[Taxacom] NSF DigitizationRound Table Meeting Summary, Boulder CO

Robert Guralnick Robert.Guralnick at colorado.edu
Fri Sep 24 12:55:34 CDT 2010

   Dear Taxaocom'ers --- As many of you know, NSF has announced a
major new solicitation for a national collections digitization effort.
  In an attempt to make sure the community can move forward in a
collective fashion, a round-table meeting was held in Boulder, CO last
Friday to discuss the solicitation and determine different strategies
for the development of a Hub and TCNs.  A meeting summary prepared by
David Schindel, David Bloom and myself is appended below for your
perusal.  A followup post will announce a blog site for comment along
with this summary and more information.  But please do feel free to
begin discussions and such here as well, if interested.

With best regards, Rob Guralnick


Summary of the Community Round-Table Meeting
University of Colorado, Boulder
Building Community Support for an NSF-funded HUB for Advancing
Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC)
Friday, 17 September 2010

The University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History in Boulder,
Colorado organized and hosted a one-day community discussion motivated
by the recent NSF call for proposals under the Advancing Digitization
of Biological Collections Program (ADBC; Program Solicitation NSF
10-603).  The goal of the meeting was to help the community
self-organize and share information in order to promote the submission
of the highest quality proposal(s) for an NSF-funded HUB (Home Uniting
Biocollections).  Some of the invitees to the community consultation
had participated in NSF-supported workshops leading to creation of a
ten-year “Strategic Plan for Establishing a Network Integrated
Collections Alliance” that was cited in the ADBC solicitation.  Other
invitees represented major database and collection initiatives,
professional societies, and institutions with natural history
collections.  The meeting was conducted as a round-table discussion
(listed below) during which a group of non-attendees participated via
conference call (listed below).

The organizers and participants of the community round-table were
motivated by the short time available before the 10 December deadline
for ADBC proposals.  They viewed this exploratory planning meeting as
the first step in a planning process that would engage many other
members of the collections community.  Participants agreed that their
discussions should be open to scrutiny by all members of the
collections community, to counteract any perception that the
consultation was a closed group operating without regard for other
potential participants in a HUB proposal.  With this goal in mind, the
organizers provided a note-taker and this record of the discussions is
available on request from David Bloom or Robert Guralnick.

The meeting covered three general areas:

NSF’s expectations for the HUB as articulated in the solicitation;
Potential configuration of a proposed HUB and its activities; and
Potential lead and participating institutions in a HUB proposal(s)

1.  NSF Expectations and Solicitation.
Participants in the consultation agreed that the NSF solicitation was
broad enough in scope to provide the community with the flexibility to
be innovative and inclusive.  The solicitation was clear in stating
that the HUB should unite the collections community and facilitate
digitizing initiatives, especially the Thematic Collections Networks
(TCNs), which would also be funded through the ADBC solicitation.
There are, however, several important areas open to different

 a.  How much influence or authority would the HUB have over the TCNs?
 The HUB will be expected to help TCNs and other projects to implement
standards that lead to interoperability but some other projects have
received NSF support already, without any input from a HUB.  In
addition, the solicitation does not indicate if or how the HUB would
be involved in oversight or management of the TCNs and other projects.

 b.  If the TCNs are devoted to digitization in different research
areas there may be no incentive for them to develop software solutions
that support interoperability.  Would the technology development and
deployment needed to integrate them be the responsibility of the HUB
or of each TCN?  If the former, would the HUB be expected to support
technology development from its core NSF award or would it be expected
to develop and submit spin-off proposals to support these additional

c.  The solicitation states in several places that the HUB should
provide access to the digitized products of TCNs but there are already
community portals for this function (especially GBIF).  Will the HUB
be expected to develop a new portal specifically for TCN data or can
these data be exposed through existing portals?  Does NSF expect the
HUB to also address the problem of long-term data archiving for TCN

