[tdwg-content] Darwin Core Standard - proposed change in governance

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Tue Jan 20 17:22:16 CET 2015


Although I see merits to parts of this proposal (particularly making 
some document other than dwctermshistory.rdf as the normative document), 
I think it may be premature to propose such a large body of changes.  In 
particular, proposing to make an RDF document the only part of the 
standard is at odds with the approach taken by Audubon Core, where the 
normative document is human-readable, and there is (currently) no RDF 
version of the vocabulary.  I have heard the opinion expressed by the 
Audubon Core authors that an RDF document should NOT be the normative 
document of a standard.  So I'm pretty sure that there won't be an 
immediate consensus on apply that idea TDWG-wide.

Fixing the stalled TDWG Standards Documentation Specification [1] and 
adopting a TDWG-wide policy for maintaining vocabulary standards has 
been a longstanding problem, as noted in the Vocabulary Management Task 
Group report [2].  At the end of October, I was asked by the Executive 
to work on chartering a Vocabulary Maintenance Specification task group 
that would be charged with addressing these issues, including dealing 
with the stalled Standards Documentation Specification and a TDWG-wide 
alternative to the Darwin Core namespace policy [3].  I agreed to take 
on the job, but told the Executive that I would be too busy to start on 
it until after December.  It would be great to have you, Peter, and 
Markus serving as core members of the task group if you are willing, 
along with others who have experience with standards documentation and 


[1] http://www.tdwg.org/standards/147/
[2] http://www.gbif.org/resources/2246
[3] http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/namespace/

John Wieczorek wrote:
> Dear all,
> Peter Desmet, Markus Döring, and I have been working on the transition 
> of Darwin Core maintenance from the Google Code Site to Github. We've 
> taken the opportunity to streamline the process of making updates to 
> the standard when they are ratified, such as scripts to produce the 
> human-readable content and auxiliary files from the RDF document of 
> current terms. As a result of this work, we see further opportunities 
> to simplify the maintenance of the standard. They center on the 
> following proposal.
> We would like to propose that the *RDF document of current terms* be 
> made to represent the *normative standard for Darwin Core* rather than 
> *Complete History normative document* we use now. We would also like 
> to make that new normative document the only document in the standard. 
> Under this proposal:
> 1) the normative standard for Darwin Core would consist of a single 
> document at http://rs.tdwg.org/terms/dwc_normative.rdf (not currently 
> active).
> 2) information currently held 
> in http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/rdf/dwctermshistory.rdf (the current 
> normative document) and the corresponding Complete History web page 
> (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/history/index.htm) would be retained 
> only in a history document http://rs.tdwg.org/terms/history.html (not 
> currently active).
> 3) all documents other than the proposed normative document would not 
> be part of the standard.
> The proposed changes require community consensus under the existing 
> rules of governance of the Darwin Core. This means that the proposal 
> must be under public review for at least 30 days after an apparent 
> consensus on the proposal and any amendments to it is reached, where 
> consensus consists of no publicly-shared opposition.
> The implications of this proposal are many. One of the most important 
> is that the rules governing changes to the standard 
> (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/namespace/index.htm) would no longer be 
> a part of the standard. Instead, we would promote the adoption of 
> these rules across TDWG standards rather than just within Darwin Core. 
> It may be that TDWG is not ready to accommodate this at the moment. If 
> so, the Namespace Policy could remain within the Darwin Core standard 
> until the broader governance process for TDWG can cover it, at which 
> point we would propose to remove the Namespace Policy from the Darwin 
> Core.
> Other comments about the proposed changes:
> Having one RDF document for the terms in the dwc namespace will avoid 
> confusion. Only those with status 'recommended' would be in the 
> normative document.
> Having the term history (all versions, including deprecated, 
> superseded, and recommended ones) in a web page only is what Dublin 
> Core does. It means no one would be able to reason over old versions 
> of the Darwin Core. Would anyone do that?
> Having no document other than the normative one as part of the 
> standard would free the whole rest of the body of Darwin Core 
> documentation from the requirements of public review and Executive 
> Committee approval. This would make that documentation much more open 
> to broader contributions and easier to adapt to evolving demands.
> We do not propose to lose any of the documentation we have.
> Please share your comments!
> Cheers,
> John

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

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