Documentation explaining IOPI

Mon Jan 11 07:31:00 EST 1993

From:	AS8250::WINS%"david at" 22-DEC-1992 22:55:59.21
Subj:	What is IOPI

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Subject: What is IOPI

Scanned from Taxon 41(May1992): 390-392.
Content-Length: 11060


Edited by Herve M. Burdet

Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques, Ville de Geneve,
Case Postale 60,CH-1292 Chambesy, Switzerland.

What is IOPI?  [the International Organization for Plant Information]

This new organisation came into being on September 20th, 1991, at a
meeting at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, hosted
by the Australian Biological Resources Study. Forty-nine botanists
from eleven countries participated. The genesis of the new
al organisation lay in discussions arising from an initial
proposal by Kew to establish, with a consortium of major herbaria,
a computerized taxonomic database - the Species Plantarum Project
(SPP) - and those held at Delphi, under the auspices of TDWG, in
October 1990, to consider the establishment of a Global Plant Species
Information System (GPSIS).

At a subsequent meeting at Kew in November 1990 in connexion with
SPP, it became obvious that both proposals had a common interest in
a world checklist of vascular plants as soon as possi-
ble. It was equally clear that this would involve a major,
co-operative, truly international effort and that the project would
be extremely expensive. An interim Council was established to
expedite the proposal. This met at Kew under the successive chair-
manships of Professor Prance (June 27th) and Mr Alex George (June
28th and 29th), Professor Lucas acting as Secretary, as agreed in
November. To quote from the minutes of the meeting:

was general agreement that a new organization which could
combine and replace SPP and GPSIS, as presently constituted, by a
single organization, would prevent duplication, possible
undesirable competition, and would greatly facilitate the success of
the project. A unified will is essential to make it work on an
international scale"

Mr. George, on behalf of the relevant Australian organizations, then
offered to host a meeting to consider this proposal in Canberra where
a meeting of TDWG - whose act
ivities would be particularly relevant
to aspects of the proposal - had already been arranged. There was a
very thorough and wide-ranging discussion at Canberra of the pros and
cons of the proposal and how it would impact on existing
institutional taxonomic activities; of how it would relate to other
ongoing projects, such as those of IAPT; of the kind of support it
might attract from taxonomic institutions and elsewhere and indeed,
of whether the proposal was a viable proposition. At the end of two

days full discussion there was overwhelming support for the proposal
to establish a new organization. A Constitution was agreed and
working arrangements proposed to achieve, as the first task, a
Checklist of the vascular plants of the world.

The Constitution of IOPI sets out succinctly the objectives of the
organization, namely:

1. to promote and prepare, as expeditiously as possible, a series of
   integrated, dispersed, computerized databases, summarizing the basic
   taxonomic information (b
earing in mind the basic requirements of
   freedom of taxonomic research and opinion), and biological and
   other attributes (in particular, information relating to their
   utilization and conservation) of all kinds of plants* in the world;

   * Plants to be interpreted as those organisms covered by the
     International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

2. to document the data in such ways as shall make them most readily
   accesible to users of all kinds, in all regions, and in such formats

   as shall seem most expedient to the governing body of IOPI;

3. thereafter, to maintain the data in an up to date form and
   continue to render them accessible in accordance with (1) and (2)

To assist in gaining international recognition for IOPI, the
Constitution also includes establishing of an association with IAPT,
TDWG, CODATA, IUCN, UNEP and UNESCO, including their representation,
ex officio, on the Council of IOPI. To date, IAPT, TDWG, IUCN and
UNEP have agreed to such an ass
ociation, and the matter is under
consideration by CODATA and UNESCO. Preliminary recognition of IOPI
as an international scientific association or commission by IUBS has
been granted with a view to ratification of full recognition and
representation at their next general assembly in 1994.

Setting out objectives is the easiest part of the task, achieving
them will be more difficult for several reasons. Firstly, the
available expertise necessary is scattered all over the world and
many of the pract
itioners are already fully engaged on existing
taxonomic tasks. IOPI will have to depend upon the goodwill and
voluntary collaboration of many institutions, together with finding
the means (where essential) to provide additional assistance, whether
for basic taxonomic work or modifications of present practice, so
that existing and ongoing knowledge can contribute to the world
database. Moreover, for many regions and several taxonomic groups
even the most basic data are lacking or very limited. It wil
l be
important for IOPI to raise funding to assist such regions to develop
taxonomic work both for their own information as well as a
contribution to world knowledge.

