Internet-based Biodiversity Database Workshop April 24 - 27, 2000

Informing Conservation: Expanding the Reach of Biodiversity Information.

Bruce Stein

Vice President for Programs, Association for Biodiversity Information

Biological informatics traditionally has been the realm of the specialist, with biodiversity data generated in a way that primarily serves the needs of the scientific community. A central challenge is to broaden the relevancy and accessibility of this type of information so that it can better serve to inform conservation and environmental decision-making. New technologies, such as distributed database networks and the internet, are greatly enhancing our ability to do this. However, the fundamental issues constraining increased sharing and dissemination of biodiversity data are still institutional in nature, rather than techological. In particular, issues of data custodianship or "ownership", acknowledgement, and appropriate usage, tend to be of paramount concern to data providers. A distributed database network for serving detailed-level multii-state natural heritage data, however, may serve as an enabling technology that will help to overcome many of the institutional issues by allowing users to gain access to the most current data available, while at the same time placing control of data access directly in the hands of the data custodians.