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      Wanted: Standards for FAIR taxonomic concept representations and relationships 

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      Biodiversity Information Science and Standards

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          Making the most of biodiversity data requires linking observations of biological species from multiple sources both efficiently and accurately (Bisby 2000, Franz et al. 2016). Aggregating occurrence records using taxonomic names and synonyms is computationally efficient but known to experience significant limitations on accuracy when the assumption of one-to-one relationships between names and biological entities breaks down (Remsen 2016, Franz and Sterner 2018). Taxonomic treatments and checklists provide authoritative information about the correct usage of names for species, including operational representations of the meanings of those names in the form of range maps, reference genetic sequences, or diagnostic traits. They increasingly provide taxonomic intelligence in the form of precise description of the semantic relationships between different published names in the literature. Making this authoritative information Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR; Wilkinson et al. 2016) would be a transformative advance for biodiversity data sharing and help drive adoption and novel extensions of existing standards such as the Taxonomic Concept Schema and the OpenBiodiv Ontology (Kennedy et al. 2006, Senderov et al. 2018). We call for the greater, global Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) and taxonomy community to commit to extending and expanding on how FAIR applies to biodiversity data and include practical targets and criteria for the publication and digitization of taxonomic concept representations and alignments in taxonomic treatments, checklists, and backbones.As a motivating case, consider the abundantly sampled North American deer mouse—Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner 1845)—which was recently split from one continental species into five more narrowly defined forms, so that the name P. maniculatus is now only applied east of the Mississippi River (Bradley et al. 2019, Greenbaum et al. 2019). That single change instantly rendered ambiguous ~7% of North American mammal records in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (n=242,663, downloaded 2021-06-04; GBIF.org 2021) and ⅓ of all National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) small mammal samples (n=10,256, downloaded 2021-06-27). While this type of ambiguity is common in name-based databases when species are split, the example of P. maniculatus is particularly striking for its impact upon biological questions ranging from hantavirus surveillance in North America to studies of climate change impacts upon rodent life-history traits. Of special relevance to NEON sampling is recent evidence suggesting deer mice potentially transmit SARS-CoV-2 (Griffin et al. 2021).Automating the updating of occurrence records in such cases and others will require operational representations of taxonomic concepts—e.g., range maps, reference sequences, and diagnostic traits—that are FAIR in addition to taxonomic concept alignment information (Franz and Peet 2009). Despite steady progress, it remains difficult to find, access, and reuse authoritative information about how to apply taxonomic names even when it is already digitized. It can also be difficult to tell without manual inspection whether similar types of concept representations derived from multiple sources, such as range maps or reference sequences selected from different research articles or checklists, are in fact interoperable for a particular application. The issue is therefore different from important ongoing efforts to digitize trait information in species circumscriptions, for example, and focuses on how already digitized knowledge can best be packaged to inform human experts and artifical intelligence applications (Sterner and Franz 2017). We therefore propose developing community guidelines and criteria for FAIR taxonomic concept representations as "semantic artefacts" of general relevance to linked open data and life sciences research (Le Franc et al. 2020).

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          Most cited references 12

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          The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship

          There is an urgent need to improve the infrastructure supporting the reuse of scholarly data. A diverse set of stakeholders—representing academia, industry, funding agencies, and scholarly publishers—have come together to design and jointly endorse a concise and measureable set of principles that we refer to as the FAIR Data Principles. The intent is that these may act as a guideline for those wishing to enhance the reusability of their data holdings. Distinct from peer initiatives that focus on the human scholar, the FAIR Principles put specific emphasis on enhancing the ability of machines to automatically find and use the data, in addition to supporting its reuse by individuals. This Comment is the first formal publication of the FAIR Principles, and includes the rationale behind them, and some exemplar implementations in the community.
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            The quiet revolution: biodiversity informatics and the internet.

            The massive development of biodiversity-related information systems on the Internet has created much that appears exciting but chaotic, a diversity to match biodiversity itself. This richness and the arrays of new sources are counterbalanced by the maddening difficulty in knowing what is where, or of comparing like with like. But quietly, behind the first waves of exuberance, biologists and computer scientists have started to pull together in a rising tide of coherence and organization. The fledgling field of biodiversity informatics looks set to deliver major advances that could turn the Internet into a giant global biodiversity information system.
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              Perspectives: Towards a language for mapping relationships among taxonomic concepts

               N.M. Franz,  R.K. Peet (2009)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Biodiversity Information Science and Standards
                BISS
                Pensoft Publishers
                2535-0897
                September 23 2021
                September 23 2021
                : 5
                Article
                10.3897/biss.5.75587
                © 2021

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