This week, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is excited to launch EXPLOREit, a new way of making valuable agricultural research accessible across the globe. This unique multi-navigational system will become the main source of our scientific information, with profiles of all topics, systems, crops, locations and resources in the countries where we work.
Sharing publicly-funded agricultural information in the most accessible way is critically important to achieve our agricultural development goals of reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources.
EXPLOREit will optimize the contribution of the open access movement, which is trying to provide free access to scientific information, a major factor for researchers in developing countries who cannot afford the subscription fees to costly scientific journals. As part of the CGIAR consortium, ICRISAT is committed to ensuring publicly funded agricultural research is at the fingertips of those who need it most. Addressing the limitations of information access has a big role to play in enabling national researchers to tap into the knowledge they need to promote development.
EXPLOREit complements the hard work of our Library and Information Services manager, Muthu Madhan, who has been working on ICRISAT’s open access data repository. Other examples of our open access efforts are the unique Village Dynamics Data that provides a wealth of information collected in rural communities over three decades and the plant genome sequencing datasets for two crucial smallholder farmer crops, pigeonpea and chickpea.
While our data was available, it was located in different places. Our marketing and communications team, led by Joanna Kane-Potaka, has pooled the data together and tagged the information to make it easier to find through the simple and dynamic interface EXPLOREit. Given the restrictive nature of typical websites where navigation pathways are often uni directional, Joanna came up with the new MultiProfiler concept which allows multiple navigations to get to the same information.
Unlike a typical website where one navigation system is selected and the user must follow this, here we firstly categorize how a user may come looking for our information. We have identified 5 areas: crop, topic, geographic location, systems and resource type. Then we defined all the sub-categories/subject areas where we can contribute information and created profiles for each of these.
As most of the information is automatically fed in, it can appear in any of the profiles where it is relevant. The user can navigate in any way and still get to the same information. For example, the latest research on women farmer groups growing improved groundnut varieties in Mali will appear in the gender (topic), groundnut (crop) and Mali (country) profile. Regardless of which entry point is used, the information will be obtained due to the improved accessibility.
In today’s world, where the value of information increases with the number of people sharing it, EXPLOREit speeds up ICRISAT’s journey of transformation as an open access organization, with the ultimate goal to ensure that broader access to agricultural research, knowledge and information contributes to greater food security and improved livelihoods, especially in developing countries.