14 October 2003, Rome -- Students, researchers and academics in some of the world's poorest countries will gain free or low-cost access to a wealth of scientific literature under a new initiative announced today by FAO and a range of public and private sector partners.

The AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) initiative will provide access to more than 400 key journals in food, nutrition, agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences.

The demand for scientific literature in developing countries has gone unfulfilled for many years. Gaining access to current scientific information has become a daily struggle for thousands of students, researchers and academics.

A promising example

While students are unable to access the literature and acquire the knowledge they need, researchers and academics are confronted with mounting difficulties in publishing their findings in peer-reviewed journals, updating their teaching curricula and identifying funding.

"The AGORA initiative is a promising example of the International Alliance Against Hunger in action," according to Anton Mangstl, Director of FAO's Library and Documentation Systems Division.

International Alliance Against Hunger is the theme of this year's World Food Day - 16 October - which marks the anniversary of FAO.

"By bringing together bilateral agencies, UN agencies, private foundations and international scientific publishers, AGORA demonstrates that the public and private sectors can work together to build greater momentum towards building a world without hunger," Mr. Mangstl said.

International cooperation

Founding publishers of AGORA are : Blackwell Publishing ; CABI Publishing ; Elsevier ; Kluwer Academic Publishers ; Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; Nature Publishing Group ; Oxford University Press ; Springer Verlag ; and John Wiley and Sons.

Funding and support is also provided by Cornell University Mann Library, Rockefeller Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development.

Eric Swanson, Senior Vice-President of John Wiley and Sons, Inc, and Chair of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers said: "There can be few things more satisfying to a scientific publisher than to contribute to a practical program to make valuable information easily available in places where it will be used to improve health, nutrition and education of the world's poor."

"I look forward to working with FAO, academic institutions and the computing and telecommunications industries to make this important initiative live up to its full potential," Mr. Swanson also said.

"FAO is committed to strengthening capacity for knowledge generation and dissemination as a contribution to achievement of the goals of the International Alliance Against Hunger and as a follow-up to the World Food Summit," Mr. Mangstl stated.

The AGORA website has been developed in close cooperation between FAO and Cornell University, with funding provided by the Rockefeller Foundation, based on tools and systems developed by WHO for a similar service in health called HINARI.

Pierre Antonios
FAO Media Relations Officer
(+39) 06 570 53473