Monday, December 24, 2012

Overview of my 2012

It seems that there goes this year as well... it has been a long and rather successful year, full of trips, meetings, tasks and tight deadlines. I took some time to go through the major events that I participated in during 2012 and here is a short list:
  1. 5th ISLE project meeting (23-27/4/2012, Newport, UK): Held at the Harper Adams University College, it was my first time in the UK for a project (my second one overall) and I was amazed by the landscape (and the awful weather...), as well as by the facilities and organization of the hosting institution. The meeting was combined with an Action Collab session facilitated by Sam and Megan from ISKME, as always.
  2. BioVeL MS6 Workshop (9-11/5/2012, Gothenburg, Sweden): My first time in Sweden and the first time to be among the BioVeL consortium. I participated on behalf of the agINFRA project, which also works with similar workflows as the ones used by BioVeL. I had a great time in the Workshop, meeting a lot of interesting people (I was always fond of biodiversity anyway, let alone combining it with software tools!) and did a litlle bit of sightseeing as well. My suitcase was for once more left behind while changing flights at CDG airport, France, but I managed to survive anyway. Since then, I keep an eye on the progress of the BioVeL project.
  3. 5th VOA3R project meeting (29-31/5/2012, Paris, France): The meeting was hosted by ACTA Info & INRA. It was my first time in Paris but I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy it, due to several factors. I also realized how expensive hotels in Paris are... more than 100 euros per night for a two-star hotel, including a really poor (not buffet) breakfast. Despite the bad weather, I managed to see almost all sights of Paris in just one evening, thanks to a really active colleague!
  4. 4th Organic.Lingua project meeting (18-20/9/2012, Paris, France): Wow, visiting Paris for the second time in 3 months! Things were serious there, as I had to present a lot of different aspects of the project (including stuff that I was not involved in). Due to the pressure and obligations for this meeting, I totally forgot that it was my birthday, which I accidentally celebrated with a colleague of mine & a fine bottle of French wine in a small but cozy French restaurant. No sightseeing this time, due to total lack of time...
  5. 6th VOA3R project meeting (15-18/10/2012, Limassol, Cyprus): My first time in Cyprus, where October was like summer! The city was full of tourists and transportation was an issue, but it was really nice to be there. Apart from our contribution (as GRNET) to the meeting, we also supported the organization of the Workshop on Open Access & Agricultural Repositories with the help of our good friend George Adamides from ARI, which I found really interesting. Bonus: I got to meet accidentally my good friend Petros from CUT, a colleague in the ISLE Erasmus Network! You may find more info about the Workshop at the FAO/AIMS website.
  6. Workshop on Agricultural Education, Methods, Practices and Technologies" (AgEdWS12) (25/10/2012, Pollenzo, Bra, Italy): I was responsible for the organization of the workshop and made a couple of presentations. It was hosted by the University of Gastronomic Sciences in a lovely landscape and building. I believe that despite the limited time that we had to prepare for the Workshop, we did a nice job with the organization and agenda. As it was collocated with Green Ideas 2012, I got to meet a lot of friends too and there was a warm feeling during these two days. The hotel was really nice, too. You may find more information about the workshop at the FAO/AIMS website.
  7. Herbal.Mednet Kick-off meting (22-23/11/2012, Alcala de Henares, Spain): It was my first time in Spain and my poor Spanish proved to be valuable for daily communication. even though I am not a member of the consortium, I was participating as an Organic.Lingua member, in order to present the concept of agriMoodle, which is going to be used for the training courses to be developed by the project. I loved Alcala de Henares, which is a traditional town with apparent medieval influences. I have a feeling that I will be a frequent visitor of this town in the future!
  8. EdReNe 9th Thematic Seminar (10-11/12/2012, The Hague, Netherlands): I was informed about EdReNe by a colleague of mine and was really anxious to initiate a communication and make sure that Agro-Know becomes a member of this interesting and active network. I was really glad to participate in the seminar and make a presentation about the Organic.Edunet network of learning repositories. I was also glad to make some really interesting connections and participate in some really interesting discussions, mainly during the social dinner... I could not believe how beneficial these events could be! By the way, kudos to the organizers of the workshop for the selection of the Rootz for the social event: wide variety of beers and tasty dishes made communication much easier! It was my first time in the Netherlands and I got in love with the Hague!