 2.  Potential HUB configurations.
Participants discussed the range of HUB tasks described in the
solicitation (e.g., organizing the community, technical integration,
outreach, monitoring).  There was general agreement that no single
institution has all the capabilities, experience, and skill sets
necessary to provide leadership in all the relevant areas.
Participants therefore agreed that the most effective approach would
be a single proposal submitted by a lead institution that included
subcontracts to hublets that would each have lead responsibility for
different areas of activity.  The lead institution and hublets would
need to work closely with each other as well as being proactive in
engaging other segments of the collections community.  A successful
HUB would need to balance the need to work with the most capable
institutions with the goal of uniting the entire community.
Participants agreed that it will be critical to strike the right
balance between being goal-directed and being inclusive.  Some
participants thought that the lead institution (i.e., the one that
submits the proposal to NSF) should be the one tasked with organizing
the community.  Others thought that the community would be better
represented by an advisory committee to direct organization and
activity with the HUB.  A third option discussed, suggested that the
HUB should provide technical support rather than community leadership.
 In general, it was recognized that a proposal could be submitted by
the lead institution for any of many possible areas of activity of the
HUB if the HUB is a collaborative effort.

 3.  Potential Lead and Participating Institutions
During the conference call portion of the meeting, participants
described the areas of HUB activity for which their respective
institutions could play a leadership role.  Participants also stated
whether their institutions considered themselves potential lead
institutions.  The University of Kansas, the Texas Advanced Computing
Center, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Illinois State
Natural History Museum, Harvard University, and the Smithsonian
Institution all considered the possibility of submitting a HUB
proposal.  The Smithsonian is ineligible to submit a TCN proposal, but
NSF has not yet decided if the Smithsonian is eligible to participate
in a HUB proposal.  The question has been submitted to NSF’s Office of
General Counsel for a decision.  Representatives of SPNHC and ITIS
present at the meeting expressed strong support and enthusiasm for
working with any and all applicants building a HUB and stated that
they would entertain all invitations to participate (Christopher
Norris/SPNHC and Stinger Guala/ITIS).

 Action Items.
1. Establish a web site for the dissemination of information about the
meeting, ADBC, and for the use of the community.
2. Publish information about the community round-table (incl. list of
participants, community round-table summary, agenda, survey, etc) on
the established web site.
3. Extend an invitation to the community to express concerns,
questions, ideas, recommendations, etc. about ADBC, the HUB, and TCNs.
4. Schedule a conference call for all participants in late September
to discuss the outcomes of these consultations and to being the
process of forming teams that would develop their HUB proposal(s).

 It is the hope of the hosts that the meeting participants and members
of the community at large who intend to submit proposals for a HUB or
TCN will use the online web site as a resource to share their ideas,
concerns, intentions, and questions about their actions.  Likewise,
the web site is intended to be a forum of the community to discuss
issues related to the ADBC solicitation and its implications.

Community Round-Table Attendees
Jim Beach, University of Kansas (Specify, SEEK)
Stan Blum, California Academy of Sciences (TDWG)
Joel Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History
Linda Ford, Harvard University (MCZ)
Rosemary Gillespie, UC Berkeley, (Essig)
Stinger Guala, USGS/NBII, ITIS
Rob Guralnick, University of Colorado, (Map of Life)
Michael Mares, University of Oklahoma (Sam Noble, NSCA)
Alan Prather, Michigan State University (CollectionsWeb RCN)
David Schindel, Smithsonian (Consortium for the Barcode of Life,
Scientific Collections International Steering Committee, NSTC
Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections)
Barbara Thiers, New York Botanical Garden (Index Herbariorum)
Dave Vieglais, University of Kansas (DataONE)
Tim White, Yale University, (Peabody, frmr Pres. SPNHC)
John Wieczorek, UC Berkeley (VertNet, BioGeomancer)

Conference Call Participants
Paul Tinerella, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Illinois
Natural History Survey)
Chris Jordan, Univ Texas Advanced Computing Center
Mark Westneat, Field Museum (Encyclopedia of Life Biodiversity Synthesis Center)
John Bates, Field Museum
Meredith Lane, USGS/NBII
Jim Hanken, Harvard University (MCZ)
Chris Norris, Yale University (Incoming Pres. SPNHC)
Robert Gropp, American Institute of Biological Sciences
Zack Murrell, Appalachian State (USVH)
David Bloom, VertNet

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