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AGRIS (International System for Agricultural Science and Technology) is a global public domain database with more than 4 million structured bibliographical records on agricultural science and technology. The database is maintained by FAO, and its content is provided by more than 150 participating institutions from 65 countries. The AGRIS Search system,[1] allows scientists, researchers and students to perform sophisticated searches using keywords from the AGROVOC thesaurus, specific journal titles or names of countries, institutions, and authors.

Early AGRIS years[edit]

As information management flourished in the 1970s, the AGRIS metadata corpus was developed to allow its users to have free access to knowledge available in agricultural science and technology. AGRIS was developed to be an international cooperative system to serve both developed and developing countries.

With the advent of the Internet, along with the promises offered by open access publishing, there was growing awareness that the management of agricultural science and technology information, would have various facets: standards and methodologies for interoperability and facilitation of knowledge exchange; tools to enable information management specialists to process data; information and knowledge exchange across countries. Common interoperability criteria were thus adopted in its implementation, and the AGRIS AP metadata was accordingly created in order to allow exchange and retrieval of Agricultural information Resources.[2]

The AGRIS repository[edit]

AGRIS covers the wide range of subjects related to agriculture, including forestry, animal husbandry, aquatic sciences and fisheries, human nutrition, and extension. Its content includes unique grey literature such as unpublished scientific and technical reports, theses, conference papers, government publications, and more. A growing number (around 20%) of bibliographical records have a corresponding full text document on the web which can easily be retrieved by Google.

Access to the AGRIS Repository is provided through the AGRIS Search Engine.[3] As such, it:

  1. enables retrieval of bibliographic records contained in the AGRIS Repository,
  2. allows users to perform either full-text or fielded, parametric and assisted queries.

The AGRIS repository exploits the advantages of both open source search platform (Solr), and structured XML. It facilitates the exchange of information among developing countries and between developing and developed countries. Furthermore, it contains records from national journals - especially from developing countries that are not always represented in commercial indexing services.

The AGRIS partners contributing to the AGRIS Database use several formats for exchanging data, including simple DC, from OAI-PMH systems. The AGRIS AP format is anyway adopted directly by:

  1. Open Archive Initiative (OAI) partners: Scielo, Viikki Science Library
  2. BIBSYS, Norway, National Library of Portugal, Wageningen UR Library.
  3. National networks: NARIMS[4] in Egypt, PhilAgriNet in Philippines, KAINet in Kenya, NAC in Thailand, GAINS in Ghana.
  4. National institutional repositories: Russia, Belarus, Uruguay, Spain, Iran.
  5. Information service providers: Wolters Kluwer, NISC, CGIR, CGIAR, AgNIC, GFIS.
  6. Database systems/tools: AgriOceanDspace,[5] NewGenlib, WebAGRIS, NERAKIN, AgriDrupal.[6]

Searching for digital resources[edit]

For more information on this topic, see: Digital library

AGRIS aims to ensure that the resources contained in repositories located in several regions be available to the general user, with few restrictions, in accordance with the goals of open access. However, many of these resources run the risk of turning into deep web or invisible web resources, since they frequently cannot be located by search engine crawlers.[7] As is the case with some digital libraries, where special pages or sitemaps are created to allow search engines to find all of their resources, AGRIS uses the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting to retrieve metadata and "expose" otherwise invisible web resources to the AGRIS search engines. A similar process is adopted for instance by Google Scholar, Yahoo! and Scirus search engines.

Unlike traditional resources that pose storage space limits, digital resources have the widely recognized advantage of making available to users a huge variety of resources of often diverse nature.Project Gutenberg, Google Book Search, Windows Live Search Books(shutdown), Internet Archive, Cornell University, The Library of Congress World Digital Library, The Digital Library at the University of Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon University's Million Book Project are considered leaders in the field of digital library creation and management.

Data indexing in AGRIS: the AGROVOC thesaurus[edit]

For more information on this topic, see: AGROVOC

In traditional libraries, finding works of interest is directly related to how well they are cataloged. However, complex and born-digital works require substantially more effort.[8]

AGROVOC is a comprehensive multilingual agriculture thesaurus[9] that was developed with the cooperation of FAO member countries. It is used for indexing data in agricultural information systems and it strives for continuous improvement and updating. The first version of AGROVOC was produced in 1982 and distributed to all AGRIS centres.[8][10]

Vocabulary updating is done by FAO in collaboration with national AGRIS centres.[11] Staff at the centres propose new terms for the database to FAO subject specialists for consideration. The terms selected by the experts are added into AGROVOC. In the past, an AGROVOC supplement was then published and provided to the centres. Now the updated AGROVOC is available online. The proposing of new terms and corrections also can be done through the FAO/AGROVOC web site.[12]

Limitations in AGRIS[edit]

In the last years, several partnership initiatives have been developed globally by diverse international organizations often involved in development, in order to overcome the lack of coherent and coordinated approaches to information system architecture.[13] Against this background, an assessment of AGRIS was conducted in 2000. It was noted that the network had only been partially successful in achieving its goals. Limitations in AGRIS were identified in four areas: 1) difficult access to the original documents, 2) incomplete coverage, 3) independent systems and 4) structural and institutional constraints.

