Strategies for Open and Permanent Access to Scientific Information in Latin America: Focus on Health and Environmental Information for Sustainable Development

Open access to data: the speciesLink experience
Dora Ann Lange Canhos, Centro de Referência de Informação Ambienal (CRIA)

Describe, categorize, and name organisms are routine activities of biological collection. To categorize, it is necessary to compare, therefore, not only do they share data, but collections also share voucher specimens with their pairs. Nevertheless, open and free access to data to all/anyone interested still represents a challenge. Why?

The first barrier is cultural. The idea of global and free availability of data, without any control as to who is going to use it and for what purpose is, perhaps, a major concern to most scientists. Data quality is another problem. Should incomplete or unclean data be made available? Indicators of scientific productivity are another issue. Papers count, but setting up databases and making them available don't. These are just a few of a number of issues that exist and must be overcome.

The second barrier is technical. Just a few years ago system interoperability meant adopting common platforms and software. Data providers would have to adapt or modify their own systems and sometimes their routine, besides complying to a rigid set of fields if they wanted to share their data.

The challenge to implement the speciesLink network was to develop a distributed system that would empower biological collections to have full control over their data, deciding what could be shared in an open network, without changing the management system in use. Another challenge was how to deal with different levels of infrastructure and local capacity. Some collections had full Internet capabilities, used relational databases, and had a very high percentage of digitized data. Others had poor connectivity, used spreadsheets, and didn't have any local computational support. The network to be developed had to attend all requirements and needs.

This presentation will address technical aspects of the implementation of the speciesLink network and tools developed to help integrate, visualize, clean, and analyze data.

  • The Global Alliance for Enhancing Access to and Application of Scientific Data in Developing Countries, of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, UN G@ID
  • U.S. National Committee for CODATA
  • Brazilian National Committee for CODATA.
  • CODATA Task Group on Preservation of and Access to Scientific and Technical Data in Developing Countries