OBIS Steering Group Meeting report
Report of the 7th Session of the OBIS steering group, 12-16 November 2018, Oostende, Belgium
Download SG-OBIS-VII Meeting Report
The 7th Session of the IODE Steering Group for OBIS took place on 12-16 November 2018 at the IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende, Belgium. The meeting was attended by 36 participants from 24 countries representing 24 OBIS nodes. The OBIS Steering Group made 35 recommendations and decisions, and defined 48 action items in an ambitious 2019 work plan (see report).
During the intersessional period, 4.3 million species distribution records were added to OBIS from 350 new datasets, providing 11,300 new marine species to OBIS. OBIS now has 52.1 million occurrences of 121,400 species from 2,533 datasets. The OBIS network grew with eight new OBIS nodes (31 OBIS nodes in total). In partnership with IOC’s OceanTeacher Global Academy and contributions from many other institutions, OBIS has trained 317 people from 71 countries in 20 training courses, of which 8 OBIS training courses took place in 2018, and several more are already scheduled for 2019.
Soon with the release of OBIS 2.0 (expected in December 2018), OBIS will have a more solid foundation to build improved data processing/integration workflows, new data synthesis routines that add value to OBIS data, and new types of products and applications for scientific and decision-making analysis. The SG meeting established new focused and time limited projects, such as a Data Quality Control project team which will develop a quality assessment scheme iterating on a judicious set of criteria using the various quality control checks in the OBIS 2.0 system to flag and filter out the most suspect or problematic records. A Vocabulary Infrastructure project team will establish a basic framework for organizing and curating vocabularies used in OBIS. This will especially be important for the future of OBIS when incorporating new data types that characterize marine ecosystems in support of Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) and other assessment and indicator needs.
OBIS is working toward a more open and inviting process of co-developing OBIS as a global networked open-source data system. A dynamic OBIS “software” ecosystem of code repositories will enable the community to organize, document, and contribute analytical codes that interface directly with the OBIS API, provide analyses, and share results. The OBIS communication team will use these tools to develop data-driven analytics to develop regular news leads on new and interesting phenomena suggested from the new data and leverage its network with the CBD, IPBES, and other groups to bring together researchers and other experts, including policymakers, to develop policy briefs specific to different issues such as BBNJ, ocean acidification, and others.
OBIS may seek a cooperative development with an emerging alliance under the Global Biodiversity Information Conference (GBIC) which could focus on realizing economies of scale in the core data integration infrastructure needed for OBIS operations with accompanying increases in our ability to apply specific marine biodiversity knowledge into the system (e.g., marine-specific observation and measurement types, specific taxonomic enhancements and quality control, importance of third dimension in spatial aspects of the data, etc.).
This co-development process will need to involve collaboration between the OBIS data manager and tool developers. Recent survey responses about the types of technical and methodological tools that many of the OBIS nodes are willing and able to contribute are evidence of a growing level of technical maturity across the network. Nonetheless, the overall sustainability of the OBIS network remains vulnerable. The OBIS network just lost three OBIS nodes due to the fact that their funding source dried out. Only one third of the OBIS nodes have their operational budget secured for 2019-2020 and are sufficiently resourced in terms of staffing. To optimally run the OBIS enterprise and process the backlog of datasets (>600 datasets), the OBIS nodes would collectively need an additional 25 full-time equivalents (FTEs), to a total of 76 FTEs or increase from 1.8 to 2.8 FTE per OBIS node. The situation at the OBIS secretariat, where currently only the OBIS project manager position is covered by IOC’s regular programme funds, is even more problematic. The OBIS data manager position, a mission-critical position, need to be secured beyond 2019 and OBIS is asking more urgency from the IOC Member States and non-governmental partners to pledge resources to UNESCO and/or the IOC special account for OBIS to enable IOC to create a regular programme post for the OBIS data manager and support the implementation of the OBIS work plan, in order to secure the continuation of OBIS under IOC/IODE beyond 2019.
Decisions and Recommendations
- The SG-OBIS thanked IODE for hosting and sponsoring the 7th session of the SG-OBIS and the OceanTeacher Global Academy for their support in co-hosting the SG with a training session.
- The SG-OBIS stressed the importance to secure the OBIS data manager position beyond 2019 and requested the IOC Executive Secretary to prepare the documentation to the UNESCO Director-General to create a regular programme post for the OBIS Data Manager at the earliest opportunity, and preferably within the 40C/5 (2020-2021).
