[tdwg-content] Request for vote on proposals to add Individual as a Darwin Core class and to add the term individualRemarks as a term within that class

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Sun Oct 31 15:38:59 CET 2010

I am pleased with the significant and thoughtful discussion that has 
taken place on the tdwg-content email list regarding the relationships 
among Occurrences, Individuals, and other entities that are a part of 
the community's thinking about biodiversity metadata and the way that 
those metadata are structured.  It appears from the discussion that 
there is widespread acceptance of the idea that Individual as a concept 
has a place in the structuring of biodiversity metadata and that there 
is some consensus of what "Individual" means (i.e. an entity ranging 
from actual biological individuals to small coherent populations that 
can reliably be asserted to represent a single taxon).  Whether that 
acceptance and consensus constitutes a compelling need for adding two 
new terms (the class dwc:Individual and dwc:individualRemarks) to the 
Darwin Core standard or not is the point of a TAG "vote".  Given the 
discussion that has occurred, it seems to me that there are two reasons 
why there is an actual need for those terms.  One reason is that if 
members of the Darwin Core constituency intend to structure their 
metadata in a fully normalized manner that includes grouping Occurrences 
by Individuals (and it appears that there are at least several who 
intend to do this), the term dwc:individualRemarks is needed to provide 
a means indicate the nature of the individual (i.e. is it a biological 
individual, clonal individuals, a small population, etc.?) and the class 
dwc:Individual is needed as the category within which to put 
individualRemarks so as to indicate that individualRemarks is a property 
of Individuals.   The second reason for explicitly recognizing 
Individual as a class is that it would place a term representing the 
concept of "Individual" within a "well-known vocabulary".  I feel that 
would be critical for facilitating the ultimate development of a 
recommendation for the representation of Darwin Core as RDF. 

 At this point, it is not clear to me that there are any other existing 
DwC terms that should be moved to a new Individual class.  Originally, I 
suggested that individualCount should be placed in that class, but I no 
longer think so.  Counting the number of individuals is really something 
that happens when an Occurrence takes place and a small cohesive group 
of a single taxon (e.g. wolf pack or plant population) could have an 
individualCount that changes over time.  As was discussed earlier in on 
the email list, the xxxxxxID terms probably really belong in the 
Record-level terms category rather than being listed within particular 
classes.  So I don't believe that dwc:individualID should be in the 
proposed class either.  As I detailed in my Biodiversity Informatics 
paper, an Individual is really an entity that serves primarily as a node 
that allows the grouping of other resources (namely Occurrences and 
Identifications).  As such, it really has few (or no) properties that 
can be known outside of Occurrences. 

Thus I would like to "call the question" on the issue of the proposal.  
I would suggest that the issue of adding the class dwc:Individual and 
the term dwc:individualRemarks within it be addressed in a single vote, 
since there little point in having one term without the other.  I would 
also hope that those on the TAG who choose to vote would review the list 
discussion carefully first.  Given that the question of "what exactly is 
an Individual?" came up a few times after that question was clearly 
answered in the thread is an indication that some people entered the 
thread later on without the benefit of having read some of the earlier 


Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

postal mail address:
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office: 2128 Stevenson Center
phone: (615) 343-4582,  fax: (615) 343-6707

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