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Science made easier : Darwin Core explained

July 3, 2012

A key barrier to data publishing – making data available for others to use – is the simple reality that most people have devised their own terms and labels to order their data sets. Wouldn’t life be easy for those creating, managing and using data portals if we all used the same set of terms to describe our data? This is the purpose of the Darwin Core Standard, a seriously useful and authoritative output of the Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG) of the International Union of Biological Scientists.

The Darwin Core is set to become the ‘industry standard’ for the field of Biodiversity informatics. It comprises a list of terms and technical descriptions relating to attributes of species and distributional data. The latest version is comprehensive and arises from an iterative process started in 2009 and guided by the principle of “keeping the standard as simple and open as possible and to develop terms only when there is shared demand”. Adopting the standard not only means that data can be upload into important biodiversity data portals such as GBIF and BioFresh, but it also provides an invaluable prompt when designing new databases. John Wieczorek and colleagues have published an excellent overview of both the standard and its applications in PLoS One, and full details of the technical aspects are available from the TDWG web-site.

However, if you are just looking for a quick introduction we suggest you check out the two videos below. In the first, two robots in bar talk about the principles of the Darwin Core (like Robots would!)..

and in the second David Remsen helpfully walks viewers through the Darwin Core Archive Assistant which is an on-line tool to assist in the publication of biodiversity data.

Citation: Wieczorek J, Bloom D, Guralnick R, Blum S, Döring M, et al. (2012) Darwin Core: An Evolving Community-Developed Biodiversity Data Standard. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29715. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029715

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