The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and the Encyclopedia of Life (EoL)

Added on 2009-01-30 11:56:35 by Mark Costello, Cynthia Parr, Jim Edwards and Ward Appeltans
Today the Smithsonian Institution, on behalf of EoL and the Society for the Management of Electronic Biodiversity Data (SMEBD), on behalf of WoRMS, has officially come to an agreement to work together to develop and share biodiversity information.
A couple of months ago WoRMS was approached to provide content to EoL. EoL primarily aggregates information on species from a variety of pre-approved sources. Web pages on EoL contain a number of “data objects” (e.g. image, paragraph about a species ecology, map, taxonomic name), each one with a clearly displayed citation of its source. It plans to provide a tool, called LifeDesk, that allow experts to collaborate to build content, and to invite scientific experts to be Curators of species web pages. No external content will be edited or altered, and each item will have a clear citation of its source. Eventually expert curators will reviewcontent so what they judge most authoritative and/or informative will be most visible, and inaccurate content may be hidden. Curation will be especially important for species with a lot of information, such as some mammals and birds.

EoL and WoRMS are amongst a small group of initiatives that provide scholarly, expert-validated, content on the internet. We have a common interest in making the content high quality and citable, so contributions are clearly recognised and attributed.

EoL will already receive some taxonomic names on marine species that WoRMS has provided to the Catalogue of Life. However, so far most WoRMS species names have not been requested by CoL, and many WoRMS species have additional information on synonyms, distribution, biology, ecology, literature, and images. EoL would display this additional information as a series of “data objects”. EoL is interested in information on the following categories: Associations, Behaviour, Conservation Status, , Cytology, Diagnostic Description, Diseases, Dispersal, Distribution, Evolution, General Description, Genetics, Growth, Habitat, Legislation, Life Cycle, Life Expectancy, Look Alikes, Management, Migration, Molecular Biology, Morphology, Physiology, Population Biology, Procedures, Reproduction, Risk Statement, Size, Taxon Biology, Threats, Trends, Trophic Strategy, Uses. Except where otherwise noted, content in WoRMS (such as images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Under the agreement, WoRMS will have access to EoL content and tools.

Mutual benefits from collaboration
Several WoRMS editors work at institutions supporting EoL so it is now more time-effective for editors to place the information into a database (i.e. WoRMS) once and thus have their contributions flow onto other resources such as EoL and the Catalogue of Life with due attribution of the source.

EoL has already sponsored or agreed to sponsor some activities involving WoRMS Taxonomic Editors, namely a Bryozoa workshop, December 2007, Chicago, USA; Decapoda workshop, June 2008, Taiwan; and Pericarida workshop, April 2009, Catalina Island, USA. Additional marine-related proposals for workshops are under review by EOL’s Biodiversity Synthesis Center. EOL will suggest that synthesis groups, and other communities, consider using WoRMS tools to build their content as appropriate.

EoL is planning to fund ‘fellows’ who would add content to EoL under the supervision of an experienced expert. Fellows focusing on marine species could do so through WoRMS, and could help organize the efforts of others. This would fund 30-50% of their salary for a year and complement their other research activities.EoL encourages WoRMS Taxonomic Editors to apply for EoL synthesis grants as soon as possible. Application details are available at EoL is prioritising marine species so as to have as many marine web pages as possible by 2013, and will do so in collaboration with the Census of Marine Life, which has similar goals as it ends its 10-year programme.

Literature digitization
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is part of EoL and is digitising taxonomic literature. EoL will forward requests from WoRMS editors to prioritise certain content; for example, important series of publications or major monographs that include original descriptions of marine species.

Orphaned databases
EoL has been contacted to take over orphaned websites dealing with marine species. As EoL is not structured to handle such databases, it may ask WoRMS to investigate these in the first instance. One instance of this is already being explored by the WoRMS Mollusca Editors.

Editorial Board interactions
Because EoL appreciates the depth of editing functionality in WoRMS, its community of editors and its permanency; it will suggest that contributors offering marine content to EoL consider doing so through WoRMS.

EoL will invite WoRMS editors to become curators of marine species pages in EoL. Thus they can maintain control of the quality of information displayed on their taxon. Alternatively, the WoRMS editors may recommend colleagues to become EoL Curators. EoL may also suggest new editors for WoRMS where gaps exist. WoRMS and its editors will have increased visibility by collaboration with EoL. WoRMS should receive increased use of its web pages from links in EoL.

Further information can be found in the Memorandum of Understanding.

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