[tdwg-content] Notes on the Biological Collections Ontology

Quentin Groom quentin.groom at br.fgov.be
Wed Dec 10 14:04:51 CET 2014

Dear All,

To acquaint myself with the Biological Collections Ontology I went through
it and made some notes. John Wieczorek suggested I share these notes so
that they can be responded to openly. They are as follows, I look forward
to your comments.

1. Why are the dates clustered together in one branch, but day, month,
year separate?

2. eventDate: regarding date ranges. Sometimes an event continues for a
period such as a field trip, but often a date range is required because
although the event took place in a certain time frame, the exact event
date is not known. There should perhaps be a way of distinguishing between
these two situations.

3. Vernacular name should be associated with a language and a geographic
area where it is used?

4. verbatimSRS, footprintSRS and geodeticDatum are similar but not the
same. They seem to overlap. The SRS has a clear definition epsg-
registry.org, but geodeticDatum is a more general term. The definitions
and usages could be stronger.

5. There is a need for local grid reference systems. Many countries have
their own ways of writing grid references and verbatimLongitude and
verbatimLatitude are not suitable for these. For example, the UK has grid
references such as NZ28F, which mean something very specific in the
country. It is a similar situation in Belgium and I imagine other

6. georeferenceVerificationStatus & identificationVerificationStatus: It
is not clear how these should be used. The names are similar, but the
described usage is very different. I find it hard to imagine how they
would be used in practice.

7. There are occasions within biogeographic databases where you want to
indicate that an observation or collection is not trusted. I can’t see a
place where a record can be verified as a whole. For example, if it is
suspected that the label has been muddled up or the collector is suspected
of fraud. With an observation there is no specimen to verify, but the
record should be verifiable.

8. member, lithostratigraphicTerms, bed etc etc. I don’t know anything
about geology, but these terms seem to overlap and could perhaps be
thought of as synonymous. It would be valuable to find records where these
terms are required to see how they are used in practice.

9. county & stateProvince: These are parochial terms. There are many
nested subdivisions of countries and there is probably a better way to
describe them. Perhaps there is already a hierarchical ontology to
describe geographic areas.

10. Abundance estimates: There are several ways to describe estimates of
abundance, such as DOMAIN, DAFOR, percent coverage, is there a way to
accommodate these?

11. Controlled vocabularies: Many terms suggest using a controlled
vocabulary, but most don’t have one. Is this an area we should work on?

12. Consider the importance of citation and providence the “according to”
information seems rather weak. There should perhaps be a space for an
identifier (ORCID). Also, biographic information such as date of birth,
date of death, institutional association. These are useful for providence,
but also for validation of records.

13. What is the difference between fieldNumber and recordNumber?

14. establishmentMeans: the description seems to conflate three concepts,
the length a taxon has been established at a location (e.g. native); the
way it got to the location (e.g. introduced) and the dispersive ability of
the taxon (e.g. invasive). To my mind the latter is not required as it is
an opinion about the taxon as a whole not the observation. The first two
should be separated to make them useful. People need to distinguish
between the native status of a species at a location and how it got to
that location. Invasive species biologists are particularly interested in
the vectors of introduction.

15. The health of an animal or plant can be noted on an observation and is
useful for analysis. Is there some way of stating that the organism was
dead when the specimen or observation was made?


Dr. Quentin Groom
(Botany and Information Technology)

Botanic Garden, Meise
Domein van Bouchout
B-1860 Meise

ORCID: 0000-0002-0596-5376

Landline; +32 (0) 226 009 20 ext. 364
FAX:      +32 (0) 226 009 45

E-mail:     quentin.groom at br.fgov.be
Skype name: qgroom
Website:    www.botanicgarden.be

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