Improving the diffusion of scientific and technical information in ACP countries
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CTA. 1988. Improving the diffusion of scientific and technical information in ACP countries. Spore 15. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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One of the factors limiting agricultural development in ACP countries is the difficult access to information on research activities and development experiences. The identification of such information sources constitutes the first step towards a...
One of the factors limiting agricultural development in ACP countries is the difficult access to information on research activities and development experiences. The identification of such information sources constitutes the first step towards a better understanding of agricultural sciences and techniques. Since CTA's prime objective is to facilitate access to agricultural information in ACP countries, it has undertaken the publication of a series of directories on information sources in the field of agriculture and rural development. The first directory dealt with information sources on tropical agriculture in EEC countries. The second which has just been published in English and French, deals with agricultural information sources in ACP countries. Produced with the cooperation of CAB-lnternational in the UK and the International Documentation Centre for Agriculture in Hot Regions (CIDARC) in France, it fulfills two objectives. First, it is a guide for researchers, trainers, extension workers, planners and documentalists engaged in information searches. Second, it helps to promote information exchanges among different ACP countries and between them and EEC countries. It can also help decision-makers to plan their national policies. This directory includes 337 agricultural information services (libraries, documentation centres, bibliographic databases and documentation networks), research institutes, teaching establishments and development organizations in ACP countries. It deals with all agricultural sectors: agronomic research, teaching and extension work, rural sociology and economics, animal and vegetable production, forestry, aquatic sciences and fishing, agricultural equipment, natural resources, food and nutrition sciences and the environment (a classification of these information services by field is given in Table 1). Apart from the directory itself, which is classified by country in alphabetical order, this publication includes an index of the main fields covered by each centre and a list of acronyms. Each entry includes the name of the information service followed by that of its parent organization, its address, date of establishment, and the name and title of the person to contact in addition to the staff numbers. It specifies the field of interest of the centre, its geographical coverage, its documentation resources, its users, the goods and services that it provides, its budget and its documentation cooperation service. The index was inspired primarily by that used by AGROVOC, the multilingual thesaurus of agricultural terminology and the categories used by AGRIS. The detailed analysis of the data contained in this directory reveals the current situation of agricultural documentation in ACP countries. It shows that the first agricultural information services date from the last century. The Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture created its national agricultural library in 1876. Since the 1920s, the number of such centres has increased rapidly. At the current rate, one can hope to see more than 500 agricultural information sources in ACP countries by the year 2000 A geographical breakdown of this data reveals a strong development in West Africa which hosts more than 36% of the agricultural information services of ACP countries (see Table 3). Documentation centres appear to be concentrated mainly in the capitals to the detriment of rural areas which would make much-later use of such information. These centres offer traditional services: providing bibliographic searches, summary reviews, lists of documents received, and catalogues of publications and periodicals as well as services for selected diffusion of information and for bibliographic searches. However, the summaries and progress reports receive relatively little attention despite the fact that they are highly regarded by 'information consumers'. The same is the case for the services of consolidation, evaluation and updating of information. It is true that researchers, teachers and students, who are the main users of these information services, are capable of doing such summaries and analyses themselves. Nevertheless, the demand for summarized information remains high. The dearth of such material is due in part to the lack of competent staff The collections of these information services are, generally speaking, relatively modest. Some centres, however, do have significant documentation resources. On average, each one contains 3217 books, 1534 reports, 375 publications of the parent organization 169 periodical titles and 495 microfiches. As far as equipment is concerned even though ACP countries are the least computerized, it is reassuring to learn that nearly a third of the information services have microcomputers although of many different brands. This diversity of equipment, which also applies to software, is no doubt a result of supply and demand but it creates problems of compatability which makes it difficult to exchange data needed for documentary cooperation. An analysis of such data also reveals that there is a greater reproduction capacity than previously thought. If only 7.4% of the information services have their own microfilm reproduction workshops, 55% of the centres have microfilm or microfiche readers. Finally, the most significant phenomenon in the development of information services in ACP countries over the last decade has been the emergence of documentation networks and the exchange of information and experiences. All of the synergies and economies of scale have been exploited: interlibrary loans development of collective catalogues for periodicals and reference works, standardization of working methods, and promotion of the exploitation of their documentation capital. National sectoral networks have emerged in the Congo (REDICA), Cote d'lvoire (REDACT) and Senegal (REDAS). At regional level, the approach taken has been the establishment of a network reflecting the major socioeconomic and geopolitical concerns. One notes the presence of PADIS, oriented towards socioeconomic development in Africa of POPIN-AFRICA oriented towards the population problems of this continent, and RESADOC in Mali which is primarily concerned with problems related to drought, desertification and environmental protection. At the international level, AGRIS and CARIS remain the main global information systems. The establishment of these networks, no matter what their level, in conjunction with the use of computerized facilities, clearly shows the vitality of the documentation supply in ACP countries. It is certain, however, that these structures remain fragile and do not get sufficient attention or support. A new item must be added to the priorities of these centres: the analysis of agricultural information to provide products that respond better to the real needs of users for summarized documents. In this field, as in many others, the availability of human resources will be the determining factor. For more details, contact: Thiendou Niang. Director Documentation Service CTA
- CTA Spore (English)