It is important to realize that IOPI will act primarily as a trustee
of the knowledge in the proposed world database and to facilitate the
acquisition and availability of knowledge about plants and their
attributes as an international service. Lastly, but of immense
importance, IOPI will need to work through international
ion and to ensure that such funding activities as it may
promote compete minimally, or not at all, with the fund-raising
efforts of other taxonomic institutions and individuals. Because the
objectives of IOPI are wider than the purely taxonomic, although in
the first instance that is the area of overriding importance, the
founders of IOPI believe that sources can be tapped which will meet
the non-taxonomic competitive criterion.

To implement this approach a number of actions were agreed. Firstly,

an international Foundation Council was established to get the
project started. A Council fully in accordance with the Constitution
is to be elected by postal ballot of members in 1992 to become
effective from the next plenary meeting of IOPI to be held in Xalapa,
Mexico, in Autumn 1992 (in association with a TDWG meeting).

Secondly, a World Plant Checklist Committee having a wide regional
representation was seen as a prime necessity. Dr. David Hunt of Kew
was asked to establish and lead it. This b
ody will co-ordinate and
promote the range of activities necessary to achieve a working
checklist in an initial target period of 5 years. Inter alia it will
have to organize commitments and contributions from different
participants and establish regional groups so that participants can
keep in touch both with each other and with the project as a whole.

Thirdly, the Checklist Committee will be supported by four
international Working Groups. One will develop a Taxonomic Resources
Network (TRN, chair
ed by Nancy Morin, St Louis) to assess what is
already available, identify regional and taxonomic gaps and provide
information to others in the project. A second will be concerned with
Dataset Definition and Standards (DDS, chaired by Frank Bisby,
Southampton), for work allied to that already being carried out by
TDWG. It is expected that this group should be able to provide a
minimum dataset with appropriate definitions of acceptable standards
early in 1992. The Information System Design group (ISD,
 chaired by
Catherine Zellweger, Geneva) will first examine the question of basic
transfer formats in current use, as advised by TRN in collaboration
with DDS. But its major task will be to develop an adequate and
effective system for the final Checklist so that it will be possible
to integrate other data, taxonomic and non-taxonomic, into it.
K. Beese (Brussels) has been asked to form an additional User
working group to look into what other kinds of data should be
incorporated into the taxonomic ch
ecklist and with what priority.

Lastly, the Products and Editing group (PE, chaired by Herve Burdet)
will be concerned with the form of the final products as well as the
editing en route.

As has already been said, IOPI will have to depend greatly on the
voluntary participation of institutions and individuals world-wide,
and most of the financing of basic taxonomic work will be that
available to each participant in the course of normal work.
However, if the project is to be truly developed and in
internationally, then some central funding will have to be found to
cover the running costs of maintaining communications and the like,
as well as for assisting with travel when no other source is
available. A Finance working group (chaired by J. Scott Petersen,
US.D.A., Beltsville) has therefore been established both to seek
support and supporters for all financial aspects of the work. While
this group will, of course, actively seek general funds for central
activities, it will also try to
 respond to, and promote, the needs of
other groups within the project. For instance the Checklist Committee
will have to meet at least once before the next full meeting of IOPI and
ISD would like to hold a number of small workshops involving people
from different parts of the world.

Geneva has most generously offered to prepare, circulate, and meet
the cost of an IOPI Newsletter (to be edited by Herve M. Burdet) and
this should greatly aid communication.

However, until the first Newsletter is p
roduced, further detailed
information about IOPI can best be obtained from its Secretary, Alex
George, Australian Biological Resources Study, GPO Box 636, Canberra,
ACT 2601, Australia. He, or any member of the Foundation Council, can
provide information on how to become a Participating Centre or
Individual Member of IOPI.

[  electronic information about IOPI - including this report - is
   available on the network via anonymous ftp at the biodiversity
   server at the Australian National Universi


   and at the taxacom server at Harvard University:


   It is also available throught the Harvard biodiversity gopher 
   server by:

          gopher 70  
    - jrc  ]

The Foundation Council members are: Dr. A. Anton (Cordoba,
Vice-chairman), Prof. Dr. P. Baas (Leiden), Dr. K. Beese (E.C.,
Brussels), Dr. F. Bisby (Southampton), Dr. D. Geltman (St.
, A.  George (Canberra, Secretary), Dr. A. Giulietti (Sao
Paulo), Prof. W. Greuter (Berlin), Dr. P. Holmgren (New York), Prof.
K. Iwatsuki (Tokyo), Prof. B. Jonsell (Stockholm), Dr. E. Kennedy
(Biosis, Philadelphia), Prof. G. Lucas (Kew), Dr. P. Maas (Utrecht),
Prof P. Morat (Paris), Dr. N. Morin (St. Louis), Dr. L. Skog
(Washington), Prof. R.  Spichiger (Geneva), Prof. C. Stace
(Leicester), and Dr. D. Sutton (London).

