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PhytoKeys. 2017 Mar 24;(78):37-57. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.78.10936. eCollection 2017.

Scientific user requirements for a herbarium data portal.

Author information

1
Clockwork, Ordina, Blarenberglaan 3B, B-2800 Mechelen, Belgium.
2
Botanic Garden Meise, Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise, Belgium.
3
Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Service Général de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche scientifique.
4
Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).
5
Royal Museum for Central Africa, Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium.
6
Missouri Botanical Garden.
7
Belgian Biodiversity Platform, Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), Avenue Louise 231, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.

Abstract

The digitization of herbaria and their online access will greatly facilitate access to plant collections around the world. This will improve the efficiency of taxonomy and help reduce inequalities between scientists. The Botanic Garden Meise, Belgium, is currently digitizing 1.2 million specimens including label data. In this paper we describe the user requirements analysis conducted for a new herbarium web portal. The aim was to identify the required functionality, but also to assist in the prioritization of software development and data acquisition. The Garden conducted the analysis in cooperation with Clockwork, the digital engagement agency of Ordina. Using a series of interactive interviews, potential users were consulted from universities, research institutions, science-policy initiatives and the Botanic Garden Meise. Although digital herbarium data have many potential stakeholders, we focused on the needs of taxonomists, ecologists and historians, who are currently the primary users of the Meise herbarium data portal. The three categories of user have similar needs, all wanted as much specimen data as possible, and for those data, to be interlinked with other digital resources within and outside the Garden. Many users wanted an interactive system that they could comment on, or correct online, particularly if such corrections and annotations could be used to rank the reliability of data. Many requirements depend on the quality of the digitized data associated with each specimen. The essential data fields are the taxonomic name; geographic location; country; collection date; collector name and collection number. Also all researchers valued linkage between biodiversity literature and specimens. Nevertheless, to verify digitized data the researchers still want access to high quality images, even if fully transcribed label information is provided. The only major point of disagreement is the level of access users should have and what they should be allowed to do with the data and images. Not all of the user requirements are feasible given the current technical and regulatory landscape, however, the potential of these suggestions is discussed. Currently, there is no off-the-shelf solution to satisfy all these user requirements, but the intention of this paper is to guide other herbaria who are prioritising their investment in digitization and online web functionality.

KEYWORDS:

Botanic garden; collections; data sharing; database; digitization; science infrastructure

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