More publishers provide access to scientific information for developing country researchers
AGORA user base climbs, greater outreach envisioned as more countries participate
18 February 2005, Rome - The AGORA initiative to provide free or low-cost scientific information to researchers and students in developing countries, now in its second year, has seen a significant increase in user participation as more publishers have agreed to provide online access to scientific journals on food and agriculture.
The content available through the AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) Web site now comprises more than 700 key journals in food, nutrition, agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences, providing a vital service to researchers, students and others in the scientific community in developing countries and countries in transition.
To date, 405 institutions in 55 countries have registered to use AGORA's extensive online resources. In addition, 14 new publishers have joined the initiative, bringing to 23 the total number of publishing partners providing access to their journals.
FAO and its partners are seeking to increase participation from users and publishers even further, and are reaching out to those countries that, as yet, have no subscribers. Currently, 69 countries, generally with an annual gross national income per capita of US$1000 or less, are eligible to participate in AGORA.
A number of promotional activities are already under way. A new set of outreach materials is currently being developed, including informational pamphlets and posters, which libraries in eligible countries have agreed to display to increase awareness of the initiative. In addition, participating publishers are being encouraged to feature the AGORA logo on their Web sites and in their publications. The initiative is also being promoted at major conferences in both developed and developing countries through exhibits and the distribution of information materials.
Partners in the AGORA initiative, and a parallel initiative for human health, HINARI, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), gathered in London recently to take stock of progress to date and discuss the way forward. The meeting was attended by representatives of the publishing partners, FAO, WHO and their collaborators, including Cornell University, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Yale University.
Participants discussed such issues as improvements to the AGORA Web site, training, promotion, and evaluation of the initiative's impact.
FAO has already organized a series of regional training workshops and is now developing an online training package on how to use AGORA, which will be distributed to institutions registering for access.
"The AGORA model has proved very successful, and a number of organizations have expressed interest in replicating it for use in other fields," says Anton Mangstl, Director of FAO's Library and Documentation Systems Division. "One proposal currently under discussion is to apply the tools developed for AGORA to increase access to environmental information."
Since its launch in October 2003, the AGORA initiative has also resonated among policy-makers, as was evidenced during the closing ceremony of a training workshop in Tanzania in November 2004 at which the Honourable Charles Keenya, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Tanzania, called on participants to take advantage of the opportunity presented by AGORA's online resources and to make sure that they shared their new skills in accessing them with their colleagues in their workplaces.
"Our development partners have not only shown the way but also assisted in very practical ways as this workshop demonstrates," he said. "We are therefore bound to make maximum use of this opportunity. Our research and training efforts in agriculture stand to benefit quite a lot."
Information Officer, FAO
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