AGRIS: increasing its activity in ACP countries
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CTA. 1987. AGRIS: increasing its activity in ACP countries. Spore 12. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44771
The International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS) is one of the world's largest agricultural informat~on systems and the only one which has tried to give equal emphasis to the needs of developing and developed...
The International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS) is one of the world's largest agricultural informat~on systems and the only one which has tried to give equal emphasis to the needs of developing and developed countries. It became operational in 1975 and now consists of 128 national and 18 regional or international centres. As a 'mission-oriented' organization, the scope of AGRIS is very broad, covering not only all aspects of agricultural development, but rural development and sociology, training and extension, nutrition and even pollution when it is caused by or affects agricultural production. The basic keyword in defining AGRIS is 'cooperative'. Each national centre is encouraged to submit bibliographic data originating from within its borders in return for access to the entire AGRIS data base. Although a cost-effective mechanism for collecting documents on a global scale, the weakness lies in the fact that if some countries do not or cannot contribute, their information is lost to other users. AGRIS is coordinated by FAO through the AGRIS Coordinating Centre (ACC) located in Rome with a Processing Unit at the IAEA in Vienna. Every two years a Technical Consultation is held to which all AGRIS participants are invited. The recommendations of this session form the basis for the operations and development of the system. When AGRIS was founded many developing countries who became members had no suitable infrastructure for making agricultural information available within their borders, let alone outside. By insisting on reciprocity in providing information, AGRIS catalyzed the development of national capabilities to develop and use agricultural information The main working tool of AGRIS is the Agrindex which is now printed in French, Spanish and English. There are also cumulative indexes and Agrindex abstracts on microfiche. The AGRIS magnetic tape distribution service, an on-line system for searching from remote locations, and the SDI service round out the ist of standard services. Special products include national and topical bibliographies. AGRIS also has an extensive training programme. In order to overcome the problems inherent in simplified indexing and to increase accessibility to users in non-English speaking countries, a joint AGRIS/CEC project has resulted in the development of a multilingual thesaurus called AGROVOC. It not only makes multilingual searching of the data base possible but for the first time, it provides a true subject index. AGRIS has always emphasized its relationship with the developing world, and has had particular success in Asia and Latin America. Although the situation has recently improved, only about half of the ACP countries are now participating actively. To date, they have contributed only one third of one percent of the data currently available in the system. If input to the system is one way of gauging the benefits being obtained from it, we must assume that ACP countries, at least in the past, have made very little use of AGRIS. Communication barriers must have prevented many ACP countries from playing a more active role in AGRIS. As noted above, a French edition of Agrindex is now being published and should make a substantial contribution to the use of AGRIS in francophone countries. Work is also pro greasing on an AGRIS CDROM which should be particularly useful for ACP countries. The recent emergence of regional AGRIS networks in the Caribbean and Pacific regions is also an encouraging sign. We in AGRIS are now looking forward to a period of increasing agricultural information activity in ACP countries. CTA is taking an active part in making new ideas and methods a reality in these countries and the AGRIS family will do what it can to support such activities. For more details, contact: A. Lebowitz, AGRIS/FAO Via della Terme di Caracalla 00100 Rome Italy CORRIGENDUM: An editing error in our CD-ROM article (Spore 9) resulted in an unintended criticism of the indexing quality of AGRIS. It was based on a 1986 paper written before AGROVOC was introduced