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  • 1. Agricultural Information Networks in Zambia (ZAR4DIN) and Ghana (GAINS) Valeria Pesce Information Management Specialist Global Forum on Agricultural Research GFAR Secretariat Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, Italy Email: valeria.pesce@fao.org Dr. Justin Chisenga Knowledge and Information Management Officer Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Africa Accra, Ghana Email: justin.chisenga@fao.org Joel Sam Director Institute for Scientific and Technological Information Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Accra, Ghana Email: egy28@yahoo.co.uk Davy Simumba Principal Biometrician Zambia Agriculture Research Institute Mount Makulu Central Research Station Chilanga, Zambia Email: simumba08085@alumni.itc.nlAbstractIn many developing countries, much of the output of Agricultural Research forDevelopment (AR4D) is in the form of grey literature and rarely gets distributed outsidethe research organizations. Many agricultural organizations face constraints relating to 1
  • 2. institutional capacities, human capacities and inadequate infrastructure. This paperillustrates how working towards adopting appropriate institutional policies, contentmanagement methodologies, and information sharing approaches that follow the“Pathways to Research Uptake” proposed by the Coherence in Information forAgricultural Research for Development (CIARD) initiative, could contribute to thedevelopment and strengthening of integrated agricultural research information systemsin the countries. The focus of the paper is on two cases: the Ghana AgriculturalInformation Network System (GAINS) and the Zambia Agricultural Research forDevelopment Information Network (ZAR4DIN). More in detail, the paper looks at theinformation management standards adopted, the tools used to manage and shareinformation resources and the arrangements for information flow between institutionaldata providers and the national portal in Ghana and Zambia.Keywords: information systems, information networks, institutional repositories,information management tools, research outputs, Ghana, Zambia1. BackgroundAgricultural Research for Development (AR4D) and the knowledge generated from suchresearch are essential catalysts for accelerating agricultural production development ina country. Efficient provision of access to relevant and timely AR4D information toresearch scientists contributes to quality research through which a country is able toselect appropriate technologies, which if applied can help productivity, and thuscontribute to the overall growth of the country’s economy.In many developing countries, much of the AR4D output is in the form of grey literatureand rarely gets distributed outside the research organizations. Although, today manyopportunities are provided by the new information and communication technologies(ICTs), to make the outputs of AR4D visible outside the owner institution, manyagricultural organizations in developing countries face constraints such as:lack of resources and information and communication management policies andstrategies (institutional capacities); andlack of awareness of the opportunities presented by modern ICTs and of standards andmethods to make information more accessible (human capacities).These issues of lack of institutional capacities, human capacities and little awareness ofstandards and technologies to make information accessible are the rationale behind theprinciples set forward by the CIARD initiative1, which aims at making agriculturalresearch information publicly available and accessible to all.In particular, experts working under CIARD have developed a set of “Pathways toResearch Uptake”2. The Pathways illustrate and recommend institutional policies,content management methodologies and information sharing approaches that helpmake research outputs visible and more accessible. This paper illustrates how theGhana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS) and the Zambia Agricultural 2
  • 3. Research for Development Information Network (ZAR4DIN) projects adopted some ofthe recommended “paths” and contributed to the development of an integratedagricultural information system in the respective countries.1.1Ghana Agricultural Information Network SystemIn Ghana, the need to disseminate agricultural information to all the major stakeholdersin the sector led to the establishment of the Ghana Agricultural Information NetworkSystem (GAINS) in 1991. GAINS comprises a network of libraries that include all theagricultural based research institutes of the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch (CSIR), the faculties of agriculture of the publicly funded universities, theMinistry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), and the Biotechnology and NuclearAgricultural Research Institute, with a Coordinating centre at the CSIR-Institute forScientific and Technological Information (INSTI). A first portal was built in 2003, but in2008 it was agreed to improve on the provision of online access to agricultural sciencesand technology (AS&T) information generated in Ghana through the re-design of theGAINS portal, which was completed in 2010 under the Ghana AGRIS Pilot Project(GAPP). The GAINS member institutions on the GAPP were the CSIR-INSTI, the CocoaResearch Institute of Ghana (CRIG), the CSIR Forestry Research Institute of Ghana(FORIG), the CSIR Food Research Institute (FRI), the CSIR Animal Research Institute(ARI), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture Information Resource Centre (MOFAIR), andthe College of Agriculture Education (Ashanti-Mampong) of the University of Education,Winneba.1.2 Zambia Agricultural Research for Development Information NetworkThe Zambia Agricultural Research for Development Information Network (ZAR4DIN)project was launched in January 2010. The main goal of the ZAR4DIN project was todevelop a national network of institutions and individuals involved in AR4D informationgeneration, management, dissemination and exchange in order to facilitate access toAR4D information, including metadata and full-text documents, through interlinkedinstitutional repositories accessible through a national AR4D portal. The pilot institutionson the project have been the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), theNational Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) and the NationalAgricultural Information Services (NAIS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.What the GAPP and ZAR4DIN have in common is that they both aimed at: a) creating(or strengthening) a network of research institutions and information managers in theirrespective countries; b) enabling research institutions to manage their research outputsappropriately; c) making research outputs owned by individual institutions accessiblethrough a national portal and through international bibliographic databases. 3
