SAIAB Features » Taking Biodiversity Information Management into the Future

ROV still coelacanth Sodwana 2011  Tunicate SPN  Amphibians RB

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, published an article in 2001 describing a revolutionary idea: that of the Semantic Web. Traditionally specimen collection data or biodiversity information is managed through the use of a well-designed relational database. Since 2001 SAIAB has taken a leadership role in South Africa with respect to the adoption of, and strict adherence to, the use of a particularly well-designed database and application named ‘Specify Biodiversity Collections Software’, developed by the University of Kansas Biodiversity Research Center .

But technology has been developing rapidly since 2001. Biodiversity information is complex and nuanced, containing words with very specific ‘meanings’. Understanding and using the information requires conceptual modelling to relate the concepts to each other. The long-term significance of the Semantic Web is that it will no longer be necessary to continuously reformat and manually integrate separate databases. It will also mean that software agents will be able to collate and analyse the data with very little human intervention.

For more on this fascinating aspect of biodiversity information management see our most recent Research Nugget and download the award winning paper delivered at the first International Workshop on Semantics for Biodiversity, which formed part of the 10th Extended Semantic Web Conference (ESWC), in Montpellier, France.

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