WP4 Coordination of taxonomic metadata standards and authority files


In the field of biology taxon names provide the anchor which allows information about organisms to be linked. A taxonomic name, typically a species name, is attached to every primary data object (field observation, specimen, genetic data, etc. Therefore names, together with their organisation into taxonomic classifications are understood as crucial metadata for biological information systems. In actual use there are many challenges to integrating data sources that contain taxonomic names and classifications, particularly where the sources span different biological kingdoms or national boundaries. Names may be badly formed or incomplete and so fail against searches based upon character matching. Names that are synonyms or no longer in current use may occur in museum and herbarium specimen catalogues or in legislative lists. There may also be disagreement amongst experts on the identity of specimens and on the taxonomic constituents of genera and the arrangement of classifications. The partners involved in PESI have long experience of such problems and it is the purpose of PESI to produce practical solutions to many of these issues.

The availability of authoritative taxonomic metadata standards will be of particular importance where organisms are directly important to society or because they are subject to conservation and environmental control. PESI will promote harmonisation and certification of taxonomic metadata standards of prioritised taxa that are listed in various EU regulations and legislative lists. PESI will work closely with relevant standards organisations to identify appropriate authoritative standards and schemas and then ensure their adoption within the European biodiversity community. Work will include development of a management classification scheme, utilisation of globally unique identifiers for names (GUIDs) and support for nomenclators (such as ZooBank, International Plants Names Index, Index Fungorum and Algaebase) to help implement a practical name resolution service.


Work Package 4 has the following objectives:


  • Prepare a road map (conceptual development and strategic plan) for the application of taxonomic standards within Europe, with the purpose of overcoming the instability and inconsistency of taxon names (and concepts) and attached data types. The work will address technical, linguistic, educational and legal barriers to progress in defining and implementing appropriate standards.
  • Promote a close co-operation between the proposed pan-European Species-directories Infrastructure and other networks and organisations in order to optimise the cross-linking of European biodiversity resources using approved taxonomic data standards, and to improve data quality and consistency. This will facilitate discovery and exchange of biodiversity data, both within Europe, and between Europe and the rest of the world.


These objectives will be met through the following work programme:

1) Development of taxonomic standards:


  • Work closely with relevant standards organisations (principally Biodiversity Information Standards organisation - formerly TDWG, GBIF, CODATA, EoL and EDIT) to identify appropriate authoritative standards and schemas.
  • Build a controlled terminology for species status across disciplines (for instance, to distinguish between native and introduced species),
  • Investigate a mechanism (GUIDs-resolvers and GUIDs resolution services) for assigning globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) to taxonomic names and for operating a collectively cross-index (together with other international initiatives) to allow automatic matching of equivalent taxa,
  • Investigate and report on possibilities for adding value to existing checklists to achieve enhanced harmonisation and utility (for instance, atomisation of data, presence of quality indicators).


2) Integration of taxonomic standards


  • Assess the variety of taxonomic names in use across Europe, including national and Europe-wide legislative and conservation communities, and report on issues affecting integration,
  • Assist with the reconciling of names to the ICZN ZooBank project and the introduction of a registration system for animal names,
  • Manage integration of vernacular names in different languages,
  • Derive a management hierarchical scientific classification to provide consistent responses from searches of different biodiversity resources,
  • Produce informal classification systems (hierarchical and non-hierarchical) suitable for non-experts (including general public) to increase accessibility of scientific data,
  • Involve the network of Global Species Directories produced in Europe with the PESI harmonisation and co-ordination efforts,
  • Investigate possibility of integrated access to nomenclators, to enable name validation, cross-referencing, and detection of homonyms,
  • Support and facilitate passing European taxonomic data to global initiatives such as GBIF.


3) Application and promotion of EU taxonomic standards (standardising naming):


  • Work with WP3 Regional Focal Points and others to promote best practice,
  • Use standards, tools and validation resources to help data providers and checklist managers improve their data quality and consistency,
  • Extend use of taxonomic standards to major users of taxonomic names (for example invasive species projects; pest species information services; habitats directives; nature conservation programs).