| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|Experiences with food composition data: the context|
|The INFOODS system|
Data interchange and regional centres
INFOODS is basically a collaboration of people and organizations involved with the generation, collaboration, and use of food composition data. Key to this is the concept of moving data around - data interchange. The current model of the operation of INFOODS shows a number of regional centres, each acting as a focus for composition data within its region. We hope and expect that there will not be more than about a dozen such regions, and that industries and even governmental data banks will not constitute regions. Within a region, user centres and user groups - ranging in size from individual desk-top computers to large governmental or university installations - will use the regional centre as their access point for data from other regions, and perhaps as a means of accessing data from within the region. No particular model of regional centre operation is required by this. We expect that some regions will maintain all regional data centrally, that others will maintain no data but will have convenient mechanisms for accessing data from distributed repositories, and that still others will operate with a mix of local and distributed data. We see the flow of transactions as:
1. User facility queries the regional centre as to whether it has particular data available and how it is obtained.
2. If the regional centre does not have the data, and is not aware of its availability within the region (or whether another regional centre has it), it makes an INFOODS inquiry as to where the data might be found. In order to make this inquiry the only requirement is that there be a single international focus once the regional centres are in full operation. It is an inquiry about the location of data ("if this exists, who has it?") rather than about the data, and does not necessarily imply any computerized facility or electronic communication at all.
3. INFOODS either responds to the original regional centre with the availability information, in which case that regional centre requests the data from a second centre, or it requests that the second regional centre forward the data to the first.
4. The second regional centre does whatever is needed to obtain and prepare the data within its region, then forwards that data (in INFOODS interchange format) to the first regional centre. The interchange format is insensitive to mode of transmission - electronic networks, magnetic tapes, or even messages written on pieces of paper. Transmission modes will be worked out between pairs of regional centres on the basis of what is available and the real or anticipated level of demand.
5. The regional centre forwards the data to the user facility, possibly after some format conversion or editing operations agreed to within the region.