[Sir John Burnett, Chairman, 13 Field House Drive, Oxford OX2 7NT, U.K.]
From:	AS8250::WINS%"david at" 22-DEC-1992 23:10:37.48
Subj:	IOPI - ASBS Newsletter Sept 1991

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Subject: IOPI - ASBS 
Newsletter Sept 1991

Scanned from Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 68
(September 1991) 30--31.

International Organization for Plant Information
(formerly Species Plantarum Project /
Global Plant Species Information System)

The meeting at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, in June (Newsletter 67:
33), recommended that a new structure be set up to integrate and
replace the "Species Plantarum Project" (SPP) and the "Global Plant
Species Information System" (GPSIS). The proposed name
 of the new
body is International Organization for Plant Information
(Organisation Internationale pour la Connaissance des Vegetaux).

Kew, one of the proponents of SPP, indicated its acceptance of the
new organization at the meeting. The proponent of GPSIS, the
Commission for Plant Taxonomic Databases (TDWG), is discussing the
proposal and will decide its position at a meeting on 18 September.

The activities of IOPI will be determined by a Council of not more
than 30 members, including represent
atives of IAPT, TDWG, CODATA,
UNEP and IUCN.  Members of Council will be selected initially to
represent taxonomists, user-groups, information technologists, and
others appropriate to aspects of the project.

The first project of IOPI will be a Vascular Plant Checklist of the
World.  A Checklist Committee was nominated to plan and produce the
Checklist within five years. It will be supported by several working
groups addressing such aspects as the organization of taxonomic
resources, the data set t
o be included, the design of the database
system, and editing.

A meeting of the Interim Council of IOPI will be held in Canberra on
19-20 September, immediately before the 7th Intemational TDWG
Workshop. At this meeting, the status of the SPP and GPSIS projects
will be discussed and, hopefully, a firm decision taken to proceed
with IOPI and the proposed Checklist.

On the assumption that the Canberra meeting will approve the
establishment of IOPI or something close to it, application has
 been made to IUBS for interim recogniton of the organization
as a Commission.

Alex George
Flora of Australia

For those of you who are unclear on the history of the various groups
involved in these activities, the following list may be helpful.

    SPP- the Species Plantarum Project. This was intended as a
    computer-based project to produce a new Species Plantarum; i.e. a
    descripdon of all of the plant species of the world, with keys,
    short descriptions, and distribution inform
ation, etc. It was
    proposed by a consortium of seven major botanical institudons:-
    Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Missouri Botanical Garden, New York
    Botanical Garden, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle,
    Rijksherbarium, Smithsonian Institution, and Conservatoire et
    Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Geneve. It was launched at a
    meeting in Kew in November 1990, and was intended to take 50
    years to complete.

    GPSIS - Global Plant Species Information System. This was
ntended as a computer-based project to produce a checklist of
    plant species of the world, including authorities, synonymy,
    classification, distribution, and bibliography. It was proposed
    by the IUBS Commission for Plant Taxonomic Databases (which also
    calls itself the Taxonomic Databases Working Group, or TDWG). It
    was launched at a meeting in Delphi, Greece, in October 1990, and
    was to be completed as fast as possible.

    CODATA - ICSU Committee on Data for Science and Tec

    IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural
    Resources. This is an independent body, founded in 1948, for
    promoting and supporting action related to the protection and
    sustainable use of living resources. Membership comprises
    governments, government agencies, international organizations,
    and private institutions.  Its six Commissions consist of more
    than 700 experts.

    UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme. A programme and
ganization created by the United Nations Conference on the
    Human Environment in 1972, to provide guidelines for action by
    governments and international organizations designed to protect
    and improve the human environment and to remedy and prevent its

    IAPT - Internadonal Association for Plant Taxonomy. Founded in
    1950 to promote the development of plant taxonomy and to
    encourage international relations between taxonomists. Publishes
    Taxon and the Regnum Ve
getabile series.  Members can be
    individuals or institutes.

    IUBS - International Union of Biological Sciences. Founded in 1922
    to promote the study of biological sciences at the international
    level. International Botanical Congresses are held under the
    auspices of its Division of Botany. Members are international
    scientific associations and societies, as well as national
    academies of science, research councils, and science associations.
    IAPT is a member.

 - Intemadonal Council of Scientific Unions. Founded in 1919
    to encourage international scientific activity and to co-ordinate
    the activities of the international scientific unions. Members
    are international scientific unions, as well as national
    academies of science, research councils, and associations of
    instititions. IUBS is a member.

