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A comparative evaluation of technical solutions for long-term data repositories in integrative biodiversity research

TitleA comparative evaluation of technical solutions for long-term data repositories in integrative biodiversity research
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBach, K, Schäfer, D, Enke, N, Seeger, B, Gemeinholzer, B, Bendix, J
Journal TitleEcological Informatics
Keywordsbiodiversity; collaborative research projects; data exchange; data standards; long-term data repositories

The current study investigates existing infrastructure, its technical solutions and implemented standards for data repositories related to integrative biodiversity research. The storage and reuse of complex biodiversity data in central databases are becoming increasingly important, particularly in attempts to cope with the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity and ecosystems. From the data side, the main challenge of biodiversity repositories is to deal with the highly interdisciplinary and heterogeneous character of standardized and unstandardized data and metadata covering information from genes to ecosystems. Furthermore, the technical improvements in data acquisition techniques produces ever larger data volumes, which represents a challenge for database structure and proper data exchange.

The current study is based on comprehensive in-depth interviews and an online survey addressing IT specialists involved in database development and operation. The results show that metadata are already well established, but that non-meta data still is largely unstandardized across various scientific communities. For example, only a third of all repositories in our investigation use internationally unified semantic standard checklists for taxonomy. The study also showed that database developers are mostly occupied with the implementation of state of the art technology and solving operational problems, leaving no time to implement user's requirements. One of the main reasons for this dissatisfying situation is the undersized and unreliable funding situation of most repositories, as reflected by the marginally small number of permanent IT staff members. We conclude that a sustainable data management system that fosters the future use and reuse of these valuable data resources requires the development of fewer, but more permanent data repositories using commonly accepted standards for their long-term data. This can only be accomplished through the consolidation of hitherto widely scattered small and non-permanent repositories.

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