This is a DRAFT – please send us your comments and suggestions.

The Atlas of Living Australia will integrate a wide range of data resources which have already been shared online and which can be accessed without any additional work on the part of the data providers.

However many institutions and individual researchers are hindered from making biodiversity data available by the complexity of the existing tools. Some of these tools require significant understanding of database and web technologies. In all cases they require the data provider to have access to a web server and permission to run executable code on such a server. This is an insurmountable technical threshold for many research groups.

The Atlas will therefore invest resources during 2008-2009 and beyond in improving the usability of existing tools and in developing alternative means for data providers to share their data. The key elements in this activity will be:

  • Developing installable software bundles including web server and database components and all prerequisite software necessary to run standards-compliant wrapper software. (At present data providers are often obliged to download and even compile some of these prerequisite components.)
    The following features are desirable:

    1. A fully configured web server implementation (without providers being required to find prerequisite packages themselves) for Windows and Linux.
    2. A simple default database (e.g. MySQL) with a basic predefined structure into which data can easily be imported from spreadsheets, etc.
    3. Interfaces to import data into the default database.
    4. Preconfigured TAPIR (and any other required interfaces) offering Darwin Core and ABCD interfaces against the default database (developed in conjunction with AVH and OZCAM to ensure that they also support their needs).
    5. Wizard interfaces for mapping other databases and exposing their data using the same Darwin Core and ABCD interfaces.
    6. Basic HTML user interface for users to browse or search the data – with simple configuration to apply basic styling, logos, etc. (in other words to allow the installation to serve as part or all of a web site for the provider).
    7. Google Maps (or similar) map interface integrated into the HTML user interface (including clear instructions on getting the necessary key from Google to use their maps).
    8. MorphBank, Gallery (or similar, open source) image management integrated into database to make it easy to associate images with specimen data
    9. Documentation and tutorial materials for installing and using this software
  • Enhancing the Atlas’s Metadata Repository and Data Harvesting components to support harvesting of data directly from flat-file, spreadsheet formats (CSV dumps, Excel, etc.). This will allow data providers to share data simply by placing a file on a web server and registering associated metadata in the Atlas Metadata Repository.
  • Exploring collaborative opportunities for the Atlas and third-party organisations to develop online repositories to which data providers may upload biodiversity data. Such a repository should give users of all kinds (from lab researchers to amateur naturalists) to upload and view data (especially ecological and observational data sets) through a web browser interface. The interface should provide all of the features listed above for the installable software bundles and should give users control over the visibility and publication of data.

The Atlas will work with existing projects dedicated to integrating Australian biodiversity data. The Atlas will help to consolidate the work of these projects and provide infrastructure required to enable them to succeed. The following relationships will be particularly significant:

  • Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH), Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM), Australian Plant Protection Database (APPD) and Australian Microbial Research Information Network (AMRIN) – the Atlas will work with these existing network projects to ensure that Atlas software developments (especially Data Provision Services) are fully supportive of the needs of each project; Atlas activities should reinforce the development and identity of these networks, which will be key contributors of content to the Atlas.
  • Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) – the Atlas will work with ABRS to develop web delivery mechanisms (especially web services) for data sets produced through ABRS activities
  • Australian Biodiversity Information Facility (ABIF) – the Atlas will assume responsibility for the integration of Australian data resources with GBIF, and will work with the Australian GBIF delegation to ensure that mechanisms and processes are in place for making decisions on the content Australia should offer at this level.
  • Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) – many data sets of relevance to the Atlas also relate to OBIS; the Atlas will coordinate activity with OBIS to ensure compatibility and efficient use of resources; this relates in particular to Data Provision Services and the Metadata Repository, but linkages are likely for all the Atlas components identified below.

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