Successful collaboration on AGROVOC between FAO and University of Rome Tor Vergata (Italy)

Since the 1980s, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) manages and publishes the AGROVOC Multilingual Thesaurus, which thematically covers FAO’s areas of interest with more than 39 000 concepts and 800 000 terms organized hierarchically. When launched, AGROVOC was made available in three languages – English, Spanish and French – and its purpose was to serve as a terminology for the indexing of publications in agricultural science and technology. AGROVOC has now been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and 35 non-FAO languages.

Currently, AGROVOC is a valuable instrument for data to be classified homogeneously, fostering interoperability and reuse in information systems. In recent years, an increasing number of information systems in food and agriculture utilize AGROVOC for a broad range of uses, including indexing geospatial and statistical data. By using AGROVOC, organizations strengthen data interoperability across its different databases and knowledge systems, spanning multiple languages and domains, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding information silos.

An essential part of the AGROVOC e-infrastructure is the collaborative editing platform VocBench, a free and open-source collaboration environment for creating and maintaining Knowledge Organization Systems such as thesauri, code lists, ontologies and taxonomies. VocBench is managed by the ART (Artificial Intelligence Research) Group of the University of Tor Vergata, in Rome. VocBench is currently being used by several organizations, such as UNESCO, the European Commission and the Senate of the Italian Republic. Furthermore, VocBench has acquired much more visibility and potential for adoption since it became the reference platform of the European Union, recommended by the European Commission to  its member states for the collaborative management of open data repositories.

Since 2018, FAO has established an official collaboration with the University of Tor Vergata to assure professional services related to the hosting and maintenance of FAO services for knowledge management, publication and fruition of the AGROVOC thesaurus. This cooperation has brought tremendous successful results with a substantial increase of the use of AGROVOC during the last years, with more than 36 million accesses in 2020. Due to the improved reliability of the technical infrastructure, provided by the University of Tor Vergata, FAO has been able to enhance the accessibility and visibility of AGROVOC globally and also strengthen the collaboration with other stakeholders. Up to 25 national and international organizations worldwide support the language and thematic coverage of AGROVOC through an editorial community.