Highlights from the Expert consultation in Beijing on Building the CIARD Framework for Data and Information Sharing
The international expert consultation organized in June 20-23 2011 in Beijing by the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) (http://www.ciard.net) partners advanced the development of a framework for data and information sharing and exchange for Agricultural Research for Development (ARD). Nearly 50 experts from around the world identified priority actions for the development of the framework, drawing on the findings of an e-consultation on the subject held in April on the E-Agriculture community site (http://www.e-agriculture.org/en/forums/forum-archive/e-consultation-ciard-framework-data-and-information-sharing). The event was hosted by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS), and supported by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
The fast-developing Web constantly brings forward new means to share and exchange data universally. Some initiatives demonstrated at the IEC such as Vivo (http://vivoweb.org/) and the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Humboldt_Squid) which construct information through interoperable data. Such resources show how ARD can also benefit from these advances in technology and satisfy the information needs of the agricultural community from scientists, policy makers to resource poor smallholder producers.
Participants at the consultation agreed that the current key concept in data and information sharing for is interoperability based on Linked Open Data. Interoperable data/information can easily be retrieved, processed, re-used, and re-packaged (“operated”) by other systems, and Linked Data (http://linkeddata.org/) approaches use the Web to connect related resources that weren't previously linked. The “Open Data” movement ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Data) aims to make data freely available to everyone, and the CIARD movement shares this ideal and is working to make agricultural research information publicly available and accessible to all. There was recognition among participants that achieving the ideal objective of sharing all global data as “Interoperatable Linked Open Data” will be a gradual process that will develop in stages at a varying pace in different organizations and countries.
The Beijing consultation examined in some detail the three main areas that need to be resolved in building the framework for data and information, namely (a) harnessing of the rapidly evolving technologies around linked open data concepts; (b) provision of organizational support so that interoperable linked data is openly available, and (c) advocacy for and emergence of a coherent global community involved in agricultural innovation and that shares and uses data appropriately.
The Expert Consultation also recognized that collaboration and partnerships at various levels worldwide are key to effective sharing of data and information for agricultural innovation. Building trust and institutional structures to bring this collaboration and partnerships must be a part of the framework. Information and communications management (ICM) in agriculture is poor globally with low investment and weak capacities, and the framework will contribute to strengthening ICM.
Photos from the event are available on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gfar/sets/72157626996718431/