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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

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Optimizing biodiversity informatics to improve information flow, data quality, and utility for science and society


Vast amounts of Primary Biodiversity Data exist online (~109 records, each documenting an individual species at a point in space and time). These data hold immense but unrealized promise for science and society, including use in biogeographic research addressing issues such as zoonotic diseases, invasive species, threatened species and habitats, and climate change. Ongoing and envisioned changes in biodiversity informatics involving data providers, aggregators, and users should catalyze improvements to allow efficient use of such data for diverse analyses. We discuss relevant issues from the perspective of modeling species distributions, currently the most common use of Primary Biodiversity Data. Key cross-cutting principles for progress include harnessing feedback from users and increasing incentives for improving data quality. Critical challenges include: (1) establishing individual and collective stable unique identifiers across all of biodiversity science, (2) highlighting issues regarding data quality and representativeness, and (3) improving feedback mechanisms. Such changes should lead to ever-better data and increased utility and impact, including greater data integration with various research areas within and beyond biogeography (e.g., population demography, biotic interactions, physiology, and genetics). Building on existing pilot functionalities, biodiversity informatics could see transformative changes over the coming decade via a combination of community consensus building, coordinated efforts to justify and secure funding, and technical innovations.

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