Rationale and aim
The core of biodiversity knowledge is composed of information on species and specimens. A wealth of such knowledge has been assembled in taxonomic literature, notably Floras and Faunas, over hundreds of years, by and in European natural history institutions, herbaria, botanic gardens, and increasingly through ongoing biodiversity monitoring programs. Taxonomic literature provides an authoritative synthesis of the information that is available on a particular group of organisms (= taxon) in a particular region, compiled and evaluated by specialist taxonomists. It thus includes access to data of the highest quality available, including links to external resources upon which analyses are based.
However, external and internal factors call for an urgent modernization of the production and accessibility of these data, information and knowledge.
External factors include the need for biodiversity data to support conservation decisions like the conservation of a particular region or a particular taxon, and for mitigation of climate change impact and adaptation studies. Only during the last three decades has core biodiversity data been produced in digital formats (ie. on-line publications, DNA-sequences, images and metadata of specimens, GPS data of specimen records). Existing taxonomic literature is being digitized by many institutions around the world and the recent e-Content Plus Project "Biodiversity Heritage Library Europe" has achieved substantial progress in coordinating and integrating these efforts in the EU. Semantic enhancements of this body of literature is a new field of interest that will increase accessibility for researchers and amenability to direct fact finding. However, at present, such activities lack coordination to align ongoing and forthcoming efforts to semantic mark up of biodiversity literature, and provide the community technical solutions for the enhancement, use and re-use of these data. Internal factors are a consequence of the new opportunities due to the digital revolution, and the need to reconcile the increasing amount of data that needs to be collected and curated by the decreasing numbers of taxonomists available for this type of work. Managing the quality of the data is already a major challenge. A strategy to adapt methods of acquisition, curation, synthesizing and dissemination of biodiversity data to the digital era is paramount.
The aim of pro-iBiosphere is to prepare (= pro), through a coordination action, the ground for an integrative system (= sphere) for intelligent (= i) management of biodiversity (= bio) knowledge. Once it becomes operational, the European Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System will play a major role in facilitating the synthesis of core biodiversity data by creating an authoritative framework including, discovery of new species, naming of specimens and species, identification tools, descriptions, and various other basic types of information. It will also facilitate the acquisition of high quality biodiversity data from various sources, including legacy data; the curation of the data; and at the same time it will optimize the delivery of those data to the various users.