Natural History

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Natural History "Data at Risk"

The focus of the Natural History branch of data at risk is different from the rest of the group. This is because our physical collections (3 billion objects world-wide) are still and have always been an indispensable tool for wide range of applications in science. Natural history collections are therefore not at risk of disappearing and continue to form the basis of research in biological scientific institutions (although sometimes they are not well maintained).

However, valuable electronic surrogates of biological collections, are of risk of getting lost if they are products of individual research which is disconnected from an institutional data curation plan. Such data repositories can quickly become unaccessible due to outdated media, software system, and lack of documentation.

A new project funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) will develop workflows and software components for the rescue of primary lifescience data (original title: "Entwicklung von Workflows und Softwarekomponenten zur Rettung lebenswissenschaftlicher Prim√§rdaten", project start July 1, 2011, duration: 3 years, PI: Anton G√ľntsch).

In a first project phase, we will collect stories about natural history data at risk. Based on the results of this survey, we will

  • create a priority list for rescuing threatened databases,
  • use existing software tools developed by the BGBM to transform databases with the highest priority into xml-files following the TDWG-standard ABCD,
  • store these files in a native xml database,
  • describe them with standardized metadata,
  • link the data up to GBIF and BioCASE to make them internationally visible and usable,
  • create a local query interface to the data

Outcomes of the survey will be synchronized with the DARTG.

The survey starts today (July 4), the website will be launched soon.