| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|Managing food composition data|
|Concerns of users of nutrient data bases|
Accessibility factors of concern include source, cost, and timeliness. These factors are important both at the time of initial acquisition of a data base and when an existing data base is being updated.
Maintaining a data base involves much redundant effort on the part of the first tier of users. Since no single source is available for all categories of data, many developers are involved in securing data about commercial products, ethnic foods, and regional specialities from the professional literature, food manufacturers, and unpublished sources. The aggregate time and cost spent on these activities in addition to the periodic costs associated with acquisition of machine-readable data constitute a significant expense for most users in the first tier. Minimizing the total costs for acquiring and maintaining a data base is a concern, particularly for those who do not market their data bases or services.
Timely delivery of data is another aspect of accessibility. Often users have an immediate need for data on specific nutrients or for certain foods. For example, recipes cannot be coded when data are lacking for certain ingredients. Meeting deadlines on research projects may be difficult when data are not readily available.
Knowledge of the availability of new data is also essential. Notification systems are needed to alert users when new data are released. Since some users may wish to access only a portion of the new data, opportunities for extracting selected data records would permit users to maintain up-to-date data bases tailored to their special needs.
With on-demand access, many users would be able to minimize the size of the data base maintained locally, since one could retrieve data from a central depository with the nutrient profile reflecting the most reliable values for each constituent. Acquiring data on a "just-in-time" basis would permit users to avoid data maintenance responsibilities for some data records until a need arises.