- Author: Brad Hanson
Several years ago, I had what seemed like a great weed research idea.
My idea addressed a serious agricultural weed problem in California, it was applicable to several cropping systems, it used an integrated approach to weed management, and it utilized a pretty novel approach (or so I thought). I proudly laid out this idea to my UC weed science colleague at a meeting, only to hear "That's great Brad but I think your predecessor tried that in the late 80's and it didn't work very well". After my damaged pride recovered a bit, I started thinking about the volume of research that we do that is not very easy to find out about after it is done.
As scientists, we often think about publications in terms of the work we publish in various peer-reviewed journals. These are very important but only encompass a portion of the written reports on our research. There's a whole other category of the "gray literature" that is not easily accessed or searched, but often makes up a substantial part of our extension programs or base knowledge. This includes research progress reports to commodity commissions and funding agencies, herbicide screening trials, the one-off side projects, that grad student research that wasn't ultimately published in a journal for one reason or another, the write-up prepared for an extension meeting, the pilot study that didn't generate sufficiently interesting results to follow up on, etc.
Some of this information can be accessed on online (if you look in the right place), but other than the person who created the report, much of this information is essentially lost once the report has been submitted or the presentation made. Worse yet, some research results simply aren't available anywhere but in the writers file cabinet or hard drive and can completely disappear with a computer replacement,office cleansing, or researcher retirement. Our colleagues, students, and successors (and even ourselves) cannot build upon research they don't know about (or don't remember doing).
So, to take a stab at this problem, several Weed Research and Information Center colleagues and I started building a UC Weed Science Report Database. We used an existing database platform in the UC ANR system but built a web interface with a simple search function for key words, authors, publication year, or several broad categories of reports. We elected to use an "all word search" rather than to manually categorize each report by weed/crop/herbicides, trade names vs chemical names, etc.
Although far from being a complete set of reports (that is probably an impossible goal), there are currently nearly 1700 reports, publications, research posters, and CWSS abstracts that have been uploaded so far. Our goal is to keep adding to these reports on a regular basis into the future. Where possible, we're also trying to include reports from the archives as we obtain and scan them.
I have to acknowledge the UC ANR programmers who helped answer dozens of my database questions and for programming the upload and search functions. Also, the California Weed Science Society provided some support for the scanning and uploading of several decades of CWSS proceedings that have been included in this project and will also be available at the CWSS website in whole volume format.
The database is available at this link or directly at this web address:
Please take a look if you have interest. As this project is still very much "in process", please share any comments or suggestions via the comments below.