One of the major things that happened in Agroknow last year, was the introduction of a brand new service for supporting the data processing workflows of FAO’s AGRIS. Following a strategic partnership that was introduced in September 2014 by the teams of FAO, Agroknow and CAAS working together on the first version of AGINFRA, our team took over the AGRIS Data Processing workflow: this practically means being responsible for all tasks related to the communication with the institutions that wish to make their information discoverable through AGRIS.

In May 2015, we announced the launch of a new online platform that would replace the way that communication and request handling took place by that time: the so-called AKstem service. The new service aimed to replace the way that the more than 250 registered institutions and their information managers communicated with the AGRIS Data Processing team until then, with plenty of e-mails, phone calls and huge XML file attachments. It followed up on the introduction of a CRM system to help manage and track the progress of requests, that the Agroknow team introduced for AGRIS in 2014. And it was pivotal towards making the communication of AGRIS Data Providers with the Data Processing Unit a more simple, easy and transparent process.

Today, more than 6 months after putting the new service in place, I would like to personally thank (on behalf of the Agroknow team) all AGRIS data providers for their patience and support. During these months, we have collected very useful feedback that has helped us extend, revise and evolve the platform, in order to meet the data publication needs of such a large group of people and institutions around the world. And we plan to keep on doing so during 2016, by introducing new features to the service that will hopefully make the process even more simple, as well as add more value to what we can offer to the served community.

Beware, beta testers ahead. Trying out their AKstem-powered micro-sites

One of the main challenges of this transition was the promise to keep AGRIS Data Processing an open and free service: operating on our own resources and effort, our commitment was (and still remains) is to provide to any institution, no matter their size, location or budget, the possibility to make their scientific work and outcomes discoverable through  AGRIS at no cost. In parallel, we are trying to find ways in which we can offer to our users extra value to their work – such as by introducing customised discovery micro-sites through which institutions may offer a view into their collections.

So what should we expect in 2016? Well, a major improvement will be making our processing, update and publication cycles faster. As AGRIS Data Processing is a free service, the rate at which our team is able to respond to new requests, process the metadata records of collections, and complete a full ingestion cycle, is limited by our workload and availability. Our standard practice is that updated information is included in the FAO AGRIS search engine every three (3) months; we want to ensure that we carefully follow all the steps related to proper processing, transforming and harmonising all these data sources. But we also want to find out if it would be possible to make publication cycles faster for institutions that would be interested and willing to pay a small fee for such a premium service. This would help us put in place a fair and transparent business model that would respect the fact that we need to keep AGRIS Data Processing open and free. Plus, we would also be interested to explore how the AGRIS Data Processing workflow can be generalised and used for any type of research information indexing and publication through the new AGINFRA infrastructure – and especially research data sets.

Thus, we celebrate our wins of 2015, but we are also looking into the challenges of 2016 and how we can address them in the cool, calm and confident way that we work. Good times ahead, for both the AGRIS network and the team of Agroknow