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Biodiversity Information Mobilization Strategy Workshop

Publishing and accessing biodiversity information in Canada: Towards a Canadian biodiversity knowledge mobilization strategy – Ottawa, Feb. 24, 2011

This meeting was jointly organized by Canadensys, NatureServe Canada and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership (FBIP). The objective was to explore and build a collaborative commitment to biodiversity data publishing in Canada through cooperation among data producers, data managers and data users. The meeting gathered 34 key stakeholder representatives united in their commitment to mount a national coordinated effort to facilitate the development, mobilization and use of primary Canadian biodiversity data.

Summary

http://www.canadensys.net/activities/meetings/ottawa-2011

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, a group of 34 representatives of key stakeholders working on collecting, preserving, publishing and/or using biodiversity data (universities, federal government department and agencies, NGOs, museums, private sector) came together to discuss a common Canadian strategy for making these data accessible and facilitate their use.

Biological collections and observation data containing important information needed for Canada to manage its biodiversity are dispersed among different institutions throughout Canada and internationally. For collections, less than 10% of specimen records have been transposed to a digital format, with even fewer of those data available online, nor is there a comprehensive record of the species, taxonomic groups, regions, timeframes, etc. that are contained in each collection. For observational data, many field studies remain in field notes or in personal digital collections that are not published and are at risk of being lost as researchers retire or as computer hard drives fail or are recycled. As a consequence, valuable and needed information remains inaccessible or is being lost. We are not even at the point yet of knowing where the gaps are.

Short presentations were given on past and current initiatives in this area, followed by open discussions on how to coordinate efforts among partners and stakeholders around the table. Participants then identified next steps that could be taken to increase the availability of biodiversity information and facilitate its use. The key conclusions from these discussions are as follows.

    • A substantial leap forward is needed in data digitization, publication and use in order to improve our understanding of biodiversity, and to inform decision-making for its preservation and for sustainable development;
    • A culture change is underway that favours sharing and publication of data among data holders and users;
    • Of the various steps in the biodiversity knowledge chain from field collection to aggregate analysis and usage, digitization and publication of legacy data are critically underfunded; there is no effective infrastructure in Canada to support that effort.
    • Efficient tools for data publication, as well as proper incentives and recognition of data publication as a critical deliverable of researchers is essential to justify the time investment required;
    • Publication of data and providing efficient access to support use will require cooperation and coordination of all key stakeholder through one coordinating mechanism.
    • Data publishing and access must be targeted towards data use, establishing priorities based on the needs of the users;
    • Efforts must be coordinated to make the case for data mobilization to governments, funding agencies and the general public;
    • Common standards are essential for sharing a broad range of biodiversity data and must be developed and widely implemented;
    • A common portal and useful software tools need to be developed (in most cases existing tools can be adapted to fit the needs);
    • Efforts concentrating on the publication of metadata, giving information about the contents of Canadian biodiversity collections, will allow users to identify the datasets they need and allow for demand driven digitization efforts.
    • The focus of this effort should remain on species level primary biodiversity data from specimens and reliable observations.

As a key first step in the establishment of the appropriate networking and management structure for the publication and use of Canadian biodiversity data by all stakeholders, the three organizing partners were encouraged to apply the input and priorities produced in this meeting to the production of the proposal to the Networks of Centres of Excellence – Knowledge Mobilization (NCE-KM) program.

 

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