[tdwg-content] A radical proposal for Darwin Core

joel sachs jsachs at csee.umbc.edu
Tue Jun 25 04:45:18 CEST 2013

On Mon, 24 Jun 2013, John Deck wrote:

> While i agree that house cleaning is in order, I think it would be a big
> mistake to accept no new additions to the standard in the interim. 
> Perhaps a strategy is to shoot for a "major release" version (say with a
> target 1 year out) while continuing with current modifications to the
> existing standard.

I'm not against that strategy, but I do think it's dangerous, since 
the proposed modifications make significant assumptions about how the 
existing standard is both interpreted and applied.

One example:
Suppose the DwC RDF guide is adopted in its current form. Then,
dwctype:occurrence will be the standard rdf:type for what we commonly
call occurrences. But most readers of the current Darwin Core standard
come to the conclusion that *dwc:occurrence* is the rdf:type of what we
commonly call occurrences. You could argue that this isn't so bad, because
then the next major release of Darwin Core can be informed by the RDF
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.


> John
> On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 3:45 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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> --
> John Deck
> (541) 321-0689

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