AgNIC Annual Meeting 2015: Updates on PubAg and AgData Commons


The Agriculture Network Information Collaborative (AgNIC – scroll at the end of this post for more info) organizes a meeting on an annual basis. In this context, the 2015 AgNIC Conference took place between May 6-7, 2015 at Beltsville, Maryland and it marked the 20th year of this series of Conferences.

The 2015 Conference included participation from some really active stakeholders in the field of agricultural information management, such as Stan Kosecki (Acting NAL Director), Dr. Simon Liu (Associate Administrator, USDA Ag Research Service and former NAL Director as well as one of the persons involved in the development of the Global Agricultural Concept Scheme (GACS)), as well as Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Undersecretary).

As always, the program consisted of a number of interesting presentations and talks covering various aspects in the context of agricultural information and knowledge management. However, among the discussions of the Conference, there were two announcements that draw our attention:

  1. An update on PubAg by Melanie Gardner and
  2. A presentation by Dr. Susan McCarthy titled “Dealing with Data”, covering NAL initiatives such as Ag Data Commons.

These two initiatives/platforms are of special interest to the agrifood research community, as well as the information and knowledge management one, so we are providing some additional information in the following sections.


PubAg is the National Agricultural Library’s search system for agricultural information. It acts as a portal providing access to agricultural research publications from both USDA and external sources. PubAg currently features more than 40,000 full-text articles by USDA staff as well as 450,000 related citations from peer-reviewed journal articles. According to the initial plan, the Library is expected to add about 20,000 new citations on a monthly basis.


As a portal, PubAg features both a basic search and an advanced fielded search, while the content is classified with terms from the NAL Thesaurus (one of the largest controlled vocabularies for agricultural concepts), ability to download citations and full-text where available, and links to full-text from publisher sources.

AgData Commons

AgData Commons is a catalog and repository of research data which is currently in beta. Ag Data Commons provides a centralized point of access to a wide variety of open data related to agricultural research. AgData Commons has two roles:

  1. It functions as an aggregator, providing a catalog of research data that are available through various external databases and repositories and
  2. It serves as a repository for data that has no other home.

Ag Data Commons is built with DKAN, an open source open data platform with a full suite of cataloging, publishing and visualization features that allows organizations to easily share data with the public. DKAN combines Drupal functionality with the open source CKAN features.

As regards the content, AgData Commons not only provides access to datasets and databases, but it also features software, multimedia files and presentations. Overall, it provides a high quality source of agricultural data, using standard formats and a fresh, easy to use user interface.


So, the obvious question would be: Is there any connection between PubAg and AgData Commons? The answer is yes; where possible, Ag Data Commons records link to appropriate scholarly publications in Pub Ag. These publications may describe the datasets or the methods and the results of the research and they may also simply use the datasets or parts of them in research.

About AgNIC

AgNIC_logoAgNIC – or the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative – is a voluntary alliance of members based on the concept of “centers of excellence”. NAL was formed back in 1995 by a group of four land grant institutions – Cornell University, Iowa State University, University of Arizona, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library (NAL). AgNIC is committed to the “identification, delivery and preservation of reliable, freely-available, evaluated, digital content and quality services for agriculture, food, and natural resources information”.

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