The Online Farm Trials (OFT) portal was initiated in 2013 as a co-investment between Federation University Australia (FedUni) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). The purpose of OFT is make the results of grains industry research trials and demonstration trials much more discoverable and publically assessable. The OFT team is led by FedUni Senior Research Fellow Dr Nathan Robinson and includes both social scientists and a great team of web developers at the Centre for Research and Digital Innovation (CERDI) at FedUni in Ballarat, Victoria. Main Image-The OFT team: Paul Freely, Julie Parker, Dr Ben Wills, Andrew Macleod, Dr Nathan Robinson
The primary function of the OFT tool is to maximise enduring profitability of the Australian grains industry by providing easy and ongoing access to grains related field trials research from across Australia. This is achieved via a publicly accessible, searchable and simple to use online database, supported by contributions from a wide range of collaborators and partnerships. Trials information contained in OFT includes both new and legacy trials, a significant portion of which have been funded by GRDC.
While to date key users of OFT have tended to be researchers and providers of agronomic advice, OFT now also provides collections of seasonally relevant trials aimed directly at growers.
The website features a self-service module which allows research organisations or individuals to upload and manage their data. An important aspect of this tool, is that the data ownership and accessibility is maintained by the contributor. Dr Robinson said that “one of the important features of the project is that control of the data stays with the data contributor, they can edit and remove data if they wish, they even have the ability to embargo the publication of data”.
Currently the portal hosts information on over 6600 trials, 85 per cent of which are publicly accessible. Data contributors to date include individuals, grower groups, farming systems groups, state government and private research providers, and universities.
Data can be extracted from the system in two primary forms. Either as a downloadable PDF copy of the research report, or additionally in some instances, numerical research data which allows for a graphical comparison between multiple trials. A key consideration going forward is data quality and comparability, and ensuring users of the system continue to access the maximum number of trials, while also being able to make informed decisions about the statistical robustness of any given trial and its suitability for their needs.
Image: Professor David Lamb from the Precision Agriculture Research Group at the University of New England using Online Farm Trials
To aid this continued development an expert advisory group has been convened, and includes representatives from a range of stakeholder groups, including; farmers, agronomists, university and public sector researchers, research managers and the GRDC. The panel is focusing on how to add value, including via the development of tools and functionality for currently active trials which will reduce the double handling of data. Additional planned developments include easy to understand data quality indicators to ensure that users of the portal are able to make informed decisions based on in-depth knowledge of the data quality characteristics of the research.
Organisations also have the opportunity to download an OFT ‘widget’, which is essentially a mini version of the OFT search engine, that can be embedded in other websites. The full OFT website can be accessed at www.farmtrials.com.au; and an example of the OFT widget can be viewed on the Soilswest website.
For more information about this project contact Dr Ben Wills (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Image Attribution: Ms Julie Parker (CeRDi)