In the meantime, I managed to find some time for some publications, based on the outcomes of the things that I am actually working on:
  1. Geser G., Jaques Y., Manouselis N., Protonotarios V., Keizer J. and Sicilia M. (2012) Building Blocks for a Data Infrastructure and Services to Empower Agricultural Research Communities. In: Agris on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Volume IV, Number 4, 2012, PDF direct:
  2. Protonotarios, V., Papakonstantinou, K., Giannikopoulou, V., Toader, M. and Roman, Gh.V. (2012) Involving rural communities in organic agriculture-related EU initiatives: The case of the Organic.Balkanet LdV project. International Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Information Systems, Special Issue on "Online Information Systems and eServices for Rural Development" (accepted)
  3. Bouranis D.L., Chorianopoulou S.N., Siyiannis V.F., Protonotarios V.E., Koufos C. and Maniou P. (2012) Changes in nutrient allocation between roots and shoots of young maize plants during sulfate deprivation. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 175, 499-510.
  4. Thanopoulos, Ch., Protonotarios, V., and Stoitsis, G. (2012) Online Web portal of competence-based training opportunities for Organic Agriculture. Agris on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Volume IV, Number 1, 2012, pp. 49-63. ISSN 1804-1930.
  5. Toader, M., Roman, G.V. and Protonotarios, V. (2012) The Use of Metadata in the Description of e-Learning Content for Organic Agriculture. In J.-M. Dodero, M. Palomo-Duarte and P. Karampiperis (Eds.), Metadata and Semantics Research, Communications in Computer and Information Science 2012, pp 313-324, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-35233-1_30, Springer.
  6. Protonotarios, V., Ungur, M., Ebner, H. and Manouselis, N. (2012) Green Education using Open Educational Resources (OER): Setting up a Green OER Repository. Proceedings of the SPDECE-2012: 9th Multidisciplinary Symposium on the Design and Evaluation of Digital Content for Education. June 13-15, 2012, Cadiz, Spain.
  7. Protonotarios, V., Katrakilis, A., Stoitsis, G., Psochios, Y., Chiodo, E., Aguado., P. and Armutlieva, C. (2012). Innovation in the Teaching of Sustainable Development in Europe: The Case of ISLE Erasmus Network. Proceedings of SPDECE-2012: 9th Multidisciplinary Symposium on the Design and Evaluation of Digital Content for Education. June 13-15, 2012, Cadiz, Spain. 
So, what I really worked on during 2012?
  • Organic.Lingua: Mostly content population but also on other aspects of the project (e.g. the White Paper, dissemination activities, contribution in the user trials etc.). My main focus is to support the multilingual content population of the project with the existing content providers, as well as extend the network and engage new content providers. We are currently working on the revision of our approach and the whole package of Organic.Edunet, so major changes are expected next year.
  • agINFRA: I always feel confused with my role in this project... I am supporting the content population task, contributing in other aspects like metadata analysis, workflow analysis etc. I try to follow and contribute but I don't always find it an easy is a big project with big tasks and expectations.
  • VOA3R: Coordination of the content population. The addition of my colleague Effie in the GRNET team of VOA3R proved to be an excellent option, as the communication and outcomes were significantly enhanced after she started working on this project. On top of that, Effie is a real metadata expert, due to her studies as a librarian/information specialist, so she greatly supported metadata-related tasks of the project. The project ends at the end of May 2013 and the content population is one of the major aspects of this project, therefore we need to ensure that all goes well there.
  • ISLE: Our role in ISLE is always limited, as we as AK are dissemination partners. Even though I love dissemination activities, I found myself lagging behind the tasks of this project therefore the contribution of my colleague Valia was a relief. She took over the update of the project website and the project's social media channels (e.g. Facebook page, Twitter, Flickr), the newsletters etc.
Now that I see all these listed here, I can say that 2012 has been a really busy year for me but still leaves some space for an even more busy 2013!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

