Re: Agriculture research archives

From: Imre Simon <is_at_IME.USP.BR>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 10:58:08 -0200

Dear Arun and everyone else,

I would like to put forward some practical advice, very much based on
my own current actions, intended to increment open access to the
scientific literature produced in Brazil, a (poor) developing country.

Comments and suggestions to improve these actions are invited and

I start from the point of view that producing science is a social,
collective activity. Therefore it is imperative to build a network
which has as a built-in paradigm the culture of open exchange of the
scientific literature. I try to get inspired on Kuhn's "Structure of
Scientific Revolutions".

My second hypothesis is that we are trying to induce a partial change
of culture and that this has to be done basically from the bottom
up. It is my belief that achieving the goal of open access to the
scientific literature in a top-down fashion is impracticable. Help
from the top might be very important and we should try to obtain it
and we should cherish it when it comes, but we should not depend on
such help for our success. We will have to do this the hard way, I am
very much afraid.

In short: build, from the bottom up, as large a community as possible
practicing and cherishing open access to the scientific literature.

Based on these hypothesis I devised the following strategy:

  1. Try to circulate these ideas as widely as possible. Write about
     it and try to encourage others in your community to talk and
     write about open access to the scientific literature. For
     instance, I wrote a paper to be published in "Revista da USP" a
     periodical of general interest produced by our University. This
     paper, in portuguese, can be found at:

  2. Set up an e-prints server to be used by your community. I am
     thinking here of a department, for instance. We have almost
     finished this, our e-prints server set up for the Computer Science
     Department of USP is located at (with empty contents for the time

  3. Set up a Wiki Wiki Web to facilitate the use of the server by its
     community and to make sure that the experience in using the
     server is maintained registered in a clean way, without giving
     too much work for anyone. Our Wiki is located at (with almost
     empty content for the time being):

  4. Try to find a few leading people in your community to start
     filling up the contents of the server and of the Wiki. Being
     successful, try enlarging this group until you reach a reasonable
     and regular participation.

  5. Using the experience obtained so far try to facilitate for other
     groups, near to your own community, to repeat the experiment on
     their own. Later on try to convince them to interest more groups
     to do the same, and so on.

  6. At the same time I am trying to interest the high administration
     of the organizations aroud me in this ideal and in this
     practice. That way, I hope that they will be ready to adhere to
     and support the initiative once it is practiced by a sizeable and
     growing community.

In all these stages do use to the maximum the already available
experience, software, literature, advocacy and discussions. Thanks to
people like Stavan Harnad, Peter Suber, the OAI group, the arXiv
group, the ResearchIndex group, Andrew Odlyzko and so many others I am
less aware of (my apologies) there is a sizeable amount of experience
accumulated which is of excellent quality.

In my case I also try to rely on the free software community's
experience which already is way ahead of us in a similar transition. I
believe that we should study their astounding success and learn from
their experience, whenever viable. I do recommend reading the
outstanding paper by Yochai Benkler:

  Yochai Benkler: Coase's Pinguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm

Well, all this is hard work and I do wonder whether in my case how far
I will be able to progress with this plan in my environment. So far we
are at step 3, beginning step 4.

I hope that at least some of this might be useful in other areas and
in other countries too, conveniently adapted, of course.

Comments are welcome!


Imre Simon

Subbiah Arunachalam wrote on December 9 and November 25:

> Agricultural researchers need to be told about these
> advantages and they should be motivated to set up such
> archives. There seems to be a vast gap between
> physicists at one extreme and agricultural scientists
> at the other. Unfortunately, most developing countries
> need to strengthen agricultural research more than
> physics! Please forward both my messages to the
> September 98 forum so we can get responses from
> several others. Regards.
> Arun

> The new information and communication technologies have tremendous
> potential to facilitate communication flow among scientists
> (researchers) and between scientists and their 'clients' (in the case
> of agricultural research, the clients are the farmers and
> policymakers). At present, physicists (especially high energy
> physicists and astronomers) and computer scientists are taking
> considerable advantage of ICTs. Agricultural scientists are among the
> poorest users of ICTs. How can we reach the benefits of ICTs to
> agricultural researchers? How can we make the transition from a 'poor
> use today' to a ' much better use tomorrow'? If I am able to find the
> funds, how can I go about actually making the transition to the better
> tomorrow? It is one thing to say that different subjects/ fields have
> different cultures, but another to do something about it. I am
> interested in changing the culture in agriculture. In my opinion,
> agriculture is a key area today. There is so much needless poverty and
> hunger in the world. Most developing countries depend on agriculture
> for their survival. We need to act quickly in that area.
> Regards.
> Arun
Received on Wed Dec 11 2002 - 12:58:08 GMT

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