The Archive of Agri-Environmental Programs in Ontario is a collection of documents and reports related to agri-environmental research programs conducted in Ontario prior to the year 2000. The origins of this archive date back to 1995 when Dr. Bruce T. Bowman (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, retired) created the Canadian Environmental Green Plan program website, as part of the communications strategy for the program. Following the end of the Green Plan program, archiving activities were expanded to include additional agri-environmental programs. Since then, Dr. Bowman has curated over 1000 reports in the archive.
Tell us about the archive:
The original website was created to provide an accurate overview of historical agri-environmental programs in Ontario during the 1960s to 2000 period (the pre-digital age). The project involved scanning, performing optical character recognition (OCR), restructuring and converting word processor documents to PDF, and archiving the reports on the website. For each research program, documentation (HTML documents) was developed that provided background information, objectives/ goals, research results/ conclusions and a linked list of research reports for each program. This documentation provides an important contextual presense for the reports, including committee structures, etc. The HTML documents were key in linking various reports in a program. Having individual reports is important, but become more valuable when the overall program context is provided.
What were your reasons for depositing the archive in the Atrium?:
The website, including associated PDF reports, has been hosted on the servers of a nonprofit association for the past 9 years. Sadly, the future preservation of the website is no longer assured. It has become imperative to take steps to preserve this valuable information resource. In numerous cases, some of these reports exist ONLY within this archive, and no where else. Hard copies of many of these reports were discarded years ago.
What are your goals for this collection?:
The prime objective of this project has always been to preserve environmental reports, mainly commissioned by federal and provincial governments, and in some cases costing in the order of $200,000. There was never a clear mandate from either level of government to preserve these reports, and they frequently ended up on storage shelves to be discarded when space became limited. Beyond the important conclusions drawn from the research projects, there were frequently datasets included in the reports which provided snapshots of our environment at particular points in time (e.g. nutrient or pesticide content of stream on particular dates, water quantity/ quality measurements, sediment loads, etc.). These reports form the basis for future research planning activities and are important in assessing the state of the environment.
What are your views related to open access intiatives?:
Most of the reports in the archive are in the public domain. I am a strong supporter of making publicly funded research available to a global audience. It was this very concept that spurred the original development of the website in 1995. Ironically, when I put the Green Plan program website online in November 1995, within a few months an environmental research organization in Sweden discovered our project and invited me to be part of an advisory group for an environmental program they were initiating. This shows the power of the internet to link people and groups around the globe.
View the Archive of Agri-Environmental Programs in Ontario collection.
(Slideshow photo by James Baltz on Unsplash)