[Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Response, Part 4

Meredith A. Lane mlane at gbif.org
Mon Dec 4 12:05:01 CST 2006


*Who uses biodiversity data and why?  GBIF Response, Part 4*

To those readers who would prefer to read the four parts of this
response as a single document, please see
http://www.gbif.org/press/txcmrspns

A question not explicitly stated, but still implicit, in the thread 
addressed here: Why should so many people continue to work so hard to 
achieve universal access to universal biodiversity data?

Peterson and Navarro-Siguenza (2003, Computerizing bird collections and 
sharing collection data openly: Why bother? Bonner zoologische Beitr├Ąge 
51 (3/4): 205 -- 212, see 
http://www.specifysoftware.org/Informatics/bios/biostownpeterson/PN_BZB_2003.pdf) 
clearly summarize seven local reasons for a local collection to 
computerize; these amount to far more than merely "tidying up their 
book-keeping" (to quote the message in which the question was asked). 
These authors also lay out four benefits to a taxonomic community (e.g. 
for mammals or birds, etc.) that shares data across institutions, and 
further note that the emergent properties of such data sharing provide 
fodder for synthetic publications by the scientists involved in the 
processes of digitization and sharing of data.

The step from computerizing a collection for local purposes to universal 
sharing of the resulting digital data is a short one, and becoming 
easier and shorter all the time. GBIF provides and/or makes available 
free tools for georeferencing, data cleansing, data sharing and website 
generation. The new GBIF data portal (to be birthed early in 2007) will 
make access to and searching and downloading of the data easier than ever.

The kinds of biodiversity data held in collections and by systematists 
/are/ important to conservation, even though they may not have been 
widely used in conservation decisions (at whatever scale) to date. We 
suggest that at least one reason for this has been, to date, because 
these data have not been readily, easily, openly and yes -- universally 
-- available for analyses leading to conservation decisions. But, they 
are becoming so: witness the 110,588,578 occurrence records available 
via GBIF as this is written, up from 110,126,579 records available just 
a few days ago. And, we further posit that as the data resource grows, 
so will its use in conservation, as well as in myriad other ways.

To return to Matt Ball's (2005) assertion, universal availability and 
access to biodiversity data will bring benefits to science and, yes, to 
the sustainable stewardship of global biodiversity resources -- one 
locale at a time. After all, the globe is but a compilation of separate 
locales, just as a dataset is a compilation of separate data points. An 
analysis combines and filters various datasets, a conservation 
recommendation may call upon one or more iterpretation of one to several 
analyses. The chain of events that lead to conservation decisions that 
are more intelligent than they might otherwise be begins with data. GBIF 
does not analyze, does not interpret, does not recommend, does not 
decide. What it does do is encourage the digitization and enable the 
sharing of primary biodiversity data universally, in the firm conviction 
that a highly rich data compilation with coverage that is as deep and 
broad as can be constructed will indeed contribute both to conservation 
policy at the global level  as well as to local conservation choices 
around the globe.

-- /Meredith A. Lane/, PhD
/*mlane at gbif.org <mailto:mlane at gbif.org>*/
Public & Scientific Liaison
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GBIF Secretariat
tel: +45 3532 1470
direct: +45 3532 1484
mobile: +45 2875 1484
fax: +45 3532 1480



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