Press Archive

Workshop Planned April 11-14-1996

Published 02/16/1996

For more information, contact:
Ann Redelfs
619-534-5113 (FAX)

The volume of biodiversity and ecological data collected by U.S. institutions is estimated to consist of approximately half a billion voucher specimens in museums and herbaria. But many existing collections have not been captured in electronic form. Those that have are not linked easily to one another because of the diversity of hardware platforms, applications software, and data protocols within and among institutions. Linking this information with databases and tools from other relevant disciplines has proven even more daunting.

The importance of establishing a single institution or professional society in the U.S. to organize, link, and disseminate this information has been suggested by a series of reports dating back to 1989. To address this need, SDSC plans to host the U.S. Organization for Biodiversity Information (US-OBI) Workshop April 11-14-1996, pending funding from the National Science Foundation. The US-OBI will facilitate the dissemination of collections data for use by the nation's policy makers, environmental managers, scientific and educational communities, and the public to sustain terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in harmony with land use and meet the informational needs of society at large. More specifically, it will:

  • Assist biological collections with information management solutions in a distributed, interoperable environment that integrates database collections, modeling tools, and geographic information systems, and helps manage technological evolution.
  • Provide support and training.
  • Work with university and K-12 science educators to provide authoritative information on biodiversity in the classroom.

The workshop will be a follow-on meeting to the Lawrence Retreat, held at the University of Kansas last September, which began discussions on ways to improve access to biodiversity information in the U.S., particularly as regards biological collections. It will bring together approximately 50 collections personnel, information providers, technical specialists, and users to establish the organization and determine its mission and operating procedures.

The goal of the first day will be to produce a framework document that describes the necessary functionality of an open biodiversity informatics infrastructure that emphasizes engineering feasibility, institutional commitments, and cost of alternative architectures and technical approaches. This document will be used "to set the scene" for the plenary session by describing the informatics challenges that lie ahead for collections-based research institutions, systematics, and the biodiversity community. Subsequent sessions will be devoted to demonstrating the use of OBI through examples of ecumenical and community projects, and soliciting input from the participants through focused breakout sessions. The final session will focus on synthesizing the results of the workshop -- defining the OBI and plans for follow-on activities, including publishing a workshop proceedings.