I am a certified agriculturist, and more specifically I would like to consider myself an expert on Viticulture, since by now, I am a proud holder of a PhD in Viticulture from the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA).
In all my years as a student, I was studying plants, biology, physiology, ecology, genetics and generally, anything that has to do with the biological and environmental sciences as taught in the vast area of expertise in the Agricultural University of Athens. So I quickly started seeing things from the point of view of the researcher. And it was not until I went to my very first congress with an oral presentation in Budapest, in 2007 that I realized what it means to be a part of the researcher world and the scientific community. Researchers, professors and students from all over the world and all of them in the same field of study. It never dawned on me before, and I remember thinking “Where were all these guys before? How come I ‘ve never heard of Viticulture in Iran for example?” But that wasn’t even that the case. What soon became a much harsher reality was the unsuccessful effort to gather research papers from all these people. At the time, the majority of repositories were inaccessible to AUA and other Greek Universities due to financial difficulties and so we had no way of staying up-to-date with all the latest trends. The situation finally turned round and we managed to survive this reality, but the problem remained, if not for me, for many more students out there, in the sector of Viticulture, Agriculture etc.
It was a bit later, in 2010 that AUA participated as a partner to a new EU-funded project, called VOA3R (Virtual Open Access Agriculture and Aquaculture Repository). In the kick-off meeting, I was totally lost. I didn’t know what I was doing, why I was there, what it was. At least, there was one familiar face among the participants, Nikos Manouselis, and for me that was more of a guarantee to stay and try to understand. That and the fact that there was a lunch break. But all jokes aside, Nikos was the brain behind this initiative and it was his vision in the first place, so it was worth everyone’s time at that meeting. The kick-off meeting was over, the framework was set and every six months for the following 3 years, from June of 2010 until May 2013, all the partners would meet in different European cities in order to discuss, decide, report and move forward with the project.
What the VOA3R project practically proposed was to build a sort of social platform where all the researchers, students and practitioners would be able to join in and interact and at the same time, the same platform would serve as an open access repository, harvesting open data and resources from the content providers/members/partners of the consortium. Not an easy task to say the least, since most of the content providers within the project had already built their own repositories, and so the migration process of the metadata from their own systems to those of the VOA3R project demanded a lot of effort. I am obviously not the appropriate person to explain in a more scientific way the technical aspects of the project, but still, through and thanks to my involvement in the project, I managed to learn a thing or two about content, data management, repositories, metadata etc.
I have had the opportunity to participate in various scientific projects with the Laboratory of Viticulture, AUA, but this marked the first time that I was part of such a major European project. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with many people, each one an expert in his/her field and work very closely with the amazing and driven guys from Agro-Know. They helped me understand what it is they are doing and we managed to bridge the gap that exists among many different sciences. It is always very interesting to enable others to see things from your perspective and vice versa.
The VOA3R project is now over, but hopefully, the outcomes of the project in one form or the other will be implemented as planned. After all, there is no point in doing something for it to remain in a beta version or even worse, inside a dusty drawer. But for me personally, the VOA3R project helped me realize in the most emphatic way what the open access philosophy is, and that it doesn’t matter how many experiments and research you conduct, how many data you have, how many papers you have written, unless you can share it openly with everyone. We are supposed to be scientists and so our goal is to promote the outcomes of our research and of our work for the greater good. All this gave a totally new perspective in how I do and I will keep doing my work from now on.