International Collaboration Enables Greater Access to Biodiversity Information

 International Collaboration Enables Greater Access to Biodiversity Information

Species-level data, occurrence maps, now reach a wide spectrum of users thanks to standardized data, improved system interoperability

Washington, D.C./Copenhagen – September 29, 2011 –  A new technical collaboration to promote efficient sharing of biodiversity data for science and society has been announced by two leading global initiatives.

 The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is now able to ‘harvest’ information from content partners using data standards compatible with, and derived from, those used by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

 The collaboration aims to enable institutions to use a single publication process to make their data accessible through both platforms, simultaneously reaching a wide spectrum of users from scientists and decision-makers to students and the general public.

 Both groups have hailed the development as a breakthrough in the effort to provide incentives for the sharing of data, by enabling interoperability between systems instead of developing different standards for different platforms.

 The technical solution was initiated in the run-up to the release of EOL’s new version, launched earlier this month, and will be further developed in the future. In collaboration with informatics developers at GBIF, EOL created a new specification for describing data archives building upon the Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), a standard used to publish data on species occurrences and taxonomies through the GBIF network.

 The Darwin Core Archive standard builds upon more than a decade of work through the Biodiversity Informatics Standards (TDWG) community.

 The new EOL ‘transfer schema’ was developed to meet EOL’s need for a standard capable of expressing the complex associations between entities required for its 750,000 species pages, while avoiding duplication with the GBIF publishing workflow.

 The development aims to allow GBIF ‘Nodes’, for example (the coordinating units for country and institutional Participants), to make species-level information accessible to EOL at the same time as they publish their occurrence data to the GBIF infrastructure. This process has been successfully tested through the harvesting of species data from the Costa Rican GBIF node, Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), to appear in EOL while the associated occurrence data appears in GBIF.

 The new version of EOL also includes recently-updated maps on each species page via the Map tab found on each EOL taxon page (see for an example), displaying the locations of species occurrences published to the GBIF infrastructure and accessible through the GBIF Data Portal . This interface between the two portals was developed in collaboration with Vizzuality, a data analysis and visualization company based in New York and Madrid.

 EOL’s Executive Director, Erick Mata, commented, “I am delighted that our collaboration with GBIF is entering a new phase with the launch of EoLv2. Both organizations strive to make scientific data on species available to users around the world, and our established partnership helps significantly to streamline the dissemination and integration of this data to provide even greater global access to knowledge about life on Earth.”

 GBIF’s Executive Secretary, Nicholas King, added: “This is an excellent example of the continuing payback from a decade of investment and collaboration by GBIF’s Participant countries and organizations, including EOL.

 “It is great that the informatics expertise and resulting global standards brokered by GBIF are being picked up and developed by EOL for the particular needs of its content partners and users.

 “Through this kind of collaboration, the GBIF and EOL investments can be leveraged across a wide range of initiatives, to create what we all want and need — a set of compatible standards enabling full interoperability, and the creation of an environment favouring free and open access to biodiversity data, for the benefit of all.”

 EOL is the world's largest source for trusted species-level information gathered from over 180 content partners, providing on-line access to over 750,000 pages of species content. It uses automated data harvesting techniques to gather content. Data designated for sharing with EOL is formatted in a particular way to facilitate this exchange.  This format is called the EOL "transfer schema". EOL is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation along with support from institutions and individuals around the world. 

GBIF is the world's premiere source for information on biological specimen and observational data, providing on-line access to more than 300 million data records from around the world, from some 13,000 datasets and nearly 350 data publishers. Funded by governments and bringing together more than 100 countries and international organizations as Participants, GBIF promotes and facilitates digitization, discovery and free access to biodiversity data, through a suite of informatics tools and commons standards, training and capacity building

Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG), also known as the Taxonomic Databases Working Group, is a not for profit scientific and educational association that is affiliated with the International Union of Biological Sciences. TDWG was formed to establish international collaboration among biological database projects. TDWG promoted the wider and more effective dissemination of information about the World's heritage of biological organisms for the benefit of the world at large. Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) now focuses on the development of standards for the exchange of biological/biodiversity data.