Science - February 12, 2004

Wageningen UR gets its own Yellow Pages

It will soon be possible to track down all employees of Wageningen UR through the expertise databank We@WUR. “It will be just like the Yellow Pages, with not only address, telephone number and a photo of all employees, but also information on the person’s expertise,” says project leader Frank Bakema of the Research Staff Department.

“The idea behind We@WUR is that anyone should be able to find the Wageningen economist that knows about tree growing, to take an example,” says Bakema. Of course you can already do this if you are reasonably clever at doing Internet searches. “Now it should be possible to search quickly and systematically,” adds Bakema. “It should also make it easier to find each other internally, and therefore across organisational boundaries. Research projects make increasing use of expertise from different disciplines, and it’s important to be able to find colleagues quickly.”

The intranet version of the expertise bank is therefore the most extensive. A number of people will not be traceable from outside through the Internet. Not everyone at the research institutes is in favour of the idea of putting experts in the limelight, as they are concerned that people will be interrupted more often and therefore unable to get on with their work. “In that sense the externally oriented database will be less comprehensive, but it’s probably not necessary to list all laboratory assistants and animal caretakers. More people at Alterra will be traceable for example, because their expertise is so broad, ranging from snake-, butterfly- to lizard-experts. At Animal Sciences they deal with far fewer different animals, most fall under pig, chicken or cow.”

The We@WUR search structure is based on a knowledge tree, which uses two lists: disciplinary expertise and key words. The system has been developed in close cooperation with the library, and is based on the METIS information system already in use for projects and publications. This means you not only get a ‘visiting card’ for each entry, but can also immediately see what a person has published, and the projects they are working on. Bakema thinks this will also encourage people to make sure the information about them remains up-to-date, as financing is often awarded on the basis of the number of publications and projects a person has to their name. The databank should be seventy percent completed by the end of March, as data entry is being done by the Sciences Groups themselves.

Gert van Maanen

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