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ARS Home » Research » Annual Report on Science Accomplishments » FY 2020 » Expanding Public Access to Agricultural Information

Expanding Public Access to Agricultural Information


ARS maintains effective stewardship of agricultural data, literature, and other information resources through the National Agricultural Library (NAL), the world’s largest collection of agricultural information. As the library of the USDA, NAL provides public access to scholarly literature and data funded by the Department and digitized access to special collections. The following FY 2020 milestones demonstrate how NAL supports fact-based, data-driven decision-making.

Hosting and Making Available FoodData Central and Other Nutrition-related Information. FoodData Central is an integrated data system that provides expanded nutrient profile data and links to related agricultural and experimental research. It is located at NAL collaborated with the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center and major industry partners to host FoodData Central, a public-access online reference containing entries for more than 358,117 different foods and 6.17 million food nutrients. Combined, the FoodData Central platform and the legacy Food Composition Database generated nearly 20 million pageviews and more than 2.7 million user sessions in FY 2020. Application developers made nearly 255 million application programming interface (API) calls against these two data products in FY 2020, making the USDA Food Composition Database and the FoodData Central APIs among the most popular in government. In April 2020, NAL released a new and significantly improved API for FoodData Central, making the API call process much more efficient for users. 

Providing Document Delivery and Interlibrary Loan Services to Researchers around the World during a Global Pandemic. NAL’s Collection Management Contract staff continued to provide document delivery and interlibrary loan services during the pandemic, providing loans and copies of agriculture-related books and articles to USDA employees around the country. NAL also provided interlibrary loan services to other libraries across the United States and around the world. Interlibrary loan requests increased substantially as NAL became a go-to resource for other libraries during the pandemic, reaching 8,600 document deliveries/interlibrary loans for the fiscal year. Most notably, NAL joined a volunteer project sponsored by the International Federation of Library Associations to support resource sharing to relieve library service disruptions caused by the pandemic. NAL emerged as a Top Ten worldwide supplier of content in July 2020.

Expanding public access to USDA-funded research outcomes in scholarly literature and scientific research data through PubAg and Ag Data Commons. PubAg is the NAL search system for USDA-funded scholarly agricultural literature. It is the source for researchers, scientists, and the public to find scientific, peer-reviewed agriculture-related citations and publications and is available at In FY 2020, NAL created a new workflow that added more than 1,200 manuscripts from the ARS Agricultural Research Information System. PubAg now contains more than 3 million citations for peer-reviewed, agriculture-related scientific articles, an increase of more than 350,000 citations from FY 2019. NAL also increased the full-text corpus publicly accessible through PubAg by nearly 88,000 full-text articles, for a total of more than 300,000 full-text articles. NAL staff continuously adds relevant scholarly agricultural information to PubAg.

The Ag Data Commons is a Federal scientific research data catalog and repository that helps the agricultural research community share and discover research data funded by USDA. The platform is available at Through the Ag Data Commons, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) provides services to make USDA-funded research data systems and data products Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR). Ag Data Commons works closely with the USDA research community to meet Federal open-access requirements to support scientific integrity and data reuse. In FY 2020, NAL’s Ag Data Commons team worked with the ARS Agricultural Collaborative Research Outcomes System (AgCROS) team to develop a workflow to create and apply Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for data deposited in AgCROS. This initiative improves the discoverability of this important agricultural research data. NAL collaborated with the University of Florida on a NIFA Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools grant to reformat selected datasets from five universities and load them on Ag Data Commons. Such data when reformatted becomes interoperable and re-usable, which increases the potential research impact of the data. The result of improved platform interfaces and other customer service improvements in FY 2020 was a 20 percent increase in individual data submitters, as well as an increase in the number of cataloged datasets and dataset downloads.

Digitizing historical agricultural research information and delivering it online in an easy-to-discover manner. To make the content of the world’s largest agricultural library more accessible, NAL is digitizing its physical collections not under copyright protection. In FY 2020, NAL digitized and created citation information for 11,778 items (455,555 pages), bringing the total number of digitized items to 172,763 (8,147,629 pages). Until all mass-digitized publications are migrated to NAL web services, public access is available at