EdReNe 9th Thematic Seminar

I only recently found out about the existence of the EdReNe (Educational Repositories Network) Thematic Network, which looked really close to what we (as Agro-Know) are involved with in the context of our EU-funded projects like Organic.Lingua, VOA3R and agINFRA, as well as with the Organic.Edunet network. The aim of the EdReNe network is to bring together these web-based repositories of learning resources with content owners and other stakeholders within education in order to share, develop and document strategies, experiences, practices, solutions, advice, procedures etc. on the organisation, structuring and functionality of repositories. The overall goal is to improve the provision of and access to learning resources.

The 9th EdReNe Seminar took place in the Hague, Netherlands, between 10 & 11 of December 2012, hosted by the Open University. The Seminar was themed "Digitisation of the curriculum" and included a number of presentations plus 2 keynote speeches related to various aspects of digital collections and repositories, both from a user and a technical point of view. The Seminar was attended by almost 50 participants from 11 countries, all of them involved in the context of educational repositories such as project and content managers, teachers, technology experts, curriculum and content developers etc. The full version of the agenda of the seminar is available here.

I participated in the Seminar as a member of the Organic.Lingua project and made a presentation titled: "Developing a network of content providers: The case of Organic.Edunet". The presentation provided information on the Organic.Edunet network, the tools and workflows used within the network and focused on the multilinguality aspects provided by the Organic.Lingua project. The presentation included information about the current content providers of the network, the Organic.Edunet IEEE LOM metadata application profile and OA-AE ontology, as well as the Organic.Edunet Web portal. The presentation was well-accepted and there were some questions about e.g. the lack of the Dutch localization and resources, as well as the factors of the success of this portal (presenting the analytics of the portal always draws the attention of the audience - I have noticed that quite a few times in the past!). It was only the second thematic network presented in the Seminar, as the rest of the presentations were more general, discussing tools and applications for a wider audience. You can find almost all the presentations delivered during the Seminar here.

I had a really good time meeting various people who are working on more or less the same area as we do, exchange ideas and find common ground for potential collaboration in the future. Even though I liked most of the presentations of the seminar, I especially liked the following ones:
  • EUscreen, by Erwin Verbruggen, which described an EU project that had to do with large collections of audiovisual material. In fact, one of the tools used for the metadata curation was the one that we also try these days, called MINT. In addition, the EUscreen project made an excellent use of Web 2.0 tools, which I really liked.
  • Connecting the dots: the pieces we need to digitalize the curriculum, by Dr. Fredrik Paulsson, as he detailed the use of the educational metadata, other than the IEEE LOM ones, which I found really interesting.
  • Elevplan in Denmark : 10 years use of digitized curriculum in vocational education, by Folmer Kjær, which described a web-based educational documentation and planning tool for VET, in which we are also interested due to our involvement in EU projects that develop training curricula (in the agricultural context).
  • I also liked a presentation by Wim Muskee, who presented an automated way to create metadata records for Wikipedia articles, based on the classification already existing in Wikipedia and enriched with algorithms that provided keywords and other information, based on the frequency of specific terms in the text. It provided almost the same results as the crawler that we started using for the same purpose (creating metadata records for resources that are not described with metadata but are available online) but following a different approach.
Unfortunately I missed the majority of the presentations made on the second day of the seminar, as I had to rush to the airport in order to catch my flight back to Athens. I hope that the presentations will soon be available online, through the EdReNe website. After this short experience, I have to admit that I am already looking forward to the next EdReNe seminar!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Brand-new publication on Metadata - MTSR 2012

It is now official: the paper that I co-wrote with Prof. Roman and and Dr. Maria Toader from the University of Agronomic Science and Veterinary Medicine - Bucureşti, titled: "The Use of Metadata in the Description of e-Learning Content for Organic Agriculture", was accepted in the Fifth International Workshop "Metadata and Semantics for Agriculture, Food and Environment" of the 6th Metadata and Semantics Research Conference (MTSR 2012) and now published in the Springer Proceedings of the MTSR 2012 Conference.

The paper is about a part of the outcomes of the Organic.Balkanet project, and more specifically the training curriculum of the project, and how educational metadata were used for the description of the courses included in this curriculum. The metadata part described in the paper was a long, time consuming and error-prone process, so the results were rather poor; however, we managed to have a first version that was later elaborated and improved by other stakeholders. The paper was also a dissemination activity of the Organic.Lingua project, as the translation and multilinguality issues mentioned in the paper are in the heart of the project. In addition, everything related to Organic.Edunet is now a part of the Organic.Lingua project (including the new collections added to the Organic.Edunet network).

My colleague Nikos Manolis who traveled to Cadiz, Spain and participated in the Conference made the presentation on behalf of the authors. Unfortunately, I could not participate in the Conference due to other obligations at that time but still I was glad to know that my submission was presented. I am really looking forward to receiving feedback on how it went and if there were any questions about that. The paper is also a part of the VOA3R Controlled Experiment for Reviewing Lifecycle Services, so anyone is invited to visit the blog hosting the experiment and review my paper (among others), so that a related (and fruitful) discussion can be initiated.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Counting on cloud services - sometimes it fails...

Depending on a cloud service for getting the latest version of a presentation I made during the Herbal.Mednet kick-off meeting and realizing that the file has not been uploaded correctly from my netbook to the cloud... epic fail!

I suppose that it was due to the fact that the files were not properly synced before I switched off my netbook and let it rest until my next trip. I always like to find excuses for others when the job is not done but when it comes to presenting your outcomes and finding a working solution you either have to:

i) make sure that everything is properly synced before switching off your laptop or
ii) use a traditional USB stick: cheap, portable and loyal!

