Research Project Makes Long Journey
- By Lisa L. McNair
- Mar 05, 2000
Once finished, research projects often do little more than collect dust.
Not so for Melanie Lowery Bayne.
The sociology professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,
began to research a project in 1997 that has since turned into an Internet-based
information and referral database used by human and community service groups
throughout northwest Arkansas.
Known as the Arkansas Resource Information CyberCenter, or ARIC (www.state.ar.us/aric), the searchable database provides an extensive list of
human and community service organizations. Normally, social service information
is scattered, making it hard for those in need to find help.
There are more than 15,000 human and community service organizations
listed on ARIC. It hosts agencies that provide services such as adult day
care and aging services, transportation, financial assistance, AIDS/HIV
support services, work training and health care.
"The reason I started all of this was because I wanted to deliver information
into the hands of people who needed it both service providers and people
who needed the services," Bayne said.
After talking with individuals across northwestern Arkansas, the research
group found that the system had holes. There was no central place where
people could go to find the community services they needed. ARIC was developed
to provide a private way to find those services.
ARIC enables social service agencies to input their information into
an online database. Organizations are given a log-in and password to enter
new information or update information about their agency.
"Service providers could take control of the information. They could
log in, enter and change it as frequently as they needed to. And then anyone
in the world could access it without having to go through some central clearinghouse
or other agency," Bayne said.
An added benefit to ARIC was that people with problems were more comfortable
browsing an Internet database than telling their troubles to strangers at
The database's search engine makes it easier to find programs, such
as financial assistance programs. It takes a few seconds to search by keyword
for organizations. Each listing provides a contact name, address, phone
number, fax number, hours of operation, cost of service, eligibility requirements
as and a brief description of services.
By 1999, ARIC was available statewide despite being a purely volunteer
effort with no financial assistance. Because of the increased interest in
the database, Bayne continued to volunteer as project coordinator, and ARIC
continued to grow. Eventually, ARIC followed Bayne to the Department of
Information Systems for Arkansas Computing and Information Agency.
The state is using Java-based technologies to develop a new ARIC database
under the Arkansas Repository and Information Exchange Server (ARIES). Under
the new technology, the ARIC database will be more secure with faster response
time and better search capability.
The ARIES Infrastructure that will support ARIC is about a $3 million
investment, according to John Moccabee, ARIES project director. The ARIES
project is expected to come online this quarter. However, the ARIC portion
is still awaiting sponsorship from one of the state agencies.
As part of ARIES, the ARIC database will be connected to other resource
databases throughout the state's site. Moccabee said he expects the database
to be fully developed and integrated into the state's infrastructure by