- The SG-OBIS urged member states and non-governmental partners to provide extra-budgetary resources to the IOC Special Account for OBIS in order to support the implementation of the OBIS work plan and secure the continuation of OBIS beyond 2019.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that the articulation of value propositions specific to different stakeholder groups should be incorporated into communication materials through regular testing and refinement. Value propositions will evolve with the continued growth and maturity of OBIS and should be revisited regularly.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that the OBIS Secretariat work with our presentation materials for OBIS to produce a configurable slide deck template that can be used across the OBIS Network to present/pitch OBIS in a consistent but targeted way to stakeholder and policy maker groups.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the continuation of the Capacity Development Task Team with current leadership (Mrs Carolina Peralta), the Communication and Outreach Task Team with new leadership (Mr John Nicholls), and the Taxonomy Task Team with current leadership (Mrs Leen Vandepitte).
- The SG-OBIS recommended discontinuing the Data Content Enhancement Task Team and the Technical Task Team in favor of new focused and time limited projects identified during the training and development portion of SG-OBIS-7.
- The SG-OBIS expressed its appreciation for the support of many organizations in organizing and funding OBIS training courses, such as the OceanTeacher Global Academy (IOC, through FUST), the US-IOOS (USA), University of Concepcion (Chile), INIOAS (Iran), Charles Darwin Foundation (Ecuador), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico UNAM (Mexico), Marine and Coastal Research Institute - INVEMAR (Colombia)
- The SG-OBIS recommended to organize a training course for trainers in concert with OceanTeacher Global Academy practices to further develop the pool of trainers and train them in the use of new OBIS 2.0 tools and services.
- The SG-OBIS recommended to put more effort in following-up on and mapping the alumni students to report on what they gained from the training, including the impact of being able to publish their data through OBIS.
- The SG-OBIS recommended to continue updating and improving the training materials, including the new OBIS portal version (2.0), so as to create new material according to the target audience and theirs needs.
- The SG-OBIS recommended to continue collaboration with other organizations to organize OBIS training courses, and recommended to partner with training initiatives, such as The Carpentries.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the formation of a time-limited project to address the needs for controlled vocabularies in the implementation of Darwin Core and extended Measurement or Fact in the OBIS data model. The purpose of this first activity should be to establish a basic framework for organizing and curating vocabularies used in OBIS. A small, temporary project team should be formed to begin populating a vocabulary/ontology clearinghouse/hub for applicable vocabularies that are needed or are being used in OBIS today.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that representatives from the OBIS community of Node Managers, data managers, and research scientists interested in developing community-specific vocabularies be oriented to the Vocabulary Maintenance Specification Task Group developed and released by TDWG.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that, wherever possible, these “vocabulary facilitators” should strive to build on existing vocabulary efforts from BODC/NERC or others rather than starting with something completely new, and this motivated the previous recommendation on leveraging a vocabulary repository/clearinghouse mechanism to facilitate this process.
- The SG-OBIS recommended using the OBIS 2.0 transition to apply a judicious set of criteria to filter out suspect data, test how this appears in the “beta” portal.obis.org interface (query tools and mapper), iterate on the criteria, and then implement a system where the most suspect/problematic records are not included by default in the production OBIS portal/mapper tools.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that the software codes for OBIS 2.0 be examined for additional opportunities to componentize the system to support distributed and cooperative development. This concept should be explored by working with opportunities identified as issues in the codebase or new feature needs to seek direct code development from across the OBIS community rather than having this development conducted by the OBIS Data Manager. One or more experiments in this area will help to expose and exercise strengths and weaknesses in the software as an open source enterprise.
- The SG-OBIS stressed that all OBIS node data managers should match taxon names to WoRMS and add the WoRMS LSIDs to the records. In case of non-matches, OBIS node data managers can add auxiliary information in DwC:taxonRemarks and communicate these names and information directly to the WoRMS data management team by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The feedback report provided by WoRMS should be communicated back to the data providers and any ambiguous names need to be resolved and datasets be updated with the missing LSIDs.
- The SG-OBIS welcomed the proposal by Mrs Rae Sita Pratiwi on an OBIS communications strategy for communicating science to relevant stakeholders and wider audiences.
- Following an exercise on the development of policy briefs, the SG-OBIS recommended that OBIS build on its core strength to develop data-driven analytics based on high quality integrated data, synthesized with value-added properties, delivered through a platform that enables many different types of visual presentations. OBIS should leverage its network with CBD, IPBES, and other groups to bring together researchers and other experts, including policymakers, to develop policy briefs specific to different issues such as BBNJ, ocean acidification, and others.
