Collections database standards? (fwd)

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Wed Nov 24 00:52:07 CST 1993

Sorry, I let this one slip through:

Julian Humphries writes:
<soapbox on>
Finally, let me say that I continually see statements about the relative "ease"
of data exchange.  Perhaps this is true for relatively simple data stored in
flat files.  But in modern museum systems with relational structures including
dozens of individual tables, it is far from clear that the exchange of data is
straight forward.  We don't have a way to encapsulate both the data and the
data structure that records the information about a museum specimen.
<soapbox off>

Julian is absolutely right here.  I can think on no institution with
complex databases (or even simple databases with sundry lookup tables)
based on different software that have meaningfully exchanged data.  When
data exhange takes place at all, it is usually done painfully, as an ad
hoc exercise, one table at a time, slowly, with much human coercion, and
often at great expense.

The ASN.1 standard for data interchange is supposed to have the ability
to include dataset structural details in the header and allow transfer
of an entire relational database, but I do not know of any biological
orgainzations that have actually done it.

I would be interested in hearing if anyone has exchanged complex
relational data between differennt databases, and if so how they did it
and what formats were used.  Or if anyone knows of any workable standards
or protocols for this task.

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 Nature Conservation Agency______

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