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CERTIFICATION - Goals

What are the goals of certification? We need to debate this, because they will determine what certification becomes, and certification could be one of the major and most influential outcomes of EDIT WP5.

Malte cited five goals in his report of the Berlin ISTC meeting of November 2006, as follows.

1. Assess tools for cybertaxonomy based on a list of criteria

Agreed – without this there is no certification. But are we assessing the tools in the sense of judging or rating them, or are we just recording factual metadata? I prefer to start gently, recording some factual, objective metadata and leaving the users to draw their own conclusions. Once the cyberplatform is designed, up and running and it is clearer what users needs are, we can become more prescriptive.

2. Promote the use of standardised cybertaxonomic work practises worldwide

Hmm, well this may be a little incendiary to any listening taxonomists! But how would certification of tools encourage a standard practise of cybertaxonomy? We already know that many tools may be certified in a given category. The only way I can make a connection is if the cyberplatform recommends ‘standard’ workflows, or suites of tools. Certification of individual tools will not in itself achieve this.

3. Ensure that all cybertaxonomic data are up-to-date and backed-up

I don’t see how having a list of certified tools can do this! Although a tool can help this, by providing easy import and export facilities, and storing data in accessible ways, keeping data up-to-date and secure is more a matter of human effort and following good practice.

4. Identify the necessary criteria for certification

Indeed we must do this, but it is an activity and not one of the goals of certification itself.

5. Ensure the availability of high quality cybertaxonomic data to all cybertaxonomists

This is two points – quality and availability. Maybe they should be separated.

Certification may help address these issues if we, for example, mandate standards compliance. However, it cannot ensure high quality or data availability as once again other factors dominate. For example, data quality will always be to some degree subjective and dependent on human effort, and data availability depends on IP issues and where the data is eventually stored (not necessarily in a certified tool, unless EDIT intends to certify resources like herbarium catalogues and/or web portals and resources like GBIF.

Other Goals

How about some other goals? For example

a) to provide a list of tools to potential users

b) to capture metadata about the tools which will enable potential users to make informed choices about them

c) to identify areas where new tools are required (e.g. if none are certified)

d) to encourage interoperability of tools

and finally, increasingly contentious perhaps,

e) to encourage tools to interoperate with(in) the cyberplatform – depends really on what the cyberplatform turns out to be

f) to improve the sustainability and suitability of tools for cybertaxonomy

and even

g) to encourage the development of standardised workflows using certified tools

Mark Jackson

23 November 2006

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