[Taxacom] encylopedia of life

David Patterson dpatterson at mbl.edu
Sun May 13 13:48:03 CDT 2007

As one of the EOL team, I'd like to comment on some of the 
issues that have been raised.

1.  We do have active taxonomists as part of the team.

2.  EOL is intended to be a communal initiative.  Its role 
is to mobilise data, present it through a common but very 
flexible portal, and so serve audiences with a broad 
spectrum of needs.  To make this possible, we will promote 
a virtual workbench, where anyone can add to amend openly 
accessible software to link, index, annotate, analyse or 
visualise biodiversity information that are accessible 
through the internet.  Anyone will be able to register 
themselves as a data provider so that their content can be 
seen through the workbench and potentially through the EOL

3.  As to whether this initiative will have more success 
that some of the others, there are a number of 
developments that make success considerably more probable. 
 The first is that the internet itself has moved on, the 
bandwidth can now accommodate biology in a way that was 
not previously possible; the style of the internet has 
been very interactive (and therefore makes communal 
participation possible - one of two key factors that will 
permit this project to scale); there have been innovations 
in aggregation (mashup) which we are familiar with in 
terms of Google images, but in the biological context 
through web sites like iSpecies or in a more clunky form 
in micro*scope many years earlier;  we have the 
foundations of a global index in the form of uBio's 
NameBank and CoLP has now gone beyond the half way point 
in developing an authoritative filter for that index; 
 there will be a fairly extensive network  that 
synchronizes the major names providers; TDWG now 
Biodiversity Information Standards is providing data 
schemas, data transfer standards, and progress towards the 
semantic web for biology; we have taxonomically 
intelligent services that can overcome the 'many names for 
one organism' problem that besets federation of data; we 
will have access to the content of 1.500,000 biodiversity 
texts through the BHL so addressing a key bottleneck in 
taxonomy and therefore making EOL a tool that serves 
taxonomists; the funding is appropriate to the scope of 
the challenge, and we have a wonderful video (that was 
provided for free by Avenue A RazorFish - illustrating 
that the idea is inspiring others to help us address the 

4.  This is a communal enterprise.  EOL is not a funding 
agency.  It will increase visibility and relevance of 
biodiversity data that is put on the web.  It will offer 
to taxonomists high visibility, something that the 
taxonomic community should be able to exploit in their 
search for support.

5.  The teams will start to assemble in the second part of 
this year.

David Patterson

eolinformatics at mbl.edu

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