As the AGRIS system aims to decentralise data processing and to prioritise national capacity building, enhancing autonomous management of national agricultural information.[14] a new strategic vision has been developed.[15]

The new vision[edit]

In order to address those limitations, a “new vision for AGRIS” has been under work since 2000. In 2009, AGRIS adhered to Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD), a global initiative of international partner organizations (such as, DFID, CIARD, GFAR, etc.)[16] committed to working to increase the public benefits deriving from investment in agricultural research and innovation for development.[17]

The underlying principle shared by CIARD's stakeholders,[18] which FAO is contributing to with its AGRIS portal, is that, information is to be made publicly "available", "accessible" and, "applicable".[19] At the same time, all of CIARD stakeholders equally recognize the need to respect the roles of national, regional and international institutions, whilst aligning their efforts to develop better interlinked information collections and services.[20]

Currently, AGRIS continues its research into improving access to science technology and agricultural information globally available on the web, under the CIARD umbrella.

Accessibility of the new AGRIS[edit]

While AGRIS is striving to keep abreast of the technology available, enhanced resource accessibility may be identified as one of the core objectives of the new AGRIS.

According to the new vision, the AGRIS search engine should be able to retrieve and interpret a wealth of diverse information sources including full-text documents, threads from discussion fora, blog entries, news articles, and organizational, regional, national, international information (re)sources. Partnerships with established search engine technology leaders such as Google, Yahoo or Scirus will be explored in order to provide customized search capabilities.

AGRIS under the CIARD umbrella[edit]

Falling under the umbrella of CIARD,[21] a joint initiative co-led by the CGIAR,[22] GFAR[23] and FAO, the new AGRIS aims to promote the sharing and management of agricultural science and technology information through the use of common standards and methodologies. These will incorporate Web 2.0 features, in order to make the search experience as comprehensive, intuitive and far-reaching as possible for users of the new AGRIS.

Furthermore, the new AGRIS will also leverage the data and infrastructure of one of CIARD's projects: the CIARD RING. An acronym standing for Routemap to Information Nodes and Gateways (RING), the CIARD RING project is led by GFAR and it aims to:

  • give an overview of the current offer of information services in ARD; as well as
  • support those who want to implement new services.

A directory of ARD (Agricultural Research for Development) information services will allow the monitoring, describing and classifying of existing services, whilst benchmarking them against interoperability criteria, to ensure for maximum outreach and global availability.

OpenAGRIS: the new AGRIS Linked Open Data model[edit]

AGRIS data was converted to RDF and the resulting linked dataset created some 80 million triples. AGRIS is also registered in the Data Hub at

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  2. ^ "The AGRIS Application Profile for the International Information System on Agricultural Sciences and Technology Guidelines on Best Practices for Information Object Description". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "AgriOcean DSpace | Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS)". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  6. ^ "AgriDrupal | Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS)". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  7. ^ Koehler, AEC. Some Thoughts on the Meaning of Open Access for University Library Technical Services Serials Review Vol. 32, 1, 2006, p. 17
  8. ^ a b "Cost Calculator | 360 MARC Updates | Services". Serials Solutions. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  9. ^ Archived May 5, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Google Maps". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Knowledge and information sharing through the AGRIS Network | AGRIS :: International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology". 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  12. ^[dead link]
  13. ^ See for instance V. Balaji, The fate of agriculture, in "Knowledge in Question", A symposium on interrogating knowledge and questioning science, May 2009, retrieved from the Web in May 2009
  14. ^ "Information Technologies and Standards for Agricultural Information Resources Management: AGRIS Application Profile, AGROVOC and LISAGR" available on and retrieved from the web on 16 July 2009.
  15. ^ A new strategic vision for the AGRIS network was called for at two technical Consultations on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) held in 2000 and 2002, which continues to provide the basis for some of the technical standards and methodologies adopted by CIARD. Please see: 2000 COAIM report and 2002 COAIM report.
  16. ^ "Partners". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  17. ^ ibidem
  18. ^ For an updated list of CIARD partner institutions, please refer to the CIARD web site, under: Partners.
  19. ^ The CIARD manifesto: Towards Shared Knowledge Resources on Agricultural Research for Development, retrieved from the web on 28 June 2009.
  20. ^ "Thinking globally, but acting locally". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  21. ^ "What is CIARD? | Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  22. ^ Rijsberman, Frank (2013-07-04). "CGIAR Home". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  23. ^ "EGFAR web Site". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 

Other publications[edit]

External links[edit]