  • 4. 2. Institutional networks and information architecture2.1 Institutional policies: towards open accessThe GAINS implemented a series of strategies aimed at gaining support for its activitiestowards opening access to agricultural research information and digitization initiatives.These included:  Introducing the CIARD Manifesto and Values to the Committee of Directors of the CSIR research institutes in February 2009. The bulk of GAINS member institutions are CSIR agricultural-based research institutes.  Institutional seminars on opening access to public domain agricultural scientific and technical information in three pilot institutions at which participantsincluded research scientists and management. The objectives of the seminars were to discuss issues relating to open access initiatives in Ghana, to review global initiatives such as CIARD Initiative, and to discuss ways to improve visibility, accessibility, quality, and impact of agricultural sciences and technology information in Ghana.  A workshop on Open Access for representatives of the pilot institutions to create awareness on the concept of public domain literature and open access publishing.  A seminar on Copyright Management and Institutional Repositories to sensitize information technology specialists, librarians, information managers, research managers and research scientists on copyright issues that may affect provision of access to information resources in an institutional repository and introduce them to SHERPA-RoMEO facilities and Creative Commons Licensing system;  However, while the CSIR Committee of Directors appreciated the CIARD initiative, formal support for CIARD manifesto and values are yet to be declared at the institutional level. Plans are underway to visit the institutes to discuss what is expected of them when they participate in the CIARD initiative.On a positive note, MOFAIR, all the institutions participating in the GAPP projectdeveloped institutional policies and strategies for information and communicationmanagement (ICM). These were developed through a series of write-shops hosted bythe institutions. The write-shop approach ensured that a lot more people were involvedin the process and staff in the institutions drafted and finalized the policy and strategydocuments. Overall, the policies support the management and dissemination ofinformation in digital formats.GAINS, as a network, also developed its information and communicationmanagement/technology (ICM/T) policies and strategies, which are more favourable toopening access to agricultural sciences and technical information generated in Ghana.These include strategies to: 4
  • 5.  develop mechanisms for collection of agriculture information in electronic format;  develop institutional repositories of metadata and full-text documents of agricultural information resources;  support national, regional, and international initiatives aimed at opening up access to agricultural information resourcesThe launching of the GAINS ICM/T policy and strategy document by the CSIR Director-General during the national conference on “Knowledge Sharing in the Agriculture andRural Development Sector in Ghana”, in February 2009, showed the commitment of theCSIR senior management to the initiatives on managing and disseminating ofinformation in digital formats, and its preparedness to support the initiatives. The CSIRsenior management further confirmed its commitment when it adopted a proposalpresented by the Director of CSIR-INSTI on its digitization initiatives during a meeting ofCSIR Directors in 2010 for implementation in the rest of the CSIR institutes.In Zambia, the results of a survey on the views of research scientists regarding openaccess showed that that 82.5% of the respondents supported the “basic principle ofopen-access” and the notion of providing open-access to publications of scientificresearch outputs in scholarly journals by agricultural research scientists in the country3.ZAR4DIN worked on consolidating this support in the pilot institutions, especially atNISIR and ZARI. In this regard:  ZAR4DIN stakeholders at the project’s inception meeting, in January 2010, proposed guidelines for promoting open access and agreed that ZAR4DIN member institutions should endeavour to collect and preserve outputs of AR4D in digital format.  A seminar on “Opening Access to Science and Technology Research” was organized at ZARI for research scientists and research officers.  Senior managers in ZAR4DIN member institutions participated in a seminar on information management and knowledge sharing policies and strategies.  NISIR and ZARI held seminars to review their ICM/T policies and related strategies to establish how they relate to national policies and strategies and how they facilitate and promote access to and dissemination of agricultural research information and knowledge generated by the institutions.ZARI senior management also expressed interest in developing appropriate ICM/Tpolicies and strategies to facilitate management of digital information resources in theinstitution. The ZAR4DIN also adopted policies to maximize the visibility, citation, usageand impact of research outputs by maximizing online access to it for all users andresearchers worldwide and to ensure that all peer-reviewed research outputs includingjournal articles, except those protected under copyright arrangements, are to be self-archived in the institutional e-repositories. ZAR4DIN member institutions signed amemorandum of understanding (MoU) which, among others, allow harvesting ofmetadata from ZAR4DIN by service providers using Open Access Initiative-MetadataHarvesting Protocol (OAI-MHP) to enhance wider exposure and dissemination of AR4Dcontent from Zambia. 5
