A message for the nascent Borneo Biodiversity Network:
I’ve been thinking for a while that we, as Borneo biodiversity investigators and promoters, need a platform. The BBN facebook page is an excellent start, which has kicked off lots of exciting connections already, but can we build on this?
I’m imagining (I’m sure many of you have already had this idea or similar) a collaborative website, built and maintained in large part by those who use it – a wiki would suit these purposes. This would have an active forum, of course, and could show recent BBN facebook activity on the home page. But it would also include pages for both 1) projects and 2) people. The projects sections would cover historical, current and proposed projects, and include details of outputs, such as links to grey literature. The people pages would detail the activities/interests of researchers, their outputs they want attention drawn to and, crucially, their contact details. Both project and people profiles would be “tagged” with categories (for example with “ITBC”, “SAFE Project”, “Kuching-based”, whatever springs to mind), forming natural groups of projects or people with something in common (which can be defined in any number of ways by search terms).
In addition, there would be a strong spatial element to the website. For example, a) all of the different projects would be mapped; b) there would be a section for providing informal sightings of rarities (with contact details of the observer should anyone want to seek verification), and c) there would be an opportunity to submit (anonymously, if needed) observations of hunting, illegal clearance or new threats to habitats that eyes and ears on the ground become aware of. This spatial data would be fully searchable, allowing us to find projects (or threats) that might be going on just down the road, or allowing us to map projects with certain tags (e.g. “Sabah” + “Camera-trapping”).
Finally, and most ambitiously, the website could provide a platform for data sharing and access. Details of datasets researchers have in their possession could be provided, including metadata such as dates, spatial locations, sampling methods, broad taxa included and, most importantly, access rights (ranging from “completely off-limits, pending publication”, to “open access”). The datasets could be provided for download if they are open access, or contact details for the owners could be provided in order to propose a collaboration. Some researchers out there have already put substantial effort into gathering together datasets and establishing access rights (for example, for the 1st Borneo Small Carnivore Symposium) – this should be capitalised upon and made available to the greatest number of people.
This kind of a platform would serve as a catalyst for better, more effective wildlife conservation in Borneo. This would be by way of:
- facilitating collaborations
- encouraging research that asks the right questions (by sharing the details of past and present research)
- increasing the value of all of that past data which researchers are done with and is just sitting on hard drives gathering proverbial dust
- making project outputs more easily available (especially for local stakeholders and policy-makers) and better advertised on a central platform
- instantly getting the word out about threats.
The question is, is anyone out there able to pick up this challenge?
Parts of this are achievable without having to re-invent the wheel. Wikis are well-established now, as is the integration of mapping into these (e.g. via Google Earth). A little research has revealed that other ideas here have been implemented in part (e.g. Observado.org for submitting observations, Protectedplanet.net for submitting threats to protected areas). These tools could potentially be coerced for our purposes here.
If you have any other ideas or opinions, submit them below, or on the BBN facebook post which links to this. If there is already an example where this kind of thing has been done before, I for one would be very keen to hear about it.