[tdwg-content] What I learned at the TechnoBioBlitz

k.flanagan at etoncollege.org.uk k.flanagan at etoncollege.org.uk
Mon Oct 11 14:44:18 CEST 2010

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From: tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Tim Robertson (GBIF)
Sent: 11 October 2010 13:00
To: joel sachs
Cc: tdwg-content at lists.tdwg.org; tdwg-bioblitz at googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: [tdwg-content] What I learned at the TechnoBioBlitz

Hi Joel,

Thanks for taking the time to summarise this.  A few comments inline:

On Oct 11, 2010, at 1:46 PM, joel sachs wrote:

One of the goals of the recent bioblitz was to think about the suitability
and appropriatness of TDWG standards for citizen science. Robert Stevenson
has volunteered to take the lead on preparing a technobioblitz lessons
learned document, and though the scope of this document is not yet
determined, I think the audience will include bioblitz organizers,
software developers, and TDWG as a whole. I hope no one is shy about
sharing lessons they think they learned, or suggestions that they have. We
can use the bioblitz google group for this discussion, and copy in
tdwg-content when our discussion is standards-specific.

Here are some of my immediate observations:

1. Darwin Core is almost exactly right for citizen science. However, there
is a desperate need for examples and templates of its use. To illustrate
this need: one of the developers spoke of the design choice between "a
simple csv file and a Darwin Core record". But a simple csv file is a
legitimate representation of Darwin Core! To be fair to the developer,
such a sentence might not have struck me as absurd a year ago, before
Remsen said "let's use DwC for the bioblitz".

We provided a couple of example DwC records (text and rdf) in the bioblitz
data profile [1]. I  think the lessons learned document should include an
on-line catalog of cut-and-pasteable examples covering a variety of use
cases, together with a dead simple desciption of DwC, something like
"Darwin Core is a collection of terms, together with definitions."

Here are areas where we augemented or diverged from DwC in the bioblitz:

i. We added obs:observedBy [2], since there is no equivalent property in
DwC, and it's important in Citizen Science (though often not available).

Is this not the intention of recordedBy?

A list (concatenated and separated) of names of people, groups, or organizations responsible for recording the original Occurrence. The primary collector or observer, especially one who applies a personal identifier (recordNumber), should be listed first.

ii. We used geo:lat and geo:long [3] instead of DwC terms for latitude and
longitude. The geo namespace is a well used and supported standard, and
records with geo coordinates are automatically mapped by several

Keeping an inventory of applications somewhere might be worthwhile to help promote or decide on this.

Since everyone was using GPS  to retrieve their coordinates,
we were able to assume WGS-84 as the datum.

If someone had used another Datum, say XYZ, we would have added columns to
the Fusion table so that they could have expressed their coordiantes in
DwC, as, e.g.:

(I would argue that it should be kosher DwC to express the above as simply
XYZ:lat and XYZ:long. DwC already incorporates terms from other
namespaces, such as Dublin Core, so there is precedent for this.

2. DwC:scientificName might be more user friendly than taxonomy:binomial
and the other taxonomy machine tags EOL uses for flickr images.  If
DwC:scientificName isn't self-explanatory enough, a user can look it up,
and see that any scientific name is acceptable, at any taxonomic rank, or
not having any rank. And once we have a scientific name, higher ranks can
be inferred.

3. Catalogue of Life was an important part of the workflow, but we
had some problems with it. Future bioblitzes might consider using
something like a CoL fork, as recently described by Rod Page [4].

4. We didn't include "basisOfRecord" in the original data profile, and so
it wasn't a column in the Fusion Table [5]. But when a transcriber felt it
was necessary to include in order to capture data in a particular field
sheet, she just added the column to the table. This flexibility of schema
is important, and is in harmony with the semantic web.

For citizen science, would it not make more sense to apply some easy guideline to select one of:
- HumanObservation
- PreservedSpecimen
- LivingSpecimen

Basis of record is one of the fundamental fields to know when consuming content, so I think any effort to capture that at source will be worthwhile in the long run.

5. There seemed to be enthusiasm for another field event at next year's
TDWG. This could be an opportunity to gather other types of data (eg.
character data) and thereby
i) expose meeting particpants to another set of everyday problems from the
world of biodiversity workflows, and ii) try other TDWG technology on
for size, e.g. the observation exchange format, annotation framework, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in Canada -

1. http://groups.google.com/group/tdwg-bioblitz/web/tdwg-bioblitz-profile-v1-1
2. Slightly bastardizing our old observation ontology -
3. http://www.w3.org/2003/01/geo/
4. http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2010/10/replicating-and-forking-data-in-2010.html
5. http://tables.googlelabs.com/DataSource?dsrcid=248798

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