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A preliminary report by the DiSSCo General Assembly “Contact Zones” Taskforce

Research output: Book/ReportReport

  • Vincent Smith
  • Matt Woodburn
  • Lisa French
  • Aino Juslen
  • Ana Casino Rubio
  • François Duoulier
  • Dimitris Koureas
  • Patricia Mergen
  • Joe Miller
  • Leif Schulman
In an effort to characterise the various dimensions of the biodiversity informatics landscape related to DiSSCo, we developed a framework to survey these dimensions for ten organisations (DiSSCo, GBIF, iBOL, Catalogue of Life, iNaturalist, Biodiversity Heritage Library, GeoCASe, LifeWatch, eLTER, ELIXIR), relative to both their current activities and long-term strategic ambitions. This survey assessed the contact between these infrastructure organisations by capturing the breadth of activities for each infrastructure across five categories (data, standards, software, hardware and policy), for nine types of data (specimens, collection descriptions, opportunistic observations, systematic observations, taxonomies, traits, geological data, molecular data, and literature), and for seven phases of activity (creation, aggregation, access, annotation, interlinkage, analysis, and synthesis). This generated a dataset of 6,300
verified observations, which have been scored and validated by leading members of each infrastructure organisation. In this preliminary analysis of the resulting data, we have sought to address a set of high-level questions about the overall biodiversity informatics landscape, looking at the greatest gaps, overlap and possible rate-limiting steps with respect to DiSSCo. Across the infrastructure organisations, we also explore how far each is in relation to achieving their ambitions and the extent of their niche relative to other organisations.

Our preliminary results show that when viewed by scope, most infrastructures
occupy a relatively narrow niche in the overall landscape of activity, with the notable exception of GBIF and possibly LifeWatch. Niches associated with molecular data and biological taxonomy are very well filled, suggesting there is still considerable room for growth in other areas, with DiSSCo and eLTER showing the highest levels of difference between their current activities and stated ambitions, potentially reflecting the relative youth of these organisations. iNaturalist, BHL and Catalogue of Life all occupy narrow and tightly circumscribed niches. These organisations are also amongst the closest to achieving their stated ambitions within their respective areas of activity. The largest gaps in infrastructure activity relate to the development of hardware and standards, with many gaps seeming to be addressed through the stated ambitions of those surveyed. Nevertheless, some gaps persist, outlining a potential role for this survey as a planning tool to help coordinate and align investment in future biodiversity informatics activities. GBIF and LifeWatch are the two infrastructures where there is the most similarity in ambition with DiSSCo, with the greatest overlap concentrated on activities related to data/content, specimen data and their shared ambition to interlink information. While overlap appears intense, the analysis is limited by the resolution of the survey framework, and ignores existing collaborations between infrastructures. The Taskforce plans to finalise the outstanding data and then generate two publications from this work, publishing the underlying dataset and a more analytical paper on the future development and alignment of activities by biodiversity informatics infrastructures.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 26-May-2021


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