I might have to go for the second option next time...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Herbal.Mednet kick-off meeting

The kick-off meeting of a new Leonardo da Vinci project took place on November 22-23, 2012 at the premises of University of Alcala, Alcala de Henares, Spain. The consortium consists of good friends and colleagues from other EU-funded projects, like UAH (Dr. Salvador Sanchez), USAMVB (Prof. Roman and Dr. Maria Toader, long-time friends from the Organic.Edunet and Organic.Balkanet projects) and EUMMENA (Dr. Jad Najjar). The coordinating institution is Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica (SEAE / Victor Gonzalvez) and the consortium also includes Apivita, University of Thessaly, Greece and SERIFO from Italy.
Group photo of the Herbal.Mednet consortium members
I participated in the meeting as an external expert on behalf of the Organic.Lingua project, presenting an overview of the agriMoodle course management platform and how it could be applied in the case of the Herbal.Mednet project. The platform seems ideal for the purposes of the project, as each one of the user partners will have to develop a part of the training curriculum in the form of courses, which may be uploaded in agriMoodle, described with Organic.Edunet IEEE LOM metadata, enriched with additional supporting material (also described with metadata) and made available through a wide variety of portals, websites etc. A short overview of the project can be found in the IEUAH blog entry.
The Organic.Edunet Web portal will have a core role in this project as well, since it is going to provide resources for the enrichment of the courses and at a later stage provide access to the courses organized in the agriMoodle instances used by the user partners of the consortium (Apivita, Serifo and SEAE).

It was my first time in Spain and more specifically in Alcala de Henares, which is a lovely town, well-preserved to keep its medieval character. Despite the limited free time, we managed to walk around the town and see some of the beautiful monuments. The Rectorate building of the university alone was one of the best sites around! I am already looking forward for my next time in Spain - it will also help me practice my poor Spanish. :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BioVeL Newsletter No. 2

The BioVeL project has just published their 2nd newsletter. It was sent to me via email, as I was registered through the BioVeL website; however, you may grab a digital copy from here. I had a really good time going through it, despite the fact that I am not involved in the biodiversity field, as it provides a wide variety of topics, including information on workflows.

For example, I found the Workflow for Data Refinement especially interesting for my work - we are working with related workflows in the agINFRA project after all). I also enjoyed the presentation of consortium members, some of which I had already met during the MS6 workshop, in which I also participated. I like this idea, which we are already using in our ISLE newsletters, but in a smaller scale.

However, what I enjoyed most was the photo available in p.12 of the newsletter, as it was a group photo taken during the MS6 workshop at Gothenburg, Sweden. It was a surreal photo, and setting up all these people did not seem to work since there were two cameras shooting at the same time but from different angles! I happened to look at the correct camera, since I started to develop an instinct about that after my participation in all these meetings! :-P

This brought all these nice memories from my participation to the 2nd BioVeL workshop; I would love to find an opportunity to work with the people involved there, as they are so passionate about what they are doing!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

VOA3R featured in the Focus Europe Journal

Thanks to a tweet from ARI_RD I was informed that the VOA3R project has been featured in the latest issue (October 2012) of the European Journal Focus Europe. The journal is produced by C-E.N.T.E.R. Network (Competence, cooperation and communication in the dissemination and exploitation of EU projects) and aims to highlight European developments and projects, mainly focusing on EU-funded projects. It is an interesting project, that provides a number of dissemination opportunities and tools for EU-funded projects that would like to expose their work and outcomes to a wider audience.

VOA3R partners @ Izmir, Turkey during 4th project meeting
The article about VOA3R is titled "Community-based research, knowledge sharing and publication facilitated by VOA3R" and can be found at page 17. It is a short presentation of the VOA3R project, written by Christian M. Stracke (eLC / University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany), Diane Le Hénaff (INRA, France) and Miguel-Angel Sicilia (University of Alcalá, Spain), all partners of the project (the latter being the coordinator of the project). The article also features a family photo of the project's partners, taken during the 4th project meeting in Izmir, Turkey, collocated with MTSR 2011.

You may find the online version of the journal here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Agricultural Education Workshop 2012

The "Workshop on Agricultural Education, Methods, Practices and Technologies" (AgEdWS12) is now over. It took place at Pollenzo, Bra, Italy, on October 25, 2012, right after Green Ideas 2012. The Workshop was attended by about 10 people and consisted of presentations as well as hands-on sessions on several tools. You can find the agenda of the Workshop here, including the presentations of each participant. A detailed description of the workshop is also available through the FAO/AIMS website.

Introduction to the Workshop
Not only I was facilitating the Workshop, introducing each one of the speakers, but I also got to make two presentations, the introduction to the workshop and a presentation about the networks of content providers/the Organic.Edunet network. I was really glad to attend the presentations of Karen Vignare (Michigan State University) on the MetroAg MOOC concept, as well as the one from the FBK team on ontologies and classification schemes used in the educational context. In general, I am pretty satisfied about how the workshop ended, even though the results could be even better if we had more time for the preparations (including our presentations as well!). However, it seems that work was accumulated after my recent trip to Limassol, Cyprus and only limited time was left for adding the final touches for this workshop from my side. You may find photos from the AgEdWS12 Workshop here.

