[tdwg-content] A radical proposal for Darwin Core

Robert Guralnick Robert.Guralnick at colorado.edu
Mon Jun 24 22:01:19 CEST 2013

  Joel -- From an insider-outsider perspective, a couple quick comments:
1)  Do you mean Darwin Core is frequently misunderstood by standards
developers?  Or do you mean Darwin Core is frequently misunderstood by
people without specialized skills to read and understand standards?
2)  I see the point that some clean-up would be useful but my view is that
Darwin Core fulfills its intended purpose for most people who want to map
their headers in a spreadsheet to a set of terms in the Core.  This support
an ecosystem of data that has come available online over the last 15 years.
 I was talking to Tim Robertson, and I think the number is 3 records per
second (per average) coming online via GBIF, the vast majority in Darwin
Core format.
3)  Is it enough to clean up Darwin Core somehow, wipe our hands and walk
away?  I guess maybe we could be sharper with term definitions.  But is
that the problem or is the problem that what we want to do with Darwin Core
doesn't fit its history and intended use as an exchange format.
4)  I see the bigger challenge being how we grow more semantically
meaningful representations that let us do new things (an example might be
the Biocollections Ontology (BCO)) versus more limited things we do with
Darwin Core.

  This is just my naive impression.  I am not an expert in RDF or the
semantic web.  Id like yet more clarity before we get into what might be an
challenging task.  Could we be even more focused?  Can we surgically repair
the key things in DwC not do a "clean up"?

Best, Rob

On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM, joel sachs <jsachs at csee.umbc.edu> wrote:

> Hi Everyone,
> Darwin Core remains poorly documented, occasionally inconsistent, and
> frequently misunderstood. (Does anyone disagree with that
> characterization?) I believe this is one of the reasons we're seeing a
> proliferation of overlapping and sometimes incompatible ontologies
> building on Darwin Core terms.
> One of the suggestions that came up on the TDWG-RDF mailing list is to
> have a clean-up-a-thon/document-a-thon for TDWG namespaces and terms. I
> suggest that, until such a clean up of Darwin Core occurs, TDWG accept no
> additions to the Darwin Core standard. There are several examples in
> support of my claim that we're building on a shaky foundation - an obvious
> one is that, as Steve is currently pointing out, there is no consensus on
> what constitutes a Darwin Core occurrence. (Can anyone name an instance of
> the class "http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/Occurrence"?)
> The clean-up-a-thon proposal was enthusiastically endorsed within the RDF
> group, but no one volunteered to organize it. I propose that we
> self-organize, and find a way to carve out two days at the coming meeting
> to hash out as much as we can, with a follow-on workshop if necessary. But
> first, I'd be interested to know - am I the only one who feels this way?
> Sincerely,
> Joel.
> p.s.
> I've said this before, but it bears repeating - Darwin Core is almost an
> excellent standard, and almost ideally suited to be the foundation for a
> semantic web for biodiversity informatics. I have great respect for those
> who were involved in its creation and continued curation - for their hard
> work, and clear thinking, and patience for people like me struggling to
> understand. But all that work, thought, and patience will be for naught,
> if the gyre is allowed to widen much further.
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