Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: We can foster collaboration and improve the results of biodiversity informatics

TitleBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2013 Symposium Talk: We can foster collaboration and improve the results of biodiversity informatics
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSaraiva, Antonio Maura
Conference NameTDWG 2013 Annual Conference
Date Published10/2013
PublisherBiodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Conference 2013
Conference LocationFlorence, Italy
KeywordsBiodiversity Information Standards, collaboration, Community Awareness, Policy, Pollinator Thematic Network of the InterAmerica Biodivrsity Infomraiton Network (IABIN-PTN), Sustainability
Full Text


Biodiversity informatics as a field has evolved significantly over the years. Many information systems and other computational tools have been developed. A number of initiatives have flourished, noticeably those of standards development, which have been key elements for achieving the current amount of data digitized and integrated in data portals. Nonetheless biodiversity and ecosystem services are still under increasing threat and their conservation and sustainable use require an even faster response.

The biodiversity informatics community has an important role to play in that scenario. It has the responsibility of providing improved computational tools and information systems which are more effective (helping decision and policy making), more user friendly, less costly to develop and to maintain (more sustainable), and reach a wider audience worldwide (biodiversity does not respect borders and its conservation requires global cooperation), among other characteristics.

This brings us to the issue of how we can more systematically learn from the community’s previous knowledge and experience and build on top of it, potentially saving time and money. In other words, how can we increase collaboration in project development? This poses cultural and technical challenges. One important aspect is awareness and information availability. Knowing what has been done, and how, is a key aspect. Systems and tools development not always result in widely visible publications and this prevent others from knowing about them. So mechanisms and opportunities to publicize such developments should be encouraged.

Sharing knowledge on tools development is another key aspect. A lot has been said about data sharing policies, especially data obtaining with public funding. Should software code sharing follow the same rule? Funding agencies policies can also be an obstacle, as they prioritize funding new ideas and systems, but there may be sound technical and budgetary arguments in favor of software reuse.

Standards embed a lot of knowledge and their development and evolution must be stimulated. Nonetheless they can be difficult to translate into practical tools, so the groups involved in standards development should be encouraged to provide guidance on implementation. That could be even leveraged if software code would also be shared. Additionally a service oriented computing approach should be stimulated to result from the work of some groups and initiatives. Those services can be embedded and orchestrated in new systems. An approach that must be avoided is the “come contribute to mysystem”, which tries to attract collaborators to provide data or content without giving back too much (or anything).

Finally, capacity building is an important way of disseminating knowledge and skills that must be stimulated. The development of the Pollinator Thematic Network of the InterAmerican Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN-PTN) gave us experience on this matter. From a system development point of view, the contact with TDWG and the biodiversity informatics community was fundamental for us to achieve our goals. Relying on GBIF´s data portal code was essential for us to be able to build our portal, that included dealing with other data, namely interaction data. Caring for the human aspect of the network was also essential for PTN´s success.


Antonio Mauro Saraiva was invited to speak at TDWG where he presented his paper: We can foster collaboration and improve the results of biodiversity informatics, as part of the opening TDWG 2013 Symposium: Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability.