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Policy

Unifying Free Agricultural Data

by Britt E. Erickson
October 21, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 42

An effort is under way to develop a unified online system for storing and accessing free agricultural research data. “We want to make research data useful to the agricultural community and policymakers,” says Sylvie M. Brouder, a professor of agronomy at Purdue University who is leading the effort. For instance, Brouder, who studies how crops respond to nitrogen, says her research could help modelers predict how nitrogen-based fertilizers affect entire watersheds without having to conduct a full series of field experiments. “The theory is that my data is more useful in aggregate with your data rather than as stand-alone,” she says. Scientists, librarians, publishers, leaders of professional societies, and others interested in agricultural research data discussed the idea at a workshop held on Oct. 10–11 outside Washington, D.C. Participants raised questions regarding how to determine ownership of information and where the data would be stored. They also suggested that a common language be developed to ensure that data systems at multiple sites are interoperable.

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