Pollenzo is a beautiful village, consisting of some traditional buildings as well as an archaeological site within the village. The University of Gastronomic Sciences is hosted in a magnificent building that belongs to some centuries ago.

Reaching Pollenzo from Athens was a challenging task, as the route was the following:

1. Suburban railway from home to Athens Airport
2. Flight from Athens to Rome
3. Flight from Rome to Turin
4. Bus from Turin airport to Turin train station
5. Train from Turin to Bra
6. Taxi from Bra to Pollenzo.

It took us more than 7 hours in total, but it deserved it. We arrived at Pollenzo at 19.30 and at 19.45 we had to be at the hotel's lobby to join the rest of the team for dinner, at the excellent Soffitta. The night was short, as presentations had to be revised and emails had to be replied. However, the Workshop on Thursday was better than expected, so I made up for that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Ideas 2012

Green Ideas is always a big celebration for the Agro-Know team (except maybe for the one organizing the event, as (s)he has so many things to take care of, even after the end of the event...)! During the Green Ideas 2011 event, which was held at Mesta, a small traditional village of Chios island, Greece, more than half of the Agro-Know team traveled and actually participated/supported the event.

This year, Green Ideas 2012 takes place at Pollenzo, Bra, Italy and in fact the first day of the event must be over by now. Some of my colleagues have already been there since Sunday or arrived just today. This time I am not participating to the event (even though my Olympus E-300 is already there to grab some photos of the event!), but I will be facilitating the "Workshop on Agricultural Education, Methods, Practices & Technologies", that will take place right after Green Ideas 2012 at the same place. In fact, some of the Green Ideas 2012 participants will also participate in the Workshop.

I will be flying to Turin, Italy on Wednesday and despite the fact that reaching Pollenzo looks like a small adventure, I am really looking forward to go there, meet friends and have a great time during the Workshop!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

VOA3R 6th project meeting and Open Access Workshop

VOA3R Family Photo @ Cyprus
I had the opportunity to visit Cyprus for the first time during October 15-17, for the 6th project meeting of the VOA3R project. In addition, we have worked closely with George Adamides, the local host from Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) and we managed to organize a Workshop on "Open Access and Agricultural Repositories Workshop" right after the meeting, on October 18th, 2012.
The meeting was successful, since there was active participation and long discussions on pending issues, in order to make sure that everything will be on time, just 8 months before the end of the project.

Workshop participants working
on the VOA3R portal
The aim of the Workshop was to bring in touch stakeholders from Cyprus (researchers, students, practitioners etc. in the area of agriculture and agricultural research) in order to create and support a network, as well as to present the tools and services developed by related EU projects, like VOA3R and agINFRA, that could be used in order to facilitate the daily research work of the participants. It was rather successful, as it was attended by about 10 Cypriot stakeholders, mainly (if not all) researchers. I was facilitating the Workshop, making an introductory presentation and introducing each presenter before his presentation, which was really nice since all speakers were colleagues and friends of mine.
Imma Subirats from FAO/AIMS made a long but really interesting presentation about Open Access, which was followed by two case studies of Open Access repositories: The SLU Epsilon repository (presented by Urban Ericsson from SLU) and Organic Eprints (presented by Ilse Rasmussen from ICROFS), both based on Eprints software. Then there was a presentation of the repository tools used in Open Access repositories, like the AgriOcean DSpace (by Dirk Leinders from University of Hasselt) and Eprints (by Alejandro Engelmann from SLU). The following session was a hands-on session on the VOA3R portal, as a networking platform for researchers, practitioners and students in the agricultural context. For collecting the feedback we used both the online questionnaire as well as some additional focused ones provided by the UAH team. After a really interesting lunch break (I really loved the buffet lunch at Atlantica Miramare Hotel!), it was time for another interactive session, supported by the agINFRA project, which included a short presentation of the project and its expected outcomes as well as a discussion during which we tried to identify the needs of the participants as regards the tools, services and infrastructure used, barriers they face regarding the open access to content and other aspects. You may find additional information about the Workshop in my post in the FAO/AIMS website.

In general it was a fruitful workshop and I feel really grateful to the people who got involved in it and dedicated their time in order to prepare and present their presentations. I felt really glad that we had the opportunity to engage some stakeholders from Cyprus in such a discussion about Open Access and repositories and I really enjoyed the related discussions that we had with the brave ones who stayed until the end of the Workshop. I also hope that I will have the opportunity to visit Cyprus again in the near future, as due to the lack of time I did not have the opportunity to go around and see things!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Open Access Week @ AIMS: AK's contribution

I have to admit that this was a really nice surprise: I can see myself at the FAO AIMS (Agricultural Information Management Standards) portal! This is due to a work on our collaboration with ISKME on the Green OER Commons microsite and collection, in the context of the Open Access Week @ AIMS that my colleague Madalina Ungur and me submitted some time ago and was accepted for presentation through a webinar that will take place on 25/10/2012.

