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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2004

AGORA: Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture

Mary Ochs
Cornell University


This paper will introduce the audience to an international initiative underway to improve access to online journals in agriculture in the developing countries. AGORA (Access to Global Online Research In Agriculture) is a collaborative project of FAO, CGIAR, the World Health Organization and Cornell University's TEEAL project, along with major scientific publishers. AGORA is based on TEEAL (The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library) and modeled after the World Health Organization's HINARI (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative). The ultimate goal of AGORA is to increase the quality and effectiveness of agricultural and environmental science research in low-income countries and, in turn, to improve food security. By providing access to the scholarly literature of agriculture and environmental sciences, researchers and decision makers in developing countries will have access to the work of the global scientific community and be better able to incorporate proven scientific knowledge into their research. AGORA will provide access to online content through a portal to be built especially for the project. The AGORA portal ultimately will fulfill the multiple information transfer functions so necessary to information delivery in the developing countries. In this first phase, AGORA will build a core platform providing access to online scientific journals in agriculture and related environmental and social sciences. The AGORA program team is working closely with publishers and agricultural database producers to build an excellent online collection of agricultural material, which will be made available either for free or at very low cost. In order to provide reference and technical support, libraries and librarians around the globe will be enlisted. We envision a 24x7 multi-language virtual reference/technical support service with agricultural libraries around the world contributing to the service. We also envision a "train the trainer" program, where librarians throughout the developing world will receive training in the use of the system and thus be prepared to pass that knowledge along to other trainers and end-users. This aspect of the program may offer an opportunity for U.S. land grant libraries to provide assistance with AGORA. While the possibility of obtaining access to online journals is greeted enthusiastically, some barriers to delivering online information in developing countries still exist. TEEAL undertook an Internet readiness survey in February 2002. This presentation will discuss some of the results of that study and the implications for delivery of information in the developing countries. We hope that, like TEEAL several years ago, AGORA will be the next program to revolutionize access to agricultural information in the developing countries. This presentation will introduce the USAIN audience to the many facets of this initiative.

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