[Tdwg-tag] Why should data providers supply search and query services?

Bob Morris ram at cs.umb.edu
Mon Mar 6 14:27:01 CET 2006

Roger Hyam wrote:
 > [...]
> [...]The question is why there are not more data portals? 

I would say that it is because so far, mainly low-hanging fruit has been 
picked by the effort of the TDWG community. The number of relatively 
large specimen and observation record providers is pretty small. The 
providers are relatively large, have IT professionals on their staff and 
have as part of their primary focus the disemination of their data. 
Also, specimen records are mainly of interest to systematists, which are 
a relatively small(?) fraction of practicing biologists. If I had to 
make a (somewhat self-serving) guess, it would be that the largest 
number of electronic data providers about species---including static web 
pages---  are offering descriptive data, including images. Queries like 
"What is this?" and "what is its role in the ecosystem?" probably are 
asked by astronomically more consumers of biodiversity data than "where 
is the type specimen?". Observation records may be some "midlevel 
hanging fruit" for which the major providers share the IT sophistication 
of specimen record providers. To the best of my knowledge, among the big 
ones, only NatureServe and Cornell Lab For Ornithology are TDWG 
participants. Is TAG listening to them?

In summary, I am slightly concerned that the experience with collection 
data may have the power to cloud our minds about what biodiversity data 
and its needed infrastructure are.


Robert A. Morris
Professor of Computer Science
phone (+1)617 287 6466

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