Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: The elements of collaboration in TDWG

TitleBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: The elements of collaboration in TDWG
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBlum, Stanley
Conference NameTDWG 2013 Annual Conference
Date Published10/2013
PublisherBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Conference 2013
Conference LocationFlorence, Italy
Keywordsbiodiversity informatics, Biodiversity Information Standards, collaboration, GBIF, Organization, Sustainability, TDWG
Full Text


TDWG was established in 1985 to promote the sharing of biodiversity information through two primary mechanisms:  1) the development of standards and guidelines; and 2) to provide a forum for discussions about sharing biodiversity information.  These goals and mechanisms were established before the Internet had become pervasive and one of the critical infrastructures supporting science.

From 1985 through 2000, most of TDWG’s standards were prescriptive, describing the best practices for recording biodiversity information, with the intention that consistency in content would make aggregation and synthesis easier.  In the late 90s, we began working on standards that were based on emerging Internet standards (e.g., HTTP, XML) and support actual data integration.  GBIF was established in 2001, and by the end of 2003 the incipient GBIF network was established and capable of demonstrating that integrating primary biodiversity data at a global scale was feasible.

The role of standards as an enabling blueprint in biodiversity informatics became more widely recognized, and ultimately that role was appreciated by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), which supported a collaboration between GBIF and TDWG to expand TDWG’s capacity for developing and implementing standards at the international level.

The outcomes of the “TDWG Infrastructure Project” (TIP), were: 1) small modifications to TDWG’s organizational structure; 2) a new process for reviewing, ratifying, and maintaining standards (based on processes used in other Internet-oriented standards bodies); 3) a network-based collaboration infrastructure (website backed by a content management system, mailing lists, wiki, and online journal system); 4) an evaluation of technologies for globally unique and persistent identifiers; and 5) a draft ontology for guiding further development of biodiversity information standards.

Over the past five years, we have put this new model for collaboration into practice.  A critical review is now warranted.  What has been followed, used, ignored, or proven difficult?  Have we been effective in reaching our target audiences?  Definitive solutions will not be proposed, but the assessment, possible solutions, and the conversation will be started.  I will also review participation in TDWG over the last decade.

Stanley Blum, representing TDWG, was asked to present his talk: The elements of collaboration in TDWG, as part of the opening TDWG 2013 Symposium: Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability.