| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|Experiences with food composition data: the context|
|The INFOODS system|
This approach implies several decisions that each region will make separately. While INFOODS may make suggestions in these areas, the effective operation of the network will not depend on those suggestions being followed (or even asked for and supplied).
The first of these decisions is where the data themselves will be retained. The overall INFOODS notion requires only that a regional centre be able to provide requested information when it is requested, or within some reasonable time thereafter. The data could all be kept at a regional facility, or some could be kept centrally and some at various sites within the region, or all could be kept at local sites, with the regional centre acting as a collection and redistribution point only. Indeed, it would be possible for a region not to have any centralized computing facilities at all, but simply to receive requests for data and dispatch those requests to facilities within the region that had the data and could respond to the requests.
If we consider the possibility of each local facility- a country, a ministry, or academic or research facility - having its own unique computerized tools for managing nutrient data, the importance of the standard format for the interchange of data becomes even clearer. The INFOODS notion is that data moved between regional centres will be organized into this interchange format, with translation to and from that format occurring within the regions. The second regional decision will concern just where that translation is made. Will it be made at the regional centre, which might maintain a table of the formats required by local facilities within the region? Or will local facilities be expected to accept (and, if they are producers, create) data in the interchange format? We expect that this decision, too, will differ from region to region. It may even differ within a region, with some local formats being supported by the regional facility and local facilities that require other formats being required to translate from the interchange form themselves.
Third, a region will have to make sure its own decisions about how much data originating outside the region it should retain and for how long. At one extreme, the nature of the interchange and query arrangements should be such that there would be no technical obstruction to a single region assembling all of the world's data and retaining them locally. Since the cost of doing so includes an ongoing effort to keep that body of data current (or to determine when subsets of the data are no longer current), we have recommended that no region actually attempt to do this. A regional facility that discovered that particular data were requested repeatedly might reasonably decide to retain them, rather than requesting them from another region each time an inquiry arrived. At the other extreme, a region that chose to have no regional centre at all, but only a communications network, would presumably retain no data from outside the region except at local facilities.