In a previous post, I hinted at the collaborative work I’m engaged in with a number of natural history institutions. Our working group ominously titled itself RAVNS or Resources Available in Natural Sciences, and we’ve had conference calls for a good 18 months now. Building on a European Union project called BioCASE (Biological Collections Access Service for Europe), the stated goal of the RAVNS is to create an XML Schema for describing collections in natural history institutions. As Neil Thomson of the Natural History Museum, London, writes:
It is intended primarily as a lightweight resource description standard that is specific to natural history and lies between general resource discovery standards such as Dublin Core (DC) and rich collection description standards such as the Encoded Archival Description (EAD). However, it should be possible to extract a Dublin Core record from an NCD record for use with general resource discovery systems or, going in the other direction, to use an NCD record as the seed for a much richer collection description as and when time allows.
I pulled this succinct positioning of the fledgling specification from the Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG) Natural Collections Description webpage, where you can also download a draft [link to .xsd file] of the schema. As the RAVNS got more and more serious about their work, TDWG expressed an interest in making the XML Schema we were working on part of their ecology of standards (excuse the pun), and they have established a working group to move things forward on their end. Since Neil Thomson chairs both groups (he actually co-chairs the RLG group together with Carol Butler from the National Museum of Natural History), we’re all happily pulling on one string. You’ll hear more about this effort after a big meeting in June, which will bring together representatives from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), TDWG, the RAVNS and some folks with collection description smarts who’ll be able to give some impartial input. Graciously funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, via GBIF, I should hasten to add. Stay tuned!