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      SEINet: A Centralized Specimen Resource Managed by a Distributed Network of Researchers

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      Biodiversity Information Science and Standards

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The SEINet Portal Network has a complex social and development history spanning nearly two decades. Initially established as a basic online search engine for a select handful of biological collections curated within the southwestern United States, SEINet has since matured into a biodiversity data network incorporating more than 330 institutions and 1,900 individual data contributors. Participating institutions manage and publish over 14 million specimen records, 215,000 observations, and 8 million images. Approximately 70% of the collections make use of the data portal as their primary "live" specimen management platform. The SEINet interface now supports 13 regional data portals distributed across the United States and northern Mexico (http://symbiota.org/docs/seinet/). Through many collaborative efforts, it has matured into a tool for biodiversity data exploration, which includes species inventories, interactive identification keys, specimen and field images, taxonomic information, species distribution maps, and taxonomic descriptions. SEINet’s initial developmental goals were to construct a read-only interface that integrated specimen records harvested from a handful of distributed natural history databases. Intermittent network conductivity and inconsistent data exchange protocols frequently restricted data persistence. National funding opportunities supported a complete redesign towards the development of a centralized data cache model with periodic "snapshot" updates from original data sources. A service-based management infrastructure was integrated into the interface to mobilize small- to medium-sized collections (<1 million specimen records) that commonly lack consistent infrastructure and technical expertise to maintain a standard compliant specimen database. These developments were the precursors to the Symbiota software project (Gries et al. 2014). Through further development of Symbiota, SEINet transformed into a robust specimen management system specifically geared toward specimen digitization with features including data entry from label images, harvesting data from specimen duplicates, batch georeferencing, data validation and cleaning, generating progress reports, and additional tools to improve the efficiency of the digitization process. The central developmental paradigm focused on data mobilization through the production of: a versatile import module capable of ingesting a diverse range of data structures, a robust toolkit to assist in digitizing and managing specimen data and images, and a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) compliant data publishing and export toolkit to facilitate data distribution to global aggregators such as Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and iDigBio. User interfaces consist of a decentralized network of regional data portals, all connecting to a centralized shared data source. Each of the 13 data portals are configured to present a regional perspective specifically tailored to represent the needs of the local research community. This infrastructure has supported the formation of regional consortia, who provide network support to aid local institutions in digitizing and publishing their collections within the network. The community-based infrastructure creates a sense of ownership – perhaps even good-natured competition – by the data providers and provides extra incentive to improve data quality and expand the network. Certain areas of development remain challenging in spite of the project's overall success. For instance, data managers continuously struggle to maintain a current local taxonomic thesaurus used for name validation, data cleaning, and to resolve taxonomic discrepancies commonly encountered when integrating collection datasets. We will discuss the successes and challenges associated with the long-term sustainability model and explore potential future paths for SEINet that support the long-term goal of maintaining a data provider that is in full compliance with the FAIR use principles of making the datasets findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (Wilkinson et al. 2016).

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          Symbiota – A virtual platform for creating voucher-based biodiversity information communities

          Abstract We review the Symbiota software platform for creating voucher-based biodiversity information portals and communities. Symbiota was originally conceived to promote small- to medium-sized, regionally and/or taxonomically themed collaborations of natural history collections. Over the past eight years the taxonomically diverse portals have grown into an important resource in North America and beyond for mobilizing, integrating, and using specimen- and observation-based occurrence records and derivative biodiversity information products. Designed to mirror the conceptual structure of traditional floras and faunas, Symbiota is exclusively web-based and employs a novel data model, information linking, and algorithms to provide highly dynamic customization. The themed portals enable meaningful access to biodiversity data for anyone from specialist to high school student. Symbiota emulates functionality of modern Content Management Systems, providing highly sophisticated yet intuitive user interfaces for data entry, batch processes, and editing. Each kind of content provision may be selectively accessed by authenticated information providers. Occupying a fairly specific niche in the biodiversity informatics arena, Symbiota provides extensive data exchange facilities and collaborates with other development projects to incorporate and not duplicate functionality as appropriate.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Biodiversity Information Science and Standards
            BISS
            Pensoft Publishers
            2535-0897
            June 26 2019
            June 26 2019
            : 3
            Article
            10.3897/biss.3.37424
            © 2019

            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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