  • 6. 2.2 Digitization and Institutional RepositoriesTo increase the availability, accessibility and applicability of research outputs, theCIARD initiative, among others, recommends to institutions to ensure that their researchoutputs are available digitally, and to develop institutional or thematic repositories of theoutputs as open archives. In this regard, all the participating institutions in GAINS’GAPP project and ZAR4DIN developed institutional repositories, which now are largelyaccessed internally due to several challenges that are discussed in Section 3 of thispaper. Tables 1 and 2 below provide statistics regarding the contents of the institutionalrepositories. Table 1: GAPP - Metadata and Full-text Documents in Institutional Repositories January 2012 Institution Metadata Full-Text Documents CSIR-ARI 328 170 CSIR-FRI 291 291 CSIR-INSTI 1178 1152 CAGRIC 589 587 CSIR-FORIG 503 503 CRIG 158 145 MOFAIR 520 40 Table 3: ZAR4DIN - Metadata and Full-text Documents in Institutional Repositories January 2012 Institution Metadata Full-Text Documents ZARI1 850 100 NISIR 420 420 NAIS 120 45The ZAR4DIN Portal (http://zar4din.org) provides access to about 900 metadatarecords and 102 documents harvested mainly from ZARI and NISIR repositories whilethe GAINS Portal (http://gains-instigh.org) provides access to about 1158 metadatarecords and 1136 full-text documents.2.2 Information architecture, standards and toolsThe technical architecture of the networks was deliberately conceived to be flexible andthe focus was on exchange standards and interoperability rather than on thehomogeneous use of specific tools.1 Scanning of documents at ZARI moved faster than the creation of metadata 6
  • 7. The information architecture comprises the information management practices adopted(metadata model, authority data for indexing, exchange standards) and the informationflows (from the institutional repository to a national portal and to internationalbibliographic databases). In many of these aspects the approach reflected goodpractices recommended in the already mentioned CIARD Pathways.For example, in the Pathway on developing a repository for digital content, the adoptionof widely used metadata standards is recommended, together with standardvocabularies for subject indexing and standard protocols for making records harvestableby other systems. The information management practices adopted in the GAINS andZAR4DIN projects follow these recommendations: the national portals expose recordsboth as XML files using the AGRIS Application Profile and through an OAI-PMH4interface also using the AGRIS Application Profile; subject indexing is done usingAGROVOC terms and internal authority files support the controlled management ofauthors, journals, publishers and conferences.The reason for adopting standards is the intention of sharing institutional researchoutputs with others and making them accessible through other search engines. The useof the above mentioned standards indeed helped to make the records created in theinstitutions participating in the two projects more visible and accessible. The XMLexports from the institutional repositories are harvested into the respective nationalportals (http://gains-instigh.org and http://zar4din.org) which act as one-stop shops forall the research outputs managed by the participating institutions in the country;besides, both the XML exports and the OAI-PMH interface allow to add the recordscoming from the institutions and/or from the national portals to the AGRIS database5, aninternational bibliographic database giving access to more than 2,500,000 bibliographicrecords from agricultural research centers.Once again, this reflects the indications of two Pathways, one illustrating how to buildadded value services that query across platforms and one recommending that researchoutputs be disseminated by being included in international collections and databaseslike AGRIS.The adoption of metadata standards, controlled vocabularies and metadata harvestingprotocols was made possible by the adoption of suitable information management tools.The importance of the choice of the right tools became clear during the project, not atthe beginning: neither project prescribed the use of a specific tool.In Zambia, in the first phase, while ZARI and NAIS installed the AgriDrupal6 softwaretool as repository management system in their institution and started cataloguing andmanaging their resources exploiting the cataloguing and indexing features of the tool(standard bibliographic metadata set; internal authority lists for authors, journals andconferences; integration of the AGROVOC7 thesaurus); NISIR catalogued their firstbatch of documents using Microsoft Access (which resulted in a few issues regardingthe consistency and syntax of data, considering which NISIR decided to migrate allrecords to an AgriDrupal installation). Although the output formats from AgriDrupal (XML 7
