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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

A decadal view of biodiversity informatics: challenges and priorities

Alex Hardisty1*, Dave Roberts2* and The Biodiversity Informatics Community3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Computer Science and Informatics, Cardiff University, Queens Buildings, 5 The Parade, Cardiff, CF24 3AA, UK

2 Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK

3 Detailed in Appendix 1

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BMC Ecology 2013, 13:16  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-13-16

Published: 15 April 2013

Abstract

Biodiversity informatics plays a central enabling role in the research community's efforts to address scientific conservation and sustainability issues. Great strides have been made in the past decade establishing a framework for sharing data, where taxonomy and systematics has been perceived as the most prominent discipline involved. To some extent this is inevitable, given the use of species names as the pivot around which information is organised. To address the urgent questions around conservation, land-use, environmental change, sustainability, food security and ecosystem services that are facing Governments worldwide, we need to understand how the ecosystem works. So, we need a systems approach to understanding biodiversity that moves significantly beyond taxonomy and species observations. Such an approach needs to look at the whole system to address species interactions, both with their environment and with other species.

It is clear that some barriers to progress are sociological, basically persuading people to use the technological solutions that are already available. This is best addressed by developing more effective systems that deliver immediate benefit to the user, hiding the majority of the technology behind simple user interfaces. An infrastructure should be a space in which activities take place and, as such, should be effectively invisible.

This community consultation paper positions the role of biodiversity informatics, for the next decade, presenting the actions needed to link the various biodiversity infrastructures invisibly and to facilitate understanding that can support both business and policy-makers. The community considers the goal in biodiversity informatics to be full integration of the biodiversity research community, including citizens’ science, through a commonly-shared, sustainable e-infrastructure across all sub-disciplines that reliably serves science and society alike.

Keywords:
Biodiversity; Informatics; Grand challenge; Decadal vision; Research infrastructure; e-Infrastructure; Data sharing; Systems approaches