Biodiversity information platforms: From standards to interoperability
biodiversity, biodiversity informatics, biowikifarm, CDM, Common Data Model, EDIT, Scratchpads, Standards, Taxonomy, TDWG
One of the most serious bottlenecks in the scientific workflows of biodiversity sciences is the need to integrate data from different sources, software applications, and services for analysis, visualisation and publication. For more than a quarter of a century the TDWG Biodiversity Information Standards organisation has a central role in defining and promoting data standards and protocols supporting interoperability between disparate and locally distributed systems. Although often not sufficiently recognized, TDWG standards are the foundation of many popular Biodiversity Informatics applications and infrastructures ranging from small desktop software solutions to large scale international data networks. However, individual scientists and groups of collaborating scientist have difficulties in fully exploiting the potential of standards that are often notoriously complex, lack non-technical documentations, and use different representations and underlying technologies. In the last few years, a series of initiatives such as Scratchpads, the EDIT Platform for Cybertaxonomy, and biowikifarm have started to implement and set up virtual work platforms for biodiversity sciences which shield their users from the complexity of the underlying standards. Apart from being practical work-horses for numerous working processes related to biodiversity sciences, they can be seen as information brokers mediating information between multiple data standards and protocols. The ViBRANT project will further strengthen the flexibility and power of virtual biodiversity working platforms by building software interfaces between them, thus facilitating essential information flows needed for comprehensive data exchange, data indexing, web-publication, and versioning. This work will make an important contribution to the shaping of an international, interoperable, and user-oriented biodiversity information infrastructure.