  • 8. files compliant with the AGRIS Application Profile 8) and from Access were different, theuse of a similar metadata set allowed to import the three sets of metadata records intothe ZAR4DIN national portal (http://zar4din.org), thus giving access to informationresources from the three institutions through one web-based portal.In Ghana, the bibliographical records to be integrated in the portal come mostly fromInstitutional repositories created with the WebAGRIS9 software, which produces XMLfiles compliant with the AGRIS Application Profile that the GAINS portal (http://gains-instigh.org) can import. At the moment, the portal gives access to records coming fromCSIR-INSTI. The portal will also give access to four searchable online metadatadatabases (AGRIEX, GHASAB, GHAGRI and THESIS) containing records frommember institutions.The flexible import functionalities of the GAINS and the ZAR4DIN portals (also built onthe AgriDrupal software) allow for periodical incremental import / harvesting of recordsfrom the current participating Institutions and for the addition of new data providers,being easily adjustable to different output formats, provided that the basic metadatarequirements are met.3. Challenges and ConclusionsBoth projects, GAPP and ZAR4DIN, faced a number of institutional and technicalchallenges, highlighted below, that had an impact on the implementation of the projectsand achieving the envisaged outputs.3.2 Institutional ChallengesLow Commitment of Pilot Institutional HeadsWhile under ZAR4DIN the top heads of the pilot institutions formed the ProjectManagement Committee, under GAPP, apart from the CAGRIC, FRI and INSTI,participation of Heads of the pilot institutions in either the InstitutionalManagement Committees or the national level Project Management Committeewas not very encouraging, despite considerable awareness of the project thathad been created among them. This had the effect of slowing down work forthose institutions especially in relation to making key institutional decisionsaffecting the project.Lack of Institutional ICT/M Policy and WorkflowsAlthough the two projects envisaged revision or developing ICM/T policies thatwould facilitate managing and dissemination of information in digital formats, theabsence of institutional policies and strategies for information sharing andexchange within the institutions, and lack of investments in information activitiesmade it difficult for projects activities to proceed smoothly. The major generators 8
  • 9. of information in the institutions are research scientists and they keep most ofwhat they produce.The absence of clear ICM workflows that could establish the point at whichdigital documents could be captured for the repositories had an impact onpopulating the institutional repositories with full-text documents. It also in awaycontributed to the researchers’ refusal to contribute content to the repositories.The above being the case, key project activities therefore concentrated more oninternal activities of developing ICM workflows, and developing ICM policies andstrategies than on creating and strengthening linkages and collaborationbetween the stakeholders.Inadequately trained human resourcesThe projects required that the key operators at the institutional level possess therequisite skills for electronic information management. Unfortunately, in bothcases, electronic repository concept was initially a novelty and in someinstitutions the key staff lacked the mindset for such an activity. A lot of time hadto be spent on developing capacities in managing electronic documents andmanaging WebAGRIS and AgriDrupal installations. In some institutions, staffavailable could not master the technical skills required to manage WebAGRISand this had an a negative impact on the work of those tasked to createmetadata.Absence of Clear IPR/Copyright GuidelinesThe absence of clear institutional copyright guidelines made it difficult for mostpeople working on the institutional repositories to decide on what informationresources generated by the institution could go into the repositories.3.2 Technical ChallengesThe main technical challenges, as was expected, were in the integration of data in thenational portals.Although most of the records came from software tools (like WebAGRIS andAgriDrupal) that produce standard outputs that can be easily imported and integratedinto other platforms, the issue in some cases was not the metadata model but the actualdata: the different syntax and encoding of the data in the same metadata elementcreated unwanted duplicates and mismatches in the national search engines. Also, thenon-consistent use of AGROVOC terms limited the potential added value of a commonsearch engine across several repositories. 9
  • 10. These difficulties were bigger of course in the case of records coming from a softwaretool (Microsoft Access) that does not provide, out of the box, functionalities for authoritycontrol and term suggestion from an external vocabulary.This does not mean that all institutions in a network should use the same informationmanagement tool: the seamless integration of records coming from WebAGRIS andfrom AgriDrupal proved that if tools implement a standard metadata model and canexport in one or more metadata formats, integrating them in other systems that havesome flexible import/harvest functionalities is not difficult.The availability of experienced and dedicated cataloguers also made a difference in thisrespect: most institutions in Ghana had experienced cataloguers dedicated to the job,which resulted in very rich bibliographic records, while in some other institutions thetime that the cataloguers could devote to the project was limited and many of them alsohad to help with the digitization of the printed material, which didn’t allow them tospecialize in their task.Notes1 See the CIARD Manifesto at http://www.ciard.net/ciard-manifesto2 http://www.ciard.net/pathways3 Chisenga, J. & Simumba, D. 2009. Open access publishing: views of researchers in publicagricultural research institutions in Zambia. Agricultural Information Worldwide, 2(3): 113-119.4 http://www.openarchives.org/OAI/openarchivesprotocol.html5 http://agris.fao.org6 AgriDrupal is both a “suite of solutions” for agricultural information management anddissemination, built on the Drupal Content Management System, and the community of practicearound these solutions: http://aims.fao.org/tools/agridrupal7 AGROVOC is the world’s most comprehensive multilingual agricultural vocabulary:http://aims.fao.org/standards/agrovoc/about8 http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/ae909e/ae909e00.htm9 WebAGRIS is a system for distributed data input, management and dissemination of metadataon information objects: http://aims.fao.org/tools/webagris-2 10

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