Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: Success (and challenges) in broadening participation and engagement in digitization

TitleBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: Success (and challenges) in broadening participation and engagement in digitization
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPaul, Deborah L.
Conference NameTDWG 2013 Annual Conference
Date Published10/2013
PublisherBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Conference 2013
Conference LocationFlorence, Italy
KeywordsBiodiversity Information Standards, collaboration, digitization, Engagement, Human Resources, NIBA, Socio-Technical Issues, Sustainability
Full Text


Integrated Digitized Biodiversity Collections (iDigBio) provides an online database of vouchered specimen fit-for-research-use data aggregated from non-federal United States (US) collections. The Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA) recommendations spurred the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to initiate the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program. ADBC funds 1) the digitization efforts of museum thematic collections networks (TCNs) centered on grand-challenge research questions and 2) a national hub to facilitate digitization activities and online access to integrated data from the TCNs, and others, in the iDigBio portal at

A core goal is to make digitization faster and more efficient. iDigBio staff began by first looking at what the current digitization practices are across collection types (doi: 10.3897/zookeys.209.3135). Now, through workshops and shared expertise across working groups, iDigBio is developing digitization resources, and conducting workshops to continue discovery and dissemination of digitization best practices and provide workforce training in museum digitization and data literacy. With over 30 workshops in the first two and half years of iDigBio, 14 more between now and May 2014, and others waiting to be scheduled, iDigBio is carving a niche centered at addressing some of the workforce training needs in the biodiversity specimen digitization community. In addition, iDigBio continues to engage our stakeholders to clarify their needs and facilitate development of new collaborations / new interactions. Some sample workshop topics so far include digitization workflows by collection object preparation type, information technology standards and cyberinfrastructure development, public participation in science, and workforce training through our georeferencing workshops.

The NIBA Implementation Plan (goal 3) articulates that international collaboration is an imperative for reducing duplication of digitization effort, associated costs, and increasing global interoperability at the same time. Another NIBA objective is to pursue international cooperative efforts in training in biodiversity science. These are just two examples from the NIBA implementation plan that suggest natural partnerships and opportunities for collaboration not only with TDWG, but other groups present here at TDWG.

Two tangential, but complementary goals in the ADBC community are, 1) the development of software user interfaces (UIs) and hardware configurations that hide the complexity from the user, and 2) encouraging opportunities and strategies for non-information technology scientists to meet IT professionals half-way. Stakeholders of every domain, if they are to get what they want in a timely and efficient manner, must have some of the vocabulary needed to communicate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It is important to continue to be inclusive and remember the potential that exists (and that we need) in human resources development to support the digital infrastructure being created around us, by us, for everyone.

This talk was part of the opening symposium at TDWG 2013: Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability