Global Informatics Collaboration Creates Latest Encyclopedia of Life Platform

 Global Informatics Collaboration Creates Latest Encyclopedia of Life Platform

Center for Library and Informatics at the Marine Biological Laboratory plays central role in development of new version of Encyclopedia of Life website

New version embraces Global Biodiversity Information Facility’s Darwin Core Archive standard for information exchange

New Orleans, LA  – October 18, 2011 – The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), a sponsor of the 2011 Biodiversity Informatics Standards/Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG) conference, presented details today on the latest version of EOL  to conference attendees. This new site aggregates data from nearly two hundred content partners using tools that gather, organize, and present biodiversity content in an easy-to-use, modern interface localized in English, Arabic and Spanish. Representing EOL were members of the EOL Biodiversity Informatics Group from the Center for Library and Informatics at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), an EOL cornerstone institution in Woods Hole, MA. 

Over the past 18 months, the EOL Biodiversity Informatics Group, in partnership with design firm Hashrocket, informatics experts at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, and EOL colleagues at Harvard University, designed, developed and delivered the new infrastructure for EOL which launched on September 5, 2011. Throughout the development process, this international team made use of virtual environments to track progress following best practices in product management and Agile software development.

“By collaborating with colleagues at the Library of Alexandria, Harvard University, and the design team at Hashrocket, we were able to build a new platform that meets the diverse needs of our users,” said Nathan Wilson, Director of the EOL Biodiversity Informatics Group. “The work we have done together will serve as a model for EOL’s global hosting infrastructure as we keep pace with the growing demand for this online biodiversity resource.”

The development and technology infrastructure behind EOL is a model of bioinformatics best practices.

  • EOL runs on a Ruby on Rails web application framework combined with a MySQL database management system;
  • EOL uses the Solr platform for fast searching and a modern, internally-developed content delivery system for handling large media;
  • As part of EOL's commitment to global access, all software is open source and available for reuse at GitHub;
  • The new website was also developed using a strategy of “progressive enhancement,” a method for web design that maximizes the accessibility of the site;
  • The new site embraces the GBIF Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) standard for data exchange, which builds upon more than a decade of work by the Biodiversity Informatics Standards community and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF);
  • The Center uses state-of-the art development facilities at the Marine Biological Laboratory, while the EOL website itself is served from a modern data center operated by Harvard University, an EOL partner institution.

Gary Borisy, MBL President and Director, is thrilled that this global collaboration is helping make large scientific data sets available to both experts and the general public. “The Encyclopedia of Life is making fundamental advances in bioinformatics and I am pleased that MBL can support this important work,” he remarked.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation.

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) operates as an ongoing collaboration of individuals and organizations who share the vision to provide global access to knowledge about life on Earth. EOL is supported by founding sponsors the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Additional support comes from EOL member institutions and donations from around the world.