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Guest Blog: A Primer for Data Managers

Guest Blog: A Primer for Data Managers
In their guest blog, the Biological Data Standards Cluster explores how data standards help make data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). Check out the related USGS Feature Story highlighting the work of the Cluster's chair, Abby Benson. 

Waves crash on the Big Island of Hawaii. Credit: USGS

Data standards help make data FAIR

Have you ever looked back and wished that your data weren’t lost to the hands of time? Wished that you had more context about your data? Wished that you didn’t have to spend so much time massaging data to integrate it with other data? Standards can help with all of that!

Standards help data providers understand, combine, and reuse their data, whether or not they want to share it.

A visual breakdown of data standards is needed

Spreading awareness about existing standards is a motivating principle for a new ESIP cluster. The ESIP Biological Data Standards Cluster seeks to develop guidance, best practice documentation, training, and community building to support the standardization and sharing of diverse biological data types.

One problem identified by the cluster is the lack of knowledge in the community about data standards, metadata standards, controlled vocabularies, and tools that already exist to make biological data more FAIR (Findable Accessible Interoperable Reusable). A quick visual breakdown of standards could help data managers choose those that best serve their needs.

To that end, the cluster developed a primer entitled Biological Observation Data Standardization: A Primer for Data Managers. Check out the GitHub repo and provide feedback.

The purpose of this primer is to share what data standards exist and which of them can be applied to make biological data understandable, interoperable, integrated, accessible, and software-ready.

Lots of standards exist for use with biological data but navigating them can be difficult for data managers who are new to them. The Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Biological Data Standards Cluster developed this primer for managers of biological data to provide a quick, easy resource for navigating a selection of the standards that exist.

Suggested citation:

Benson, Abigail; LaScala-Gruenewald, Diana; McGuinn, Robert; Satterthwaite, Erin; Beaulieu, Stace; Biddle, Mathew; et al. (2021): Biological Observation Data Standardization – A Primer for Data Managers. ESIP. Online resource. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.16806712.v1

Standardizing biological data is not one-size-fits-all

The primer explores metadata standards, data standards, taxonomic authorities, habitat classifications, web-enabled standards and services, as well as some best practices to help biological data to be understood, combined and shared. It is intended primarily for data managers who are new to managing biological data, although this resource could also be of use to interested researchers and principal investigators who have been tasked to improve the management, analysis and sharing of their data. In addition, the primer focuses broadly on biological observations regardless of the original data type (e.g. acoustic, visual, genetic) because an occurrence — the observation of a particular organism at a particular space and time — can be extracted from any of these raw data formats.

Join our biological data standards community!

We are looking forward to continuing to expand this to other biological domains, especially freshwater and terrestrial systems as well as other data types. Future directions also include developing a physical version of this product and considering companion products. To learn more about the primer and the Biological Data Standards Cluster, join the monthly ESIP telecon held on the first Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. EST.

The ESIP Biological Data Standards Cluster is led by Abby Benson, biologist with the USGS. Her co-chairs include Diana LaScala-Gruenewald from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Robert McGuinn from NOAA and Erin Satterthwaite from the University of California San Diego. The whole ESIP Biological Data Standards Cluster also pitched-in to create the primer being used to promote the use of standards.