[tdwg-content] Clarifying the nature of TDWG Standards document categories, was Re: A radical proposal for Darwin Core

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Mon Jul 1 18:15:17 CEST 2013

I was filing emails and re-read this one.  I just wanted to clarify one 
thing about the categories of standards documents.  There is currently 
no standard that specifies how standards should be documented.  There is 
a draft Standards Documentation Specification 
(http://www.tdwg.org/standards/147/ viewable online at 
http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/pages/tdwg-stds-spec.pdf ) but its 
ratification has been stalled for about five years.  The Vocabulary 
Management Task Group (VoMaG) has recommended 
(http://community.gbif.org/pg/file/read/34059/ Recommendation 12; please 
read and comment as the public comment period is going on now!)  that a 
new author team be tasked with writing an updated version of this draft 
standard.  Nevertheless, it is the only guideline we have at the moment. 

What the existing Standards Documentation Specification document says is 
that standards documents fall into three categories: Type 1 (normative) 
documents - which define the standard, Type 2 (non-normative) documents 
- which explain and justify the standard and which ARE part of the 
standard, and Type 3 (informative) documents - which provide helpful 
information but which are NOT actually part of the standard itself and 
therefore aren't governed by the TDWG Standards process 
(http://www.tdwg.org/about-tdwg/process/ ).  To illustrate this with 
Darwin Core, the single normative (Type 1) RDF document is 
.  There are many (I think hundreds) of non-normative (Type 2) documents 
that are part of the standard, notably web pages like the term Quick 
Reference Guide http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/index.htm  and the XML 
Guide http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/guides/xml/index.htm .  The pages on 
the Darwin Core Google Code site (e.g. 
http://code.google.com/p/darwincore/wiki/Occurrence ) are Type 3 
documents.  It requires an official act in accordance with the DwC 
Namespace policy (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/namespace/index.htm ) to 
change a Type 2 document.  Type 3 documents can be changed at any time 
with no official action required. 

As far as Darwin Core RDF Guide is concerned, the Guide document itself 
would become a Type 2 document (non-normative) and part of the Darwin 
Core Standard.  Its acceptance is governed by the Standards process and 
therefore requires public comment, etc.  Any term additions and changes 
(such as the addition of the proposed dwcuri: namespace terms) which are 
accepted would be made to the Type 1 RDF document as well as to the Type 
2 human-readable pages that serve as reference.  The RDF examples (e.g. 
http://code.google.com/p/tdwg-rdf/wiki/DwcRdfExamplesTaxonConcept and 
http://code.google.com/p/tdwg-rdf/wiki/DwcRdfExamplesDarwinSW ) which 
are not included in the actual Guide would be Type 3 documents.  They 
aren't governed by the Standards Process and could reside on either the 
RDF Task Group Google Code wiki, the Darwin Core Google Code site, or 
any other place where we might decide to put that kind of reference 
document (e.g. on the GBIF site if the VoMaG group gets it set up). 

I hope this clarifies the situation.  There has been a lot of confusion 
about this in the past.

joel sachs wrote:
> guide. But what if the release gets delayed a couple of years? Then the
> normative (Type 1) part of the standard will appear to be in conflict
> with the non-normative (Type 2) RDF examples. From a purely technical
> point of view, this isn't a problem, since Type 1 documents take
> precedence over Type 2 documents. But it's a situation we want to avoid.

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

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