Even though I will not be able to attend the webinar (as I will be facilitating the Workshop on Agricultural Education, Methods, Practices and Technologies" (AgEdWS12) on the same day), it was still really nice for me to see my name featured at the FAO AIMS portal. As I am an agronomist myself, I know what FAO means in my research area and I could never even imagine that some years ago, while I was still studying. For us, FAO was something bigger than life, with its huge organization and publications/courses/materials etc. that could be used as a basis for our own assignments & research.

The full description of our work, titled "OER Commons Green: Aggregating Best-in-Class Green Open Educational Resources" can be found here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Organic.Lingua 4th project meeting @ Paris

The Organic.Lingua 4th project meeting took place between 18-20/9/2012 at Paris, France, at the premises of INRA. I knew that I had a lot of work to do for the meeting, since I had to present a wide variety of things, some of which were not exactly in the heart of what I am actually working on (e.g. the presentation of the Organic.Lingua online survey and the Evaluation & Validation plan of the project - there were colleagues of mine working on these topics).

The discussions during the meeting were mainly technical, focusing on the language components and the additions/improvements that are expected within the next months regarding the automated translations, enriched with some "lighter" sessions, like the project's vision session, content population plan and status, dissemination etc. I had the opportunity to present the AgLR (Agricultural Learning Repository) Tool, on which we have been working with the technical team of AK for quite some time now. We managed to identify some issues; however, we didn't have time for the planned hands-on session, which would also provide really useful feedback...

The meeting took longer than expected, so any plans for sightseeing were not applicable. Despite that fact, we managed to visit some really interesting places for dinner (Chez Paula was one of them). However, the hotel room was for once more rather disappointing...located in a not-so-safe-looking area, it has not been refurbished for quite a long time. Mold was all over the bathroom, while the furniture were badly treated in various cases. At least the mattress was unexpectedly comfortable! Breakfast was rather limited but a huge improvement compared to the really poor served in my previous stay in Paris.

All in all, the meeting was successfully completed, leaving some space for improvements in the next months. It left me with quite a lot of things to do within the next weeks, but I am quite sure that other obligations/deadlines etc. will make this quite impossible...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Working away from office - my mobile office

One of the things I really love about my job is that I may work not only in the office but from home, in coffee shops, while travelling etc. Ok, there is always the danger to spend all free time working this way, but still the fact that you don't have to go to the office in order to move on with your daily tasks is in most cases a big advantage.
Working during a flight: Mobile office!
For example, in the case of a strike of the public means of transportation, I may as well work from home. In case I want to work in a more fun way, I may take my netbook and go to a WiFi-enabled coffee shop or even a park to work from there. It is really important that I rarely depend from hard-copies of documents, so mostly from files that are either stored in the cloud or available in my external 2.5-inch hard disk. In the rare case that e.g. a document is required in printed form for reviewing or I have to go through a large deliverable, then I only have to remember about that before leaving the office.
I like the idea of a mobile office. I have managed to do a significant amount of work during and in-between flights (e.g. preparing my presentation for the next day, reading supporting documents for a meeting or replying offline to emails to be sent later), during commuting to work (e.g. checking my emails using my mobile phone, taking notes for the day, organizing my tasks etc.) and while waiting for my number to come in e.g. a bank (I usually update the twitter accounts of projects). I can take advantage of this short travel times in order to be productive and organize my work.
Trip to Naxos island - working on board!

A collection of useful stuff like notepads, diaries and color pens, tablet or netbook (not all the time!), usb sticks and a portable USB hard disk (for keeping some important files with me all the time), hard copies of papers/deliverables/DoW for reviewing and commenting on, chargers, cables and adapters are usually in my backpack to make this possible.

Of course this is not always good, as every occasion and free time can be really easily turned into additional work time but that's the nature of my job, which I really like! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MTSR 2012

MTSR 2012 - the 6th Metadata and Semantics Research Conference will take place at Cadiz, Spain, between 28-30/11/2012. One of the special tracks will be the 5th International Workshop on "Metadata and Semantics for Agriculture, Food and Environment" (AgroSem2012), to which I also participated last year (as a part of the MTSR 2011 Conference in Izmir, Turkey).

This time I will be more actively involved in the organization of the Workshop, as a member of the Program Committee. Apart from disseminating the Workshop, I am also submitting two research papers as a co-author (one of them is about the recently over Organic.Balkanet project and its use of metadata) and I will get to review some of the submitted paper (hopefully not mine!).

