[Taxacom] What can Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) do for you?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Oct 15 14:48:29 CDT 2013

I would be interested in hearing from people, not so much what they would like from GBIF, but what they expect. In what ways do people think that GBIF can be useful? What sorts of questions do people think it might help to answer? Is it driven by user needs, or is it just a self-perpetuating white elephant?

From: Roderic Page <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
To: TAXACOM taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 16 October 2013 1:21 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] What can Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) do for you?

I've recently been appointed Chair of the Science Committee of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) http://www.gbif.org/[1]. The committee is a small group of people with a range of backgrounds, and one of our roles is to advise GBIF on matters scientific (e.g., what kinds of data GBIF should collect?, what kinds of scientific questions should GBIF help answer?, etc.).

There have been formal surveys (see the papers in the journal "Biodiversity Informatics" https://journals.ku.edu/index.php/jbi/issue/view/370/showToc), meetings, and a "vision" statement (the "Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook, http://www.biodiversityinformatics.org/). But there's always the chance that these fora may miss some points of view, so I'm keen to get feedback on what sort of things GBIF could do to improve the way it can help people tackle the scientific questions they are interested in.

For example, is there some fundamental limitation that GBIF has that prevents it being useful to you? Is there some feature/data type/geographic coverage/etc. that could be addressed that would make it more useful? Is there a role that GBIF should take on that it hasn't done so? A useful analogy might be to think of the central role GenBank plays in genomics, both as a place to archive your data (sequences), a repository of other people's data that you can access, and a research tool (e.g., BLAST searches to locate similar sequences). Is that the sort of thing you'd want from GBIF, or is it something entirely different?

I'd welcome any comments, suggestions, views, etc. You can reply to me directly, or to this email list (if it allows discussions). I've also posted this request on my blog, so you can comment there if you like.

I should stress that this is simply me trying to calibrate my perception of GBIF's role with what others think. Also, note if you have specific comments on things such as the GBIF web site please use the feedback tab on the site (that way it will reach the people who can do something about it).

[1] For those unfamiliar with GBIF, its mission "is to make the world's biodiversity data freely and openly available via the Internet". At present the bulk of the data are observations of organisms (mostly multicellular eukaryotes, i.e., animals, plants and fungi) based on either museum collections or observations of living organisms. You can get an idea of the kind of science that uses GBIF-hosted data from this list of papers on Mendeley http://www.mendeley.com/groups/1068301/gbif-public-library/

Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email:         r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
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