Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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AnnoSys – Improving Data Quality by annotating virtual Specimens
Walter Berendsohn, Okka Tschoepe, Lutz Suhrbier, Anton Güntsch

Building: CTEC
Room: Auditorium
Date: 2016-12-06 04:15 PM – 04:30 PM
Last modified: 2016-10-15


AnnoSys is an online annotation management system and repository for published specimen data records. Traditionally, experts improved data quality placing such annotations directly with the specimens. AnnoSys fulfils the same function for published data. Linked Data, REST and SPARQL web services provide public access to annotations and the respective copy of the original record. BGBM Berlin is committed to sustain AnnoSys beyond the financed project phase.

AnnoSys is now employed in a dozen specimen portals, including GBIF. Annotation data are stored together with the original data in the AnnoSys repository, so annotations may now, or later, or not at all be processed by those in charge of the collection.

Specimen data are often accessible through multiple portals. For example, the same botanical type specimen from the Berlin herbarium is published through JStore Global Plants, GBIF, GGBN, BioCASE, the German Virtual Herbaria, JACQ, Europeana, and the BGBM’s local portal. All these portals have or will have an AnnoSys annotation link, and (if there is an annotation of the respective record in the repository) a link that provides access to the annotations. Moreover, all records with the same identifier are accessible, independent of the portal that has originally been used as a starting point. (This accentuates the need for a globally accepted system of unique identifiers.)

Independent of that, users of specimen data have access to the annotated record and can thus profit from that shared (often expert) knowledge when using the data in their research. Users can query the data in the AnnoSys portal or subscribe to annotations using criteria referring to the data record. A specialist for a certain family of organisms, working on a flora or fauna of a certain country, may subscribe to that taxon name and the country. Another may be interested in the records pertaining to a certain collector, or subscribe to annotations made by a certain specialist. The subscriber is notified by email about any annotations that fulfil these criteria. For curators a special curatorial workflow supports their handling of annotations.

Implementing this idea has taken a few years of conceptual and programming work. The current system functions, with some impediments, but these technical obstacles will be overcome in the near future. With the system in place we have finally reached the point where the concept can be promoted and user acceptance be tested.