Congratulations to FFTC on its 50th Anniversary and its long record of valuable service! I am very grateful to have been a small part of it.
I first visited the Center nearly 50 years ago, when the Center’s first Information Officer, Albie Allo, was working here. He was my father, though I didn’t come to Taiwan for that reason. I was doing postdoctoral research at Cambridge University, UK, as a member of a group studying the origins and development of agriculture. I visited FFTC several times, and still remember how hospitable and helpful the staff were. Ten years later, I was delighted to come back as the Center’s fifth Information Officer.
In my first years at the Center, most of my time was spent editing publications, and working with the Publications Secretary to get them ready for press. There was also the work of keeping records of meetings. One of the privileges of the job was attending most of the meetings organized by the technical staff with co-sponsors, and writing a report. I attended some wonderful scientific gatherings which still inform my thinking today.
When I first joined the Center, we had a very complicated mechanical typesetter that only the Publications Secretary was able to use. In 1987 we adopted desktop publishing, with two of the first black and white Macintosh computers. Desktop publishing made possible a more sophisticated layout, especially after the Center hired the services of a graphic artist to give our publications a modern in-house look. Publishing is expensive, and of course to distribute publications we had to pay postage. It is good to see that Center is now disseminating so much information in other ways, especially via the website.
The Center got its first website in the 1990s, while I was Information Officer. An outside firm designed it, but I worked with the Director and technical staff to decide the content, mainly publicizing the Center and its work. A few years later, in 1999 I began a joint project with IBSRAM, financed by the Council of Agriculture, to add a database to the Center’s website. This helped solve a growing problem, how to give access to all the valuable information that the Center had collected over the years. An IT firm in Taipei designed the database, and Dr. Hwu Kae-Kang, of the Department of National Taiwan University, gave us invaluable technical support. The database came on-line in May 2001.
By the time I left FFTC, information technology had already transformed the Center’s role. From a scarcity of information, the situation had changed to such an abundance it was difficult to deal with. I think FFTC’s role as a reliable information source is very important, because farmers risk losses when they use new technology. It is good to know that FFTC is still there to help transform the valuable results of agricultural research into a practical asset to farmers. My warm greetings to past and present colleagues, and my very best wishes to you in your important work.
Jan Bay-Petersen, Ph.D.
Former Information Officer, FFTC