- The SG-OBIS developed and recommended the concept of using OBIS to develop regular news leads on new and interesting phenomena suggested from the data (e.g., new species in an area, fresh observation of a species not seen in X number of years, etc.). These would be followed up by OBIS Node Managers to validate findings and assemble further detail (e.g., photos, active relevant research, etc.) and then broadly distributed via social media channels and other means locally, regionally, and internationally with support of the Communications Task Team.
- The SG-OBIS adopted the new Terms of Reference for a renamed Strategic Advisory Task Team to be led by Mr. Pat Halpin.
- The SG-OBIS decided that PEGO-OBIS is no longer inactive, accepted the action plan of ESP-OBIS and decided to request an action plan from the following OBIS nodes: IndOBIS, SEAOBIS, and FishBASE no later than 15 December 2018.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the removal of the following OBIS nodes from the network: KOBIS, MicrOBIS, and WSA-OBIS and requested the IOC Committee on IODE to consider this recommendation.
- The SG-OBIS welcomed the development of an online data entry tool as an additional vehicle to publish species distribution records, without the need to fully understand all the aspects of OBIS data practices including Darwin Core standards and the Ecological Metadata Language, and recommended to establish a process that includes the endorsement of data entry collaborators by OBIS nodes, and visualize them as science collaborators linked to OBIS nodes.
- The SG-OBIS recommended to its members to engage actively with global, regional and local biodiversity initiatives, such as IPBES, World Ocean Assessment, CBD etc, presenting the benefits that OBIS could provide to those potential alliances. Signing new partnership agreements should be considered.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the OBIS vocabulary infrastructure project task group to engage with the macroalgae community to jointly develop the necessary vocabulary terms related to that EOV.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the establishment of a small project for incorporating and exposing community-type data with the participation of members of the OBIS community.
- The SG-OBIS recommended to change the name of OBIS. The word ‘biogeographic’ does not very well present the breadth of data OBIS deals with but postponed this change until biodiversity and ecological information products are provided and the communication team has developed the material to justify the name change. The 8th Session of the SG-OBIS should review this recommendation.
- The SG-OBIS recommended members of the OBIS network to take active part in the consultation and preparatory process and provide input into the implementation plan through participating in the stakeholder fora and the regional workshops, in order to make biodiversity and data management a key element of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
- The SG-OBIS recommended the active promotion of relevant OBIS contributions to a potential new BBNJ agreement. It is also recommended that the OBIS Nodes actively develop a list of the specific questions and issues being posed by member states in the BBNJ negotiations for which OBIS can provide relevant information and reports. These questions will be used to build reports, visualizations, and presentation materials for the OBIS portal and other media.
- The SG-OBIS recommended that a process should be developed for contribution of analysis and reporting code as part of an OBIS “software ecosystem.” The new “code repository” for OBIS should be seeded with examples, perhaps starting with the focused work on BBNJ issues, of how to organize, document, and contribute analytical codes that interface with OBIS, provide analyses, and share results. This ecosystem can be mined by OBIS for analytical design patterns, new data combinations, and other ideas that can contribute to core OBIS functionality.
- New data types are emerging as vital for the future of OBIS in helping to characterize marine ecosystems in support of Essential Ocean Variables and other assessment and indicator needs. The SG-OBIS recommended continuing to expand use of the Event Core and Measurement or Fact aspects of the data schema to explore encoding of datasets that identify taxa observations at higher taxonomic levels (e.g., Animalia for plankton community observations, Plantae for macroalgae observations). In addition, completely new methods of interfacing with and incorporating information from other data systems should be explored. For instance, the proposed high-level system interconnection architecture proposed by the Macroalgae EOV group provides a good opportunity to work with new data types.
- The SG-OBIS recommended continued engagement with the Global Biodiversity Information Conference and joining OBIS with a proposed alliance for biodiversity knowledge coming from the 2018 GBIC2 meeting. Engagement with this alliance should focus on realizing economies of scale in the core data integration infrastructure needed for OBIS operations with accompanying increases in our ability to apply specific marine biodiversity knowledge into the system (e.g., marine-specific observation and measurement types, specific taxonomic enhancements and quality control, importance of third dimension in spatial aspects of the data, etc.).
- NODCs represent an important and underutilized part of the OBIS network where the community should be able to count on these institutions for core data repository and management capacity. The SG-OBIS recommended that OBIS undertake a study to fit NODCs into the OBIS network construct and characterize the shared data management responsibility between NODCs, ADUs, and OBIS Nodes in fulfilling this mission for the biological data appropriate for OBIS.
- The SG-OBIS welcomed the kind offer by Colombia to act as hosts for the 8th session of the IODE Steering Group for OBIS and will study the overall cost before making a decision on the location.
- The SG-OBIS decided to hold the 8th session on 7-9 November 2019.