Roles and Responsibilities

Catalogue of Life - roles and responsibilities

Macropus giganteus Shaw, 1790 - Photo CC By Donald Hobern

Roles and responsibilities

The Catalogue of Life is an international collaborative activity with many contributors. ChecklistBank gives any interested researchers free access to share their checklist data. For the COL Checklist, COL itself undertakes a set of responsibilities to deliver a high-quality product that gives credit to the taxonomic communities that supply the core content. At the same time, COL depends on these communities to follow common principles focused on developing consensus around quality checklist datasets. This page explains the roles and responsibilities of COL and of the taxonomic communities in this process, as well as ways that users can help to support the work.

The role of taxonomic communities

Each taxonomic community that contributes a sector to the COL Checklist assumes responsibility for the quality of their contributions. These communities may take different forms and contribute their expertise to COL by different routes. However, each taxonomic community contributing a sector aims to do the following:

  • Provide a comprehensive listing and original references for the names, species and classification for a specified taxonomic group, in line with the best supported modern scientific understanding
  • Publish this information in a supported machine-readable format with helpdesk support where needed
  • Publish this information using the COL data licensing model (CC0 licences preferred but CC BY supported)
  • Optionally, publish other species information (e.g. distributions, descriptions or images) as part of these datasets
  • Operate as an open community with an appropriate model that allows other taxonomists working on the group to contribute and become part of the community
  • Have an appropriate process for addressing differences in opinion/interpretation of taxonomy for the group, for example by supplementing a best-consensus view with alternative perspectives on species concepts that are still under debate
  • Respond appropriately and efficiently to new additions, updates, user comments and corrections

The role of Catalogue of Life

COL partners with GBIF and other communities and infrastructures to deliver a trusted, open and freely usable catalogue of all species. The COL works with user communities to ensure that the COL Checklist, tools and services support the widest possible range of needs. COL supports taxonomic effort by promoting and facilitating best practice in citing the efforts of taxonomic communities and of individual taxonomists.

COL commits to do the following:

  • Deliver the COL Checklist as a comprehensive reference that includes all species at the highest quality possible
  • Ensure that the needs both of taxonomic communities and users are addressed
  • Oversee endorsement processes to select and support taxonomic communities committed to collaborative development of the best possible checklist for each sector of the COL Checklist
  • Facilitate a smooth transition when a contributing community is no longer able to maintain a COL-compliant sector checklist
  • Streamline new content, updates and suggested corrections for easy curation by sector taxonomic communities
  • Oversee the automated construction of the best possible checklist content for taxonomic groups lacking a community
  • Maintain stable identifiers and version histories for all data
  • Ensure that users have the tools and information properly to cite and acknowledge COL and the work of contributing communities and individual taxonomists
  • Track citations of the COL Checklist, sector datasets and individual species records
  • Provide regular reporting to contributing communities on usage of data shared through COL
  • Evolve and enhance the COL infrastructure, tools and services to meet new opportunities and challenges
  • Develop new pathways to augment or enhance data associated with species and names
  • Secure funding to maintain the infrastructure and, if funding allows, to support the curation activities of taxonomic communities

The role of users

Taxonomic research is challenging and complex and requires scientists to dedicate many years to understanding the variation and biology of the organisms they study. Their efforts open the door for all other workers who survey and monitor the world’s biodiversity. However, all of this effort is rarely recognised. Users of COL can help to address this by ensuring they use COL citation tools to acknowledge the work of these taxonomists.

Users are urged to support COL in the following ways:

  • Recognise the limitations and any known issues associated with COL content, particularly noting where content has not yet been reviewed by a taxonomic community
  • Use the COL citation tools to give clear attribution for the COL Checklist and the work of contributing communities and individual taxonomists
  • Submitting updates and corrections where issues are noted in the content of the COL Checklist