TDWG99 (Harvard), Minutes of SDD meeting

Gregor Hagedorn G.Hagedorn at BBA.DE
Thu Nov 25 17:33:59 CET 1999

Minutes of the Subgroup "Structure of descriptive data" workshop at
TDWG 1999 in Harvard


The subgroup convened on Sunday, 31.10.99 during the annual TDWG
meeting at Harvard University. The following topics were discussed:

1. Diederich's "Basic properties"

General agreement was reached that a direct application of the
"structure-property-value" model would be too restrictive, applicable
mainly to morphological descriptions. A more general model, including
cultural/physiological and molecular descriptions should be
developed. The term "feature" was proposed as a more general
replacement for structure.

2. Standardization of schemas (character definitons), user defined

This was considered desirable in the long run, but, esp.considering
the experiences made by Richard Pankhurst with plant descriptors, it
should be considered a long term goal. The problems were shortly
discussed. Agreement was reached that these topics are quite separate
and should be discussed in separate discussion groups.

3. New interchange format for descriptors

It was proposed that a new "Superset format", encompassing the
functionality of the existing DELTA and NEXUS interchange formats,
and with extensions to support the requirements of LucID,
DeltaAccess, and possible further software packages should be
developed. However, it was agreed that we should first step back to
review the current use of descriptors. The new format should not be a
simple superset with possible redundancy, but the principles of
biological descriptions should be reevaluated to cover them with
appropriate and general mechanisms. To achieve a clearer picture, a
requirement analysis was proposed (see next point).

A distinction was made between the data model and the metaformat. It
was agreed that XML may be a good vehicle for a new standard.
However, alternatives should be carefully evaluated. A decision for
or against XML would have to be made only after the requirement
analysis and information model had sufficiently far progressed.
An important point was made that the standard should belong to TDWG,
and should neither in name nor in the preparation of future versions
be too intimately tied to any developer of a software application.
The relationship to existing standards TDWG-DELTA or NEXUS should be
clearly defined and mapping definitions provided.

4. Requirement analysis

A requirement analysis is to be made, separately for general and
application type specific requirements. The general requirements
should be discussed according to a preliminary information model.

5. How to proceed

The group agreed to communicate over an email listserver (which will
be installed at the University of Kansas with the help of Jim Beach).
It was agreed that the documents to be discussed should in simple
cases be send directly as plain text in the body of an email, or in
the case of longer, structured and formatted documents, in the form
of HTML attachments. The use of PDF should be avoided, since it can
not be directly read and is difficult to annotate and consolidate

A web page will document the consolidated discussion papers and the
emendations or criticisms regarding these papers. In addition, the
list server will directly provide an unedited archive of the original

Time frame: It was considered desirable to have a definite proposal
by a years time.

Any additions or corrections from those present are welcome!

Inst. for Plant Virology, Microbiology, and Biosafety
Federal Research Center for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA)
Gregor Hagedorn                 Net: G.Hagedorn at
Koenigin-Luise-Str. 19          Tel: +49-30-8304-2220
14195 Berlin, Germany           Fax: +49-30-8304-2203

Often wrong but never in doubt!

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