AGROVOC Editorial Community Meeting 2021 Final Report

More than 50 participants representing 30 institutions from 29 countries: this was the Fourth AGROVOC Editorial Community Meeting specifically organized for the community of editors and held online on 29 June 2021.

The meeting aimed to update the AGROVOC editorial community on the achievements of the first half of 2021 and discuss the new, revised version of the AGROVOC  Editorial Guidelines 2020. It followed the previous AGROVOC meeting held in January 2021 which highlighted the achievements and agreed on new developments and activities for the months to come: the AGROVOC Editorial Guidelines review, technical e-infrastructure improvements, new Vocbench developments, new SPARQL endpoint, and the AGROVOC brochure published in 26 languages.

To close the event, the AGROVOC editorial guidelines taskforce presented recommendations on definitions, alignments, scientific names, and updated the participants on the Agrontology revision 2021.

Figure 1. Participants at the Fourth AGROVOC Editorial Community Meeting. Source: FAO, 2021

Main highlights

AGROVOC editorial community. Institutions contributing to the thesaurus are now in evidence on the new AGROVOC editorial partners pages. 24 organizations and networks are currently part of the AGROVOC editorial community and nine new AGROVOC editors from seven institutions have joined it in the first half of 2021. 

Usage growth. In the first five months of 2021 there were almost  29 840 000 accesses to single resources, with a monthly average of 5.97 million, including searches from 25 least-developed countries (LDCs). The combined projected use for the year 2021 is expected to exceed 71 million accesses (an overview of AGROVOC statistics is available here). 

Figure 2. Total number of accesses to multiple resources from 2019 to May 2021. Source: FAO, 2021

Stronger e-infrastructure. AGROVOC has been moved to a new e-infrastructure under, gathering websites and access points, including the target="_blank"website in the six FAO languages. A new domain is now in place for the Skosmos interface for searching and browsing, for the REST APIs, for the editing tool VocBench and for the SPARQL endpoint. FAO is also strengthening the access to the AGROVOC services by making them more accessible and easier to use. 

In addition, FAO started to use the CKAN data management system to share releases of AGROVOC. The FAO CKAN instance has a broad collection of datasets from various FAO departments, and sharing the AGROVOC releases on CKAN is expected to support the search of datasets with a better metadata quality.

AGROVOC outreach. Several new activities were launched in the course of 2021. Among them, the Concept of the month and the new AGROVOC editorial partners pages highlight and welcome the participation and contributions from institutions in the AGROVOC editorial network. Editors are encouraged to publish news and articles to make their work more visible, and to translate the AGROVOC brochure in their own language. News is also shared through the monthly FAO AIMS newsletter and the increased use of social media, such as @FAOAIMS Twitter account and a recently created Twitter list for AGROVOC editors. Last but not least, the book “AGROVOC: Semantic data interoperability on food and agriculture” was published earlier this year.

Capacity development Capacity development activities to train both new and expert community members have been delivered to the AGROVOC Editorial Community in the first half of 2021 and will continue in the following month (on SPARQL queries and Agrontology). The AGROVOC editorial community will continue to support translations and definitions for the sub-vocabularies.  

Agrontology. The AGROVOC Editorial Guidelines 2021 will include more information on the Agrontology, a support ontology for AGROVOC. A condensed version of the Agrontology will be introduced for use by AGROVOC editors within VocBench later in 2021.


Figure 3. Participants at the Fourth AGROVOC Editorial Community Meeting. Source: FAO, 2021

Sub-schemes of AGROVOC. Three vocabularies are currently sub-schemes of FAO AGROVOC thesaurus: LandVoc (Land Portal Foundation), ASFA Thesaurus (FAO) and FAOLEX Legislative and Policy concepts (FAO). The Land Portal Foundation looks forward to translating LandVoc to new languages and to reinforce the collaboration between the land community and the wider agriculture sector. ASFA highlighted its positive experiences and how its thesaurus improved after joining the AGROVOC editorial community and using VocBench. The vocabulary has improved considerably from a technical point of view, passing from English only to a multilingual, semantically enabled thesaurus.

LandVoc Workshop. In conjunction with the Fourth AGROVOC Editorial Community Meeting, a successful LandVoc Workshop was held 28 June 2021: Exploring the Development, Promotion and Impact of AGROVOC . This successful workshop explored: 

  • Consultation and engagement in (sub-)vocabulary development
  • Communication strategies to improve awareness of vocabularies and their use, including learning from the LandVoc communications campaign
  • How to communicate the connection between AGROVOC sub-vocabularies and AGROVOC
  • Supporting (sub-)vocabulary use. 

New CGIAR taskforce. A new CGIAR taskforce on AGROVOC has been established dedicated to data and publications, and it will suggest new concepts for the FAO multilingual thesaurus. FAO has also started new cooperations with IITA, Bioversity-CIAT, ILRI, IFPRI and ICARDA to join forces to increase interoperability between food and agricultural information systems. 

Panel session on content development of thesauri. During the Editorial Community Meeting, a panel session was organized with partnering organizations to explore what are the methodologies to develop and assess content of thesauri and ontologies/KOS. The panel included representatives from EuroVoc (Aniko Gerencser, Publications Office of the European Union), NALT (Jennifer Woodward-Greene, USDA ARS National Agricultural Library), Crop Ontology project of the Generation Challenge Programme (Elizabeth Arnaud, CGIAR), UNESCO Thesaurus (Bettina Dietinger and Meron Ewketu, UNESCO) and AGROVOC (Imma Subirats, FAO) and was chaired by Daniel Martini, KTBL. Participants agreed on the importance of quantitative and qualitative usage analysis to define content development strategies, with a strong interest in documenting use cases. Connections should be maintained and synergies between like-minded thesari be explored, as well as information exchange between organizations managing thesauri should continue. More information about the session is available here.

40 years of AGROVOC 1981-2021. In 2021 AGROVOC turns 40, and during these four decades it has evolved considerably in scope, languages, community involvement and technology. A social media campaign on Twitter, #AGROVOC40, and a call for use cases provided some interesting examples of how AGROVOC is used in different contexts and celebrated this important anniversary.