The Role of Databases in Biodiversity

I just stumbled into a presentation by Rod Page about the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

It is 2011, and I missed it. How did that happen? There is a lot of important information out there about the importance of attention to this issue. This is one of those topics that scrapes at my mind in a background irritation, like sandpaper on the skin. I know the earth is hurting, in so many ways, and this is one place where it shows — species die-offs.

What Rod’s presentation highlights that is of real importance to scientists and librarians is the issue of accuracy and community attention to detail in creating information resources (ie. databases) to help address the core issues of our current leading problems. The University of Michigan community in Second Life is just preparing a series of presentations, speakers and conversations around the theme of the Seven Deadly Sins. Andrew Maynard is our keynote, and that is going to be a very interesting presentation! Some of the core modern “sins” threatening us include the clean water crisis, clean energy, pollution, environmental destruction, and more. You can see some of the lists of sins we’ve collected here.

Rod highlighted the issue of the tools we use to address and solve the problems. Our solutions can only be as good as the information upon which we base our reasoning. I was particularly struck by his comment:

“For most young scientists GenBank will be the dominant source of information about biodiversity. If it hasn’t been sequenced, they won’t care about it.”

This was quickly followed by:

“The major databases will continue to be riddled with errors … databases will make no (serious) effort to fix these.” and “continue to clutch to debilitating notions of intellectual property.”

He includes links, examples of problems both in the data and in the social structures used to maintain them. He even includes books (and I am utterly delighted to see Anathem on the shelve of the personal library in slide 84). I wish very much that I had been able to hear his talk or that he would repeat it online somewhere. Please look at his slides. They raise some important and provocative issues for consideration.

More about the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

United Nations: 2010 International Year of Biodiversity:

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): 2010 International Year of Biodiversity:

Countdown 2010 (Save Biodiversity):


3 responses to “The Role of Databases in Biodiversity

  1. Alessandro Barghini

    As co-author of the article: Barghini A, de Medeiros BAS 2010. Artificial Lighting as a Vector Attractant and Cause of Disease Diffusion. Environ Health Perspect 118:1503-1506, I was surprised, and I wonder if Environmental Health Perspective will make an action against Amazon. Once published the article is propriety of the publisher.

    Unfortunately something similar is happening with my doctoral thesis. Impact of artificial lighting on the ecosystem (in Portugues) available in, although it is free to download, it was copied in 5 sites.
    Of course the author, is pleased to have his work made known, but he paid a fee to have it published and will receive nothing.

    Alessandro Barghini


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