…is a common phrase I either think or mutter out loud to fossils during various excavations. But today, that phrase has a different meeting. In January, I spent two days at the University of Florida participating in the iDigBio Workshop for Data Standards, Data Sharing, and Demystifying the Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT). The key idea of this workshop was getting your data (natural history specimen data) out from under the proverbial rock. The proverbial rock includes those databases/spreadsheets that are currently not shared with a data aggregator such as iDigBio, VertNet, or GBIF. When I first heard about this workshop, I didn’t think it would benefit me and the work I do at VMNH. Upon calling for more information, I was present with a series of questions to consider regarding the collections I work with:
- Do you manage a natural history collection dataset?
- Do you have a dataset that you need to get into a standard format for sharing?
- Do you want to understand more about Darwin Core and Data Sharing Standards?
- Would you like to understand just what is meant by “Darwin Core Archive file (DwC-A)”?
- Would you like to understand more about where data goes and how it gets there once it leaves your collection?
With VMNH being a part of the iDigBio Fossil Insect Collaborative Thematic Collections Network (FIC-TCN), being able to mobilize the Paleontology database into an aggregator site is a must. An aggregator such as iDigBio has a specific format in which it presents data from its data providers. In today’s age of data collection, the need for a standard format for data is growing but so are the number of data standards that are available. The standard that iDigBio utilizes is called Darwin Core and the specific file format that they prefer is the Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A). The Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) allows for a data manager to import their institution’s collections data into the toolkit, map the fields, do minor clean-up, and then export the data into the DwC-A format. Once this file is “published,” aggregators can easily add the data to their dataset and thus begins the global spread of data out from under the proverbial rock.
To learn more about the IPT, data standards and data sharing, please visit the workshop wiki page. On this page, you can access video recordings of each of the presentations, video link for how to setup the IPT at your institution, links to DarwinCore and Audubon Core (for multimedia) data standards, and other resources and links that may help you understand the why and how of data sharing.