Roger Hyam at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh just flipped the switch on a beta version of the Biodiversity Collections Index, a website which aims to connect various silos of collections information in the field of natural history.
The approach chosen is quite interesting: for starters, BCI has harvested a number of large lists of collections from different disciplines, such as Index Herbariorum (IH), Insect and Spider Collections of the World (ISCW) and the BioCASE database. It then applies a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) to all of the collections so they can be unambiguously cited by researchers, and resolved in a networked environment (for example utilizing a variety of web services offered). All of the data is available through a Attribution 3.0 Unported license. At the backend, to the best of my knowledge the data (currently) resides in a fairly basic version of the Natural Collections Description (NCD) standard, which an RLG Working Group first envisioned. So far, so good. What I find really refreshing about this project:
Any member of the biodiversity research community can register and contribute to the data held in the index. In addition to this, authoritative data that has been curated by established sources is displayed in a non-editable form alongside the community data. [BCI homepage]
It’ll be interesting to see whether the biodiversity community embraces this resource, and contributes to the records and the success of the BCI. Another avenue for institutions to contribute large batches of data will be through the NCD toolkit create by ETI BioInformatics in Amsterdam – the BCI website states that a synchronization mechanism between this data capture tool and the aggregation is in the works.
Congratulations to Roger and all the institutions who’ve signed on to support this effort!