a national biological survey

Robert Robbins rrobbins at WELCHGATE.WELCH.JHU.EDU
Fri May 7 19:36:56 CDT 1993


INQUIRY REGARDING A NATIONAL BIOLOGICAL SURVEY

My name is Robert Robbins and I am serving on the Committee on the
Formation of a National Biological Survey that has been organized
by the National Research Council.  There I have been asked to
head a subcommittee charged with "identifying, investigating,
characterizing, and reporting on relevant, extant information
resources."  I am making this posting to request help with that
task.

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Some initial points should be noted:

   This is a request for information that may prove useful to the
   full committee in its deliberations.  The request itself
   should not be taken as implying anything about the scope or
   direction of those deliberations.

   There is a logical distinction between THE National Biological
   Survey (a government organization) and A national biological
   survey (the process of conducting a biotic inventory and
   research program and the resulting information resources).

   This request is about identifying already existing information
   resources that are relevant to a national biological survey
   (the process, not the agency).

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Here is the request:  We are seeking help in identifying all
existing information resources whose content is relevant to a
national survey (again, the process, not the agency).  The
subcommittee has identified several classes of information
resources that seem of interest (we would be pleased to receive
suggestions regarding categories we may have missed):

   Model resources -- these resources would provide examples of
   how such surveys have been conducted and how the resulting
   data have been organized.  These information resources could
   be associated with surveys that might or might not involve all
   or part of North America.  These might be national surveys in
   other countries, state surveys, surveys conducted by
   independent or governmental organizations, etc.

   Content-relevant resources -- these resources would have data
   contents of obvious relevance to a national survey.  They
   might span all of the United States or just part.  They could
   range from local all-taxa surveys to wide-area limited-taxa
   counts.  They would not necessarily involve only taxonomic
   survey data but could also include any other data resources
   relevant to a national survey, such as human-use data,
   geological, hydrological, soil, etc., data.  They might also
   involve information resources that would serve as standards,
   either of data content (e.g., approved lists of taxonomic or
   georgraphic names) or of format (e.g., proposed data
   structures or models for accommodating relevant data) or of
   exchange (e.g., standards for the exchange of cartographic or
   taxonomic or other data).

   Shared data types -- any scientific database must include some
   bibliographic component and certainly a biotic survey would
   seem obliged to treat geographic, taxonomic, and collections
   data as well.  Proposed or established standards for treating
   these or other data types are relevant here.

   Relevant organizational activities -- programs in private or
   public organizations that are relevant to a biotic survey.

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After identifying each such resource, we need to characterize it
in terms of:

   - name and other identifying attributes of the resource

   - statement of relevance to a national survey

   - name, address of appropriate contact person

   - who (what organization) manages it

   - where is it located

   - who has access to it

   - who are its primary users

   - is it freely available or are there access charges

   - what is in it (both scope and actual volume)

   - what is its geographic coverage

   - what is its taxonomic coverage

   - what is its temporal coverage

   - how are the data collected

   - why are they collected

   - how is its quality assured

   - what kind of data system is used to maintain it

   - is it linked to a GIS

   - are the contents available in bulk for use by others

   - is there an API (application programming interface) to the system

   - other (suggestions?)

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The results of our investigations will be summarized and
presented to the full committee.  Any information (or suggestions
for information not requested but deemed relevant) provided by
readers of this list will be appreciated.  Responses should be
sent directly to me, as this request may get forwarded to lists
that I do not read.

Ideally, all responses to this inquiry would include a section in
the form of answers to the questions posed above.  Other material
is also welcome.  Printed materials may be mailed or FAXed as
indicated below. However, electronic replies are preferred.

Time is short.  We are to submit our report to the full committee
at its next meeting on May 25th.  To be of use, material must be
submitted as soon as possible.

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Feel free to forward or otherwise share this request with other
relevant groups.

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Please note that our subcommittee is charged only with
information gathering regarding extant information resources
relevant to a biotic survey.  We are not charged with soliciting
opinions regarding the need for a National Biological Survey.

Thanks in advance for your patience in reading this and for the
help you may give.

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Robert J. Robbins, Director
Applied Research Laboratory                      Phone: (410) 955-9637
William H. Welch Medical Library                 FAX:   (410) 955-0054
School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University
2024 E. Monument Street
Baltimore, MD  21205

rrobbins at welchgate.welch.jhu.edu

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