I have been working with the Agricultural Information Management (AIMS) team at the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN since 2007. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to give an interview to the AIMS team on the use of data registries to facilitate interoperability across different systems.

Tell us something about your role in the agINFRA project

I have been involved in agINFRA since its initial conception: I worked on the design of the project and the grant application; I am following the project activities closely; and now I am very much interested in the sustainability and further evolution of its outcomes. I see agINFRA as a strategic initiative that helps us build some core components of a common data e-infrastructure for agriculture, rather than yet-another- European-project.

How do you see the role of the CIARD RING in the agINFRA project

My feeling is that the CIARD RING is the essential data registry backbone of agINFRA. It is the back end platform that everyone (humans or software systems) can use to search for, discover and access agricultural data repositories and sets. agINFRA’s contribution is in the evolution and modernization of the RING so that it can become a global resource, linking together other data registries and catalogues. It is also the initial proof of concept for a registry of software services (either back end processing ones or front end applications) of relevance to agricultural research and development. Ideally, I would also like some part of the RING to also store information about the computing and storage resources available to agricultural researchers: that is, a registry of data centers that contribute part of their capacity in order to offer free cloud hosting or grid computing power to agricultural data processing, management & visualization applications.

How would you say that the agricultural open data community can benefit from the CIARD RING?

I believe that the RING should take advantage of the pivotal role that the CIARD movement is having in the community and become a meta-registry that will help people discover agricultural data sources and sets wherever they reside. It should federate with other data registries and become a data discovery service that humans but also software systems can use to discover and access agricultural data from around the world. I would like to see relevant data sets from the United States of America (e.g. http://www.data.gov/food/ or http://open.fda.gov), the United Kingdom (http://data.gov.uk), the Netherlands (http://www.agrimeetsdesign.com/polderhack/polderhack-open-data/) being listed there. I would like to see research project, group and even individual data sets being listed there. I would like to see services back to the federated catalogues, such as informing a thematic registry like FarmSubsidy (http://farmsubsidy.openspending.org) about new data that has been published on its topics of interest somewhere else.

Can you give us a practical example of how a service can use(s) the RING data?

My favorite example is an already running one: FAO’s AGRIS search service (http://agris.fao.org). More than 250 data providers are part of the AGRIS network offering bibliographic data sets on a wide range of relevant topics. Apart from the fact that the AGRIS data ingestion and processing workflow is now operating on data sources that are registered in the RING, I could also think of customized search services for scientific literature and data on particular regions or topics; any type of such service can use the RING as their source catalog and starting point, even today.

What do you think would be the appropriate next steps to make the RING more effective?

My vision of CIARD RING is a bit broader than a registry of some data or services for agricultural research and development. I would like to see it becoming the global meta-registry of agricultural information in an open and linked manner, which will allow us to discover almost all relevant entities and sources. I would like to see the RING of the future becoming a big data indexing service as an open, scalable platform that: will catalog all relevant information entities; will make all information machine readable and discoverable; will allow information providers express how, with whom, under which license and for which purposes they share this info; will make funding & resource use transparent for donors and the public; will coordinate, consolidate and harmonize data & technology sharing among agricultural sectors and user communities; and will eventually help people utilize the collective power of information to solve more societal challenges, better. My future RING would not try to compete with or replace existing agricultural catalogs, services or aggregators: it would rather power them with all the information that they need to serve their users.

Link to the original interview: aims.fao.org