Due to the nature of the Workshop, the VOA3R project is tightly connected to it, so a number of submissions from VOA3R-related authors is expected. After all, Agro-Know and VOA3R are some of the supporters of this workshop!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Agro-Know server issue

Today I realized that I could not access my Agro-Know email account since early in the morning; I kept receiving a message about authentication problems. As soon as I got in the office, I went through the various services hosted at the Agro-Know server only to see that none of them (email, blog, wiki etc.) was available.

I really had to send some rather urgent early-morning emails, to revise stuff at the Agro-Know blog and get some information from the wiki, so I realized how important this server is... it is hard to work without internet, but then it is also scary when you realize how much we depend on this hardware to work with all these Agro-Know server-based services!

I hope that the issue will be fixed soon...

**EDIT** The issue was indeed temporary and was fixed in some 30 mins later, after communicating the issue to our web hosting service.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

agINFRA technical meeting in Athens

A one-day meeting for the technical partners of the agINFRA project took places at the premises of Agro-Know on 21/6/2012. The meeting was attended by the majority of the technical partners of the project and since some parts of it were closely related to my work (such as the content population and the workflows that could be used during the project for the connection of new repositories), I took some time participating in it.
Nikos Manouselis presenting (photo by Jaakko)

It was a nice opportunity to meet colleagues from Serbia, Spain, Hungary etc., with whom we have never communicated in the past (since my tasks in the project are not exactly technically-oriented), but still it was nice watching these presentations and getting to know how (technical) things are moving in the project.

Short lunch break (photo by Jaakko)
Jaakko Lappalainen from UAH has already made a short blog post describing the event, which is really interesting (and contains more photos of the event)!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

VOA3R 5th project meeting

I recently came back from Paris, where the 5th project meeting of VOA3R was held during 29-31/5/2012. The meeting was interesting as always, discussing a wide variety of issues including the project's management, quality assurance & risk management aspects, dissemination and affiliation plans and activities etc. My part had to do with the content population activities of the project, as I am a member of the GRNET team which is leading the specific work package. The task is rather complex, since it heavily relies on other WPs, such as the one developing the VOA3R metadata AP, the harvesting and portal parts, the quality assurance and dissemination/affiliation plans.We already had some delays with these tasks but during the meeting we tried to describe the current status and define the next steps for the next months.

Presenting the next content population tasks (photo by Imma Subirats)
It was a nice opportunity for me to meet Diane (since we had to solve some issues for the Organic.Lingua project) and David Martin from UAH who has only recently joined the team and has also helped in the Organic.Lingua tasks.
Panoramic photo of the meeting (photo by Imma Subirats)
Apart from that, I had the opportunity to see Paris and its sights for the first time. I managed to get some hours off and really quickly visit the major sights including the Eiffel tower, the Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, Monmartre, while I also passed just outside the Louvre, taking photos all the time on the road. Despite the bad weather (it was drizzling all the time) I really enjoyed the evening.
Next VOA3R project meeting is to be held in Cyprus, courtesy of George from ARI!

Friday, May 18, 2012

2nd BioVeL Workshop

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2nd BioVeL Workshop on taxonomic and phylogenetic workflows titled "Developing interdisciplinary methods for conservation biology and ecosystem research – taxonomic and phylogenetic workflows in biodiversity research". It was a joint effort of the BioVeL EU project and the Swedish LifeWatch initiative, and it took place at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden at the Wallenberg conference center between 10-11 May 2012. The workshop was attended by a number of project partners as well as external stakeholders, such as members of the affiliated EU projects ViBRANT and agINFRA (David King and me), along with representatives from other initiatives and natural history museums.

Yeap, that's me taking notes during the workshop.
The aim of the workshop was to bring together researchers in the area of biodiversity along with technical people working with related tools and infrastructures, discuss about tools and workflows used and share experiences and ideas in order to optimize these.

I was lucky to attend the social dinner held at the Gothenburg Natural History Museum, as it provided me with a nice opportunity to meet some of the participants even before the workshop (it would be my first time among the biodiversity researchers so there were no familiar faces among them). The museum is really interesting, packed with well-organized specimens and exhibits. The dinner was based on traditional recipes and dishes, which were previously unknown to me; however I have to admit that most of them were really tasty! There was a really friendly atmosphere and I also managed to make contact with the director of the museum, towards the collaboration with the Natural Europe project, through its affiliation program.

The workshop was also interesting, featuring a big number of presentations that helped me understand the way that this specific community works and the needs raised regarding tools and workflows. Some of the presentations were too technical or too focused for me, but still there were interesting points in almost all of them. On the other hand, the social events provided an opportunity for networking and getting to know each other. My impressions of the BioVeL workshop have already been described in the Agro-Know wiki page.

