Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The AGORA initiative celebrates its first anniversary

Thailand, 16 Mar 2005 -- The AGORA initiative to provide free or low-cost science journals was launched on October 14, 2003 and in its first year of existence has seen significant increase in user participation as more publishers have agreed to provide online access to scientific journals on food and agriculture.

The partners involved in the AGORA initiative gathered in London for the HINARI-AGORA Partners Meeting on 29th November 2004 to take stock of progress to date and reviewed future prospects of AGORA and the parallel initiative for human health, HINARI. The meeting was attended by twenty representatives of the publishing partners, and by representatives of FAO and WHO and their collaborators. The agenda included issues such as: review of status, improvements to the website, training, promotion, and evaluation of impact.

To date, 400 institutions in 55 countries - from the 69 countries eligible - have registered to use AGORA’s valuable online resources. Moreover, eleven publishers have joined the initiative in addition to the nine founding publisher partners. The content available through AGORA now comprises almost 600 key journals in food, nutrition, agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences. This is making a significant impact on researchers, students and others in the scientific community in developing countries and countries in transition. In fact, FAO and its partners such as Cornell University are seeking to increase participation from users and publishers even further, and are reaching out to those countries which, as of yet, have no subscribers. It was also agreed that particular attention needs to be paid to improving accessibility of AGORA content for organizations with poor connectivity.

In its first year of existence, the AGORA initiative has also resonated among policy-makers, as was evidenced during the closing ceremony of a training workshop which took place in Tanzania in November 2004 at which the Honourable Charles Keenya, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Tanzania, said:

"My call is to all participants to take advantage of this opportunity and make sure that they carry the new skills on accessing electronic resources to their colleagues back at their workplaces.....Our development partners have not only shown the way but also assisted in very practical ways as this workshop demonstrates. We are therefore bound to make maximum use of this opportunity. Our research and training effort in agriculture stand to benefit quite a lot."

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