A federated and curated metadata registry of agri-food datasets and data services

GFAR and the CIARD RING participating in the agINFRA project of the European Commission


GFAR is participating in the agINFRA project (http://aginfra.eu) of the European Commission (EC 7th framework program INFRA-2011-1.2.2). The project aims at “developing a shared infrastructure and computationally empowered services for agricultural research data”, with a strong focus on achieving a higher level of interoperability”.

The reason why GFAR participates in the project is that improving the interoperability of agricultural data has always been one of the main objectives of GFAR’s activities around “opening access to knowledge” and one of the key issues in the CIARD movement of which GFAR is a co-founder.  

Besides, GFAR wanted its CIARD RING service to develop based on the actual needs of data providers and data consumers: the agINFRA consortium consists of several data providers and a few data consumers that the RING serves and is a first very good use case for the service.

A quick overview of the project and the role of the RING in it can be found in the project’s FAQ page: http://www.aginfra.eu/en/component/content/article/25-the-project/425-frequently-asked-questions.

Not being a legal entity, GFAR participates in the project through FAO. GFAR has an advisory role in the project and contributes the CIARD RING as the central directory of datasets for the project.

As leader of Work Package 5 in the project ("Data Policies, Workflows, Interoperability and Integration") together with FAO, GFAR has to coordinate activities around data workflows and Linked Data interoperability.

The central hub of the data workflows in agINFRA is the CIARD RING (http://ring.ciard.net), the global directory of web-based information services and datasets for agriculture managed by GFAR.

In the past, the scope of the RING was generically "information services and sources" with the aim of providing "a map of accessible information sources with instructions on how they can be used effectively".

Now, thanks to the work done with the agINFRA partners, the RING is a machine-readable hub for other services to get metadata about datasets, retrieve them through the required protocols and re-use them.

The new version of the CIARD RING has:

-          a stronger focus on datasets;

-          improved metadata model for describing datasets;

-          a more robust machine-readable layer for other services to access the featured datasets.

Leveraging these new features, the agINFRA partners are building “workflows” that can filter datasets from the RING, retrieve them and make them available for further processing. These workflows will be made available as public APIs for anybody to use in their applications / information services.

These advances will result, by the end of the project, in more re-use of the datasets available in the RING and in better end-user services. As an example, the FAO AGRIS service will include all bibliographic records from data sources registered in the RING that expose their records according to specific protocols, while the Organic.Edunet portal will include all educational resources from providers registered in the RING using specific standards. A more advanced use of RING datasets will be the semantic linking of germplasm and soil data from RING datasets to search results in AGRIS.

In the same Work Package, GFAR is helping data providers who are partners in the project to improve the interoperability of their data by using or linking to published Linked Open Data (LOD) vocabularies. The first step in this process is the publication as LOD vocabularies of the local vocabularies they use for managing their data and in the mapping / linking of these vocabularies to already published vocabularies.

The agINFRA LOD vocabularies platform (http://vocabularies.aginfra.eu), published by GFAR, collects and documents in one place all the LOD vocabularies used and recommended in the project.

The platform currently lists:

-          12 metadata vocabularies (from generic vocabularies like Dublin Core to the TDWG ontology for germplasm data)

-          10 Knowledge Organization Systems (from AGROVOC to the Soil Thesaurus)

The first vocabulary on which the partners started working using this platform is the agINFRA Soil Vocabulary (http://www.gvlab.net/aginfra-vocs/soil), a first attempt to represent the INSPIRE standard for soil data in RDF. The initial version is a product of the collaboration between the Italian Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura (CRA), GFAR and FAO.

agINFRA also supported, together with other partners, the 1st International e-Conference on Germplasm Data Interoperability (https://sites.google.com/site/germplasminteroperability/), which took place between December 6th and December 20th, 2013 and was jointly organized by Bioversity International, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Agro-Know Technologies and supported by the agINFRA EU project.

The aim of this e-Conference was to bring together stakeholders in the area of plant germplasm and traits and discuss the current status of the interoperability between different data sources and the Linked Data approach to be followed in order to enable the linking of data from heterogeneous data sources and in various data formats.

The conference featured speakers from major players in the biodiversity area like Bioversity, INRA, CIAT, GBIF, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, CAAS, CIMMYT, the Italian CRA, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, from projects like VIBRANT, BioVel, EURISCO, GENESYS, the Agricultural Data Interoperability Interest Group of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), and from global organizations like FAO, GFAR and the CGIAR.

GFAR contributed with a presentation on “Publishing germplasm vocabularies as Linked Data”, available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL9qSTXypCw.

The developments outlined above will produce more tangible outputs towards the end of the project, around October 2014.


agINFRA The RING is part of the agINFRA project EC 7th framework program INFRA-2011-1.2.2 - Grant agr. no: 283770