Trivial stuff about my trip to Gothenburg:
  1. It was my first trip to Sweden; I had this trip in my mind since I was a teenager!
  2. My luggage was left in Paris (did not follow my connection flight) and only reached my hotel at midnight, so I had to be really informal during the social dinner and visit to Gothenburg NHM, wearing a rather tight pair of shoes...
  3. As usually, the weather was cloudy and drizzling almost all the time. This weather is really common for my business trips all over Europe, no matter the season...
  4. As there was no flight to Athens after the end of the Workshop on Friday, I had to spend the evening in Gothenburg and catch an early flight on Saturday morning. Unfortunately my feet were hurt so badly (see 2) that I could not go around the city. This was the only time that I saw the sun in Gothenburg - an excellent application of Murphy's law!
  5. I faced a number of practical issues during my last evening at Gothenburg (such as bad estimations leading me to lack of local currency - exchange shops were closed).
  6. I woke up really early and hungry on Saturday, waiting for breakfast before I had to leave, only to find out that breakfast was to be served 1 hour later during weekends (so after I left the hotel)!
  7. KLM breakfast/snacks/meals suck big time: They were really poor and in all cases insufficient and not  according to the (high) price of the ticket.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do you speak Organic?

A survey on language barriers faced by the users of the Organic.Edunet Web portal (and not only) has been launched today by the Agro-Know team of the Organic.Lingua project. This project that aims to identify multilinguality issues and provide software solutions on the Organic.Edunet Web portal.

The survey, along with a short introduction to the whole concept can be found here. All people involved in the field of organic agriculture, agroecology and green fields in general (such as teachers, students, tutors/educators etc.) are more than welcome to participate in this survey and provide their feedback which will allow the Organic.Lingua project to work on the issues identified and hopefully come up with usable solutions!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Open Education Week - Only 10 days to go!

I am reposting a press release for an event that is really important for the open access / open education community, regarding the Open Education Week, organized by the The OpenCourseWare Consortium:

Efforts to Expand Access to Education and Knowledge to be Featured in Global Events

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., (February 21, 2012)The OpenCourseWare Consortium announces today the first annual Open Education Week from March 5-10, 2012.  Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of free and open sharing in education, especially Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are high-quality, free and open educational materials that offer opportunities for people anywhere in the world to share, use and reuse. 
“The vision of the open education movement is to create a world in which the desire to learn is fully met by the opportunity to do so, where everyone, everywhere, is able to access affordable, educationally and culturally appropriate opportunities to gain whatever knowledge or training they desireThe movement encompasses producing, sharing, using and modifying content, as well as innovative models of educational delivery,” said Mary Lou Forward, executive director of the OpenCourseWare Consortium. “Open Education Week will showcase projects, resources, people and ideas so that people around the world can see the breadth of what has been accomplished already, and participate in discussions about the future of the movement.”
Open Education Week is being coordinated by the OpenCourseWare Consortium.  The event will take place online and in different locations around the world, with opportunities to participate in webinars, discussions and live events. Projects and events will be featured from institutions and organizations from around the world, including: University of Cape Town, University of Michigan, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, University of California, Irvine, Delft University of Technology, and Creative Commons. Participation is free and open to all. Visit and follow @openeducationwk for more information.
About The OpencCourseWare Consortium: The OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC) is a community of more than 250 universities and associated organizations worldwide. The mission of the OCWC and its member institutions is to advance formal and informal learning for educators and self-learners around the world through the sharing and use of free, open, high-quality education materials packaged as courses readily accessible on a digital platform.  The Consortium showcases its members to a global audience and provides information and training through webinars, newsletters, and free and open materials. For more information, visit

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Puzzled by Policy

I just took a break and participated in the Puzzled by Policy survey, just to see what it is about. I found the questions to be clear and focused and the whole process was real fun! It has been really well set-up, both the content and the user interface while at the same time collecting feedback about a specific issue (immigration policy) and bringing you close to the real situation in your country.

I will not reveal the end, but it will really surprise you!

This platform is a product of the Puzzled by Policy, an ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT-PSP), part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP)  project.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Applying analytics for a learning portal: the Organic.Edunet case study

I was only recently informed of another publication, to which I partially participated. It is titled "Applying analytics for a learning portal: the Organic.Edunet case study" and it was a paper initially submitted, accepted and presented by my colleague Nikos Palavitsinins at the 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2011 (LAK '11) in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Nikos had a really hard time there, due to the severe cold and the last-minute revisions that he had to make to his presentation!

So far, only the presentation made by Nikos at the Conference was available through SlideShare; however, the paper is now available in the Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge by ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). Unfortunately, this publication is not open access (in fact access to this article costs $15), but the publication of all accepted papers in the Proceedings of the Conference was a selection of the organizers (and surely not up to us). Still it was really nice to see another publication, especially in this accredited series of Proceedings by ACM.