TDWG standards files, archives, gopher and information

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Tue Mar 9 08:26:09 CST 1993


Your message below raises some pertinent issues for TDWG membership
beyond the executive, so I hope you do not mind this reposting to
the network:

> Date:         Mon, 8 Mar 93  12:18:31 EST
> To: Jim Croft <jrc at>
> Just spent some time looking at Jim Beach's gopher server.  It brings
> up an issue that the TDWG exec might want to consider.  Should there
> be one official source for TDWG info?  Through the magic of Gopher
> it wouldn't matter where it is.  Jim has an old and undated draft of
> the geog. standard on the server.  I asked him to correct the contact
> person from Jim Z. to Rusty and to make it more clear that the copy
> he has is a draft and that it has been published.
> We need a mechanism for insuring that the information put up on a
> server is current and correct and that it gets updated as necessary.
>                                         Ellen Farr
>                                         Smithsonian Institution
>                                         MNHBO001 at SIVM.BITNET
>                                         MNHBO001 at SIVM.SI.EDU

Yes - the simple elegance of gopher is one of the most exciting things
to have happened in the arena of rapid and flexible distribution of
information, of all sorts - textual, structure, graphic, and more.

Just as with paper-based information, electronic information from TDWG
should be sanctioned by TDWG through mechansims such as your 'due
process' document, and perhaps endorsement from the executive.

Certainly it should be date-stamped and versioned.

As with any archive, the information must be placed in a situation where
the maintenance and continuity of the system can be assured and where
staff resources are sufficient to attend promptly to that which must be

At the moment, TDWG/IOPI related information can be found on the taxacom
ftp server and the related biodiversity gopher at Harvard
(, the biodiversity gopher and ftp server at the
Australian National University (, and the Australian
National Botanic Gardens gopher (

The information at these sites is largely ad hoc, gathered from whatever
source can be found.  There is a certain degree of mutual parasitism
between the sites, and much of the information is common to all three,
but by no means all, and there has not been so much information posted
so far for a common structure to evolve.

It would be useful if TDWG and IOPI information could be presented to
the world in a consistent manner, and an 'official' site that can be
automatically mirrored elsewhere or latched onto with gopher links may
be the way to go.  The management of this archive will have to be the
responsibility of a person and site that is not going to move around
with changes of executive (in much the same manner as the editorship of
the Newsletter has been in Geneva).  For performance and backup, I would
recommend that the archive be automatically mirrored, at least in each

But Gopher and the Internet thrives on anarchy, and providers have no
control over who takes what and repackages for presentation elsewhere.
[But we do not know which libraries stock our books, nor who borrows
them, nor do we have any control (and often no knowledge) over the
names that herbaria and museums place on specimens we send them.  Life
appears to be a series of anarchistic events...]

One of the major problems in establishing a meaningful TDWG electronic
archive has been the availability of our endorsed standards in
electronic form.

As we are in the business of communicating biological data standards and
conventions for the interchange of data, it is imperative that TDWG
provides reliable information in an electronic form.  It could (should?)
be argued that TDWG should not produce (or endorse) anything that is not
capable of being built into biological database or stored in such
databases.  There are major custodial and copyright issues here that we
need to make great effort to resolve.

One of the major reasons for the existence of organizations such as TDWG
and IOPI is to reduce duplication and achieve greater return for our
collective effort.  And the first step towards this is to present what
we have as widely as possible electronically in the most flexible and
consistent form.  This is the true meaning of 'publication' - it is a
pity that 'publication' is seen in many circles to culminate with the
production of a book and not the dissemination of usable information.


TDWG = Interntional Working group on Taxonomic Databases for the Plant
       Sciences (formerly Taxanomic Databases Working Group)

IOPI = International Organization for Plant Information

Jim Croft                  [Herbarium CBG]           internet: jrc at
Australian National Botanic Gardens                     voice:  +61-6-2509 490
GPO Box 1777, Canberra, ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA               fax:  +61-6-2509 599
____Biodiversity Directorate, Australian National Parks & Wildlife Service____

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