(Fwd) Re: TDWG Accessions Subgroup

Wed May 15 15:42:10 CDT 1996

The following (rather lengthy) message is a call to participate in the
discussion about a data standard for biological collections. It has
only been sent to TAXACOM, please do forward it to other appropriate

International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases (TDWG)
(IUBS Commission on Taxonomic Databases)

Subgroup on Accession Data

Preparing for a TDWG Collection Data Standard

The knowledge about the data needed in collection management systems
has improved significantly over the last decade.

Notable congruence exists between recently developed databases and
datamodels. The time has come to revive the efforts of TDWG to provide
a common standard for biological collections.

Most standards developed or endorsed by TDWG so far consist of lists
of attribute descriptions. This is still a valid approach, because
the resulting documents can be used in a variety of development
environments, ranging from individual researchers to institutional
collection management system developers. Moreover, they do not
require  much knowledge of databasing techniques.  For accessions, a
draft list was compiled by Jim Beach in 1991, available as a MS
WinWord 6 document under

However, such lists fail to adequately describe many
structural aspects of the information handled. During the 10th TDWG
meeting in Madrid (October 1995), I  therefore proposed to use
modelling techniques to develop a standard for collection data.
(The report on the TDWG Madrid meeting is available under
 http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~wgb/TDWG/TDWG10.txt on the  WWW.)

Data modelling in biological collections has been treated by several
publications on the Internet, most notably the ASC 1992 model. This
and  other important models are available at
More recently, the CDEFD model for biological collections was
published on the web

The entity list of the CDEFD model was discussed in a working group
during the ESF workshop  "Disseminating Biodiversity Information" in
 Amsterdam (March 96). The participants, consisting of researchers,
collection managers and "computer people" from the fields of
Mycology, Botany, Phycology, Lichenology, Paleontology, and
Microbiology, came to the following conclusions:

1. It is possible and useful to formulate a common backbone
datastructure covering diverse biological fields
2. Descriptive data have to be excluded from a general standard
because they are highly  specific, i.e. they depend on the purpose of
the collection and the group of organisms treated.
3. The backbone datastructure proposed by CDEFD covers collection
data from the fields cited and can serve as a starting point for
4. Existing data standards for geographical data should be used
whenever possible (e.g. the "Content standards for digital geospatial
metadata", see references in the CDEFD document for details).

In the next TDWG meeting (Toronto, October 96) I would like to be
able to present results of a general discussion, which is to be
initiated herewith. The first points to discuss should include:

1. Subdivision of the subject into separately treatable data areas

2. Identification of overlap with existing standards

3. Format and contents of the (partial) standards to be published

Please reply to this message if you are seriously interested to join
the subgroup.

Dr. Walter G. Berendsohn, Freie Universitaet Berlin,
Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem,
Koenigin-Luise-Str. 6-8, 14191 Berlin, Germany
Tel: +49 30 83006-143, Fax: +49 30 83006-186
Email: wgb at zedat.fu-berlin.de
WWW: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~wgb/

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