income countries;

       (ii) that the last five decades have seen the rapid development of high-throughput technologies that generate large quantities of data in basic, applied and adaptive research in rice sector;

       (iii) that a globally coordinated rice research agenda warrants building a community framework ( standard) to easily exchange research data across the globe. 

Hence, the Rice Research Data Interoperability (RDI) WG was an outcome of this realisation (within the context of RDA), keeping in view the complexities of data (also gene annotations), information, and knowledge continuum of rice sector.  The panellist then noted that the WG is working to identify relevant use cases, existing standards among rice research organizations, data formats, ontologies, standards and metadata,  in order to produce a rice data framework specification, that is, a “cookbookon how to produce ‘rice data’ that are aligned, easily sharable, reusable and interoperable across different data types. In this context, broader perspective across disciplines as well as digitizing existing information about rise research are needed.

The AgriSemantics WG was presented on behalf of Ms. Sophie Aubin from the INRA. The goal of this WG is to promote the use of semantic assets (vocabularies, taxonomies, thesauri and ontology) to support better sharing and interoperability of agricultural data. The panellist then presented the Case Statement of the Working group which was reported to be under revision by the RDA Board.

The Soil Data Interoperability WG was represented by Mr. Rainer Baritz (FAO, Global Soil Partnership/GSP secretariat) who focused his attention on ongoing work in the context of RDA and GODAN, and in particular on action plan of the Soil Data Interoperability WG. The Soil Data Interoperability WG (voted positively during RDA-Tokyo 2016) was established by 30 to 40 soil experts from Asia to promote the sharing of soil-related data through web services. To achieve pre-established goals, the WG is going to work closely with other initiatives (e.g., GSP, OGC, ISO and Soil ML Standard) related to the development of open soil standards, and to use the experience of content-related case studies supporting exchange and re-use of digital soil data.

Mr. Adam Kriesberg (the current 2016/7 RDA/US Data Share Fellow from the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and USDA-ARS National Agricultural Library) presented the investigation of the place of Research Data in Agricultural Information Access Initiatives. This presentation summarised the recently undertaken a series of projects to increase access to agricultural information such as the Global Agricultural Concept Scheme (GACS) project, an international semantic web initiative which can link to and from related controlled vocabularies, helping to build a network of agricultural information resources. Mr. Kriesberg also reported on the RDA/US Data Share Fellowship project which examines the GACS initiative and collaboration on Linked Data and semantic vocabulary projects.

The proposal of Rice and e-farming

Mr. Tomas F. Morris (Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, USA) and Mr.Nicolas Tremblay (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/Agriculture et Agroalimentaire, Canada) presented the proposal from the On-Farm Data Sharing (OFDS) WG.  While stressing the importance of networks of farmers to evaluate (through  data stewardship protocols) management practices at the field level, the panellists proposed to create a standardized (with harmonized (meta)data across data repositories)) set of open source protocols for data stewardship enabling the combining of results from many networks into one secure data pool. This latter would facilitate analyses of trusted data ‘across space and time’ by scientists,  thus providing much more useful and robust answers to many questions about crop production practices and, consequently, increasing profitability and decreasing environmental pollution caused by food production.

In this context, RDA is ready to provide its active support with:

  • advanced web tools to increase the accessibility, interoperability, and provenance tracking of research data;
  • its scalable guidelines and solutions working already for a considerable part of global infrastructure for research data.

After this discussion, a number of participants from different countries expressed their interest to join the OFDS WG, and to ‘spread the word’ about its action plan in their respective communities of practice.


While praising the healthy turnout from recent IGAD-RDA plenary meetings, participants of the IGAD Joint meeting on the RDA 8th Plenary-Denver 2016:

This IGAD meeting summarized the progress of IGAD and related WGs and highlighted the following outputs:

  • On-Farm Data Sharing (OFDS) Working Group;
  • Two capacity development online initiatives, in particular two introductory online MOOCS courses on data management, principally aimed at learners in Latin America: 

       (i) Curso en Línea “Introducción a la Gestión de Datos de Investigación”/ Experiencias con el curso en línea’Introducción a la Gestión de Datos de Investigación’

       (ii) 2ª Edición del Curso en línea ‘Introducción a la Gestión de Datos de Investigación’ 

For more information about RDA and IGAD WGs, take a look at:

Three years of IGAD: progression and evolution

RDA 8th Plenary Programme (with session recordings and links to presentations)

Focus on the Joint Meeting of IGAD on the RDA 8th Plenary

IGAD, Data Sharing and interoperability

The countdown is on to IGAD’s first pre-meeting of 2016

AgriSemantics poster - stakeholders points of view

Innovating the wheat community through the RDA services and outputs