Monday, October 28, 2013

#TDWG session on "Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability" (speakers and topics)

Fredrik Ronquist
Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability, Deborah Paul, Gail Kampmeier, and Reed Beaman (organizers)


Anne Maglia: Strategies and partnerships for enabling infrastructure sustainability

Supporting the long-term sustainability of infrastructure is an ongoing challenge for funding agencies. While infrastructure demands grow faster than the resources available to support them, there is a need to balance between supporting novel developments and the long-term maintenance of critical resources. In this talk, I will discuss strategies for leveraging limited resources and forging strategic partnerships to enhance the likelihood of resource sustainability. As an example, I will highlight the Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program, the Networked Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA), and several other related activities.

Fredrik Ronquist: Building sustainable biodiversity information systems

Over the last decades, we have seen the emergence of a large number of biodiversity information systems and tools developed by single groups with short-term funding. For the global biodiversity informatics community to advance beyond this initial explorative phase, it is essential that sustainable long-term solutions can be found for the core systems and technologies. Drawing primarily from experience gained in the Morphbank (, DINA (, and BalticDiversity ( projects, but also a number of other recent and ongoing initiatives, I discuss the social, political and technical challenges involved in promoting eCollaboration and finding sustainable long-term solutions for biodiversity information systems and technologies.

Antonio Mauro Saraiva: We can foster collaboration and improve the results of biodiversity informatics

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.


Henry L. Bart and Patricia Merge: Introduction: Empowering International eCollaboration for Sustainability

Over the past few years, with generous funding from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation (, the authors have been supporting participation of biodiversity informaticians from Sub-Saharan African countries in annual TDWG conferences. Biodiversity Information specialists from Madagascar, Rwanda and Zimbabwe will be participating in the 2013 TDWG conference. The ultimate aim of the travel awards is to engage more African biodiversity information scientists in the activities of TDWG, including participation in TDWG task and working groups, and helping them to build research collaborations with TDWG members from other regions of the world. We are surveying past TDWG travel awardees (2011 and 2012 conferences) to assess how well these aims are being accomplished. The survey results will be discussed as part of this presentation. An ongoing collaboration with biodiversity scientists in Nairobi, Kenya, which contributed to Nairobi’s selection as site of the 2014 TDWG conference, will also be discussed. The 2014 TDWG conference provides a unique opportunity to expand Sub-Saharan African participation and engagement in TDWG, and to develop effective strategies for sustaining this important activity.

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