[tdwg] TDWG mid-year message

Donald.Hobern at csiro.au Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Tue Apr 15 11:35:46 CEST 2008

*** I apologise to those who receive this by multiple routes. ***


Dear TDWG Members and Friends,


We are just about at the mid-point between TDWG annual meetings and
activity within subgroups is at a natural low.  This is however a good
time to review the status of all our projects and activities and to try
to identify the key things we would like to see happen during the rest
of the year.  Biodiversity Informatics remains an active and developing
area of research and we are getting closer to supporting a new
generation of biodiversity data applications.  


The recent launch of the Encyclopedia of Life demo pages is a powerful
reminder of several things.  First, there is a great interest in
marshalling information on the world's biodiversity.  Secondly, there is
an enormous need for us to find new and faster ways to bring large
quantities of high-quality data online.  Thirdly, we still have plenty
of work ahead of us in finding better ways to make all of these data
interoperate freely so that they can become part of a rich and
developing store of knowledge.  TDWG has a critical role to play in
ensuring that all this happens in a well-structured way.


TDWG is joining with a wide range of other biodiversity informatics
organisations to plan the e-Biosphere conference to be held in London in
2009.  This meeting is intended to showcase what is happening in our
field and we must consider what we would most like to have demonstrated
in such a forum.  What are the big applications which our wider
community could soon deliver to support science and sound policy?  What
tools would we like to be able to put in the hands of researchers,
administrators or the general public?  What do we need to start doing
now to make these possible?


I am of course facing these same questions in the Australian context.
When I consider the key areas where the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA)
needs to make rapid progress, TDWG has a significant role to play in all
of them.  Some particular focus areas include:


*	Improving the quality and management of metadata - the ALA needs
a metadata repository to manage information on biodiversity data sets
and will be seeking to develop a repository which is compatible both
with other national repositories and also with international
developments in biodiversity informatics
*	Lowering the technical threshold for sharing biodiversity data
in structured forms - the ALA will be exploring ways to package provider
software tools as bundles requiring minimal configuration (and will
explore offering a centralised installation of these tools for those who
do not wish to maintain a web server)
*	Developing tools to support online identification - we need to
find efficient ways to exploit structured descriptive data where it is
available. We also need to supplement these data with well-organised
access to the original literature, images, distribution data, etc. in an
environment which guides users to the best identifications possible.
*	Managing data on species interactions - I believe that the most
significant class of data we do not handle today is information on the
trophic and other relationships between taxa.  Many new applications,
and new ways to navigate biodiversity data, would become feasible if we
could organise what is known in the literature of predator-prey,
host-parasite, pollinator-plant and other relationships.  I would really
like to explore text mining or other approaches as  routes to developing
significant databases of such information.


These are some of the areas where I would like us to make progress.
What would you add to this list?


Finally, I must make an apology.  At the TDWG meeting in Bratislava, I
made a call for those who would be interested in collaborating on
developing a Java implementation of TAPIR.  Unfortunately I failed to do
anything about this in all the business of moving out to Australia.  I
do however still know of a couple of groups who would like to do this.
If you have an interest in a Java TAPIR implementation, and could
contribute to making it happen, please let me know (again) and I will
try to get everyone concerned in contact with each other.


Very best wishes,




Donald Hobern, Director, Atlas of Living Australia

CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601

Phone: (02) 62464352 Mobile: 0437990208 

Email: Donald.Hobern at csiro.au

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