From:  AS8250::
WINS%"jrc at"  7-JAN-1993 05:03:05.77
Subj:  IOPI - University of Reading, Herbarium News 30


[ extract from University of Reading, Plant Science Laboratories, Herbarium 
  News 30: 6, 14 Dec 1992 ] 

Dr Stephen Jury attended the recent meetings of IOPI in Mexico. Readers may be 
interested in, if not aware of developments in, this area of Plant Informati

A meeting took place in October 1990 in Delphi sponsored by CODATA, TDWG 
(Taxonomic Databases Working Group) and the Commission of the European 
Community under the title of Designs for a Global Plant Information System 
(GPSIS).  The object is to obtain a computerized world check-list of plant 
names of vascular plants as soon as possible.  To this `backbone' other 
desirable information (e.g. geographical distribution) could be attached.  An 
international committee was set up, ch
aired by Sir John Burnett, to plan the 
way forward.  The updated proceedings of this Delphi GPSIS meeting will be 
published as Systematics Association special volume under the title Designs 
for a Global Plant Diversity Information System, edited by F.A. Bisby, R.J. 
Pankhurst & G.F. Russell. 

Another meeting was held shortly afterwards at Kew to prepare the ground for a 
`Species Plantarum Project' (SPP), basically a `Flora Europaea' of the world 
to be completed over a 50 year period. However, 
at the Kew meeting the GPSIS 
proposals were preferred and an international `Interim council'  was set up 
and asked to meet as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, this was not until 
27/29th June 1991 at Kew, and then not all members were able to attend. 

The Kew Interim Council authorized the setting up of a new body called the 
International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI), which was expected to 
replace both the GPSIS and SPP proposals, nominate a number of individuals to 
the Council o
f IOPI and some of its committees and working parties, and to 
agree a minimum dataset for the Checklist, as well as briefly indicating other 
kinds of datasets required.  It was agreed to meet in Canberra, Australia, 
19/20th September 1991, so that the members of TDWG attending their annual 
meeting could also attend IOPI meetings.  IOPI was, indeed, set up in Canberra 
and the four working groups of the Checklist committee have begun their work. 

In Xalapa good progress was, in fact, made in most
 areas.  The working group 
Taxonomic Resources Network, chaired by Nancy Morin of the Missouri Botanical 
Garden, has drawn up a draft list of family and geographical specialists to 
identify providers of data and has produced a questionnaire on datasets.  (A 
copy can be obtained from Dr S.L. Jury at Reading).  The "Data Definitions and 
Standards Group" was chaired by Dr Frank Bisby of Southampton and the 
"Information Systems Group" by Catharine Zellweger of Geneve.  The latter will 
establish an
 electronic communication service on Internet, available by 1 
December 1992.  The "Editorial and Products Group", chaired by Hervh Burdet of 
Genhve will publish the IOPI Newsletter and, once the communication network is 
in place, this will be available electronically. 

The Checklist Committee approved the following plan:

Phase 1 - November - December 1992.
1.      Identify and approach database holders and taxono
mic specialists with 
  plan, and invite collaboration (TRN); 
2.      similarly establish regional centers and select regional advisors 
  (Checklist Committee); 
3.      complete minimal dataset (DDS/ISG);
4.      initiate work on communication network (ISG);
5.      prepare and distribute database questionnaire (TRN);
6.      prepare detailed technical plan (ISG).

Phase 2 - January - June 1993.
1.      selected samples of databases, involving selected families/genera 
  reviewed for: * assess
ment by DDS/ISG for problems of conformity and 
  assimilation * sample runs involving taxonomic specialists (CLC/TRN) results 
  available to donors and IOPI members; all involving regional advisors; 
2.      communication network established; all donor databases, regional nodes 
  and IOPI members can log on; work station at IOPI node (ISG); 
3.      database questionnaire turned into on-line database of databases (new 
  working group). 

Phase 3 - July - December 1993.
1.      assessment of pos
ition to date by IOPI, database donors, specialist 
2.      IBC presentation in Tokyo;
3.      database directory published as hard copy;
4.      ongoing activities maintained; IOPI system tested.

Phase 4 - 1994.
1.      major work on integration begins; as data is processed and the IOPI 
  database develops, it will be available on network to collaborating centers 
  and individuals, but access by others will be regulated. 
2.      programme and problems of publication to be addr
essed by EPG and by 
  group concerned with the problems of ownership and acknowledgement. 

Phase 5 - 1995 through 1996
1.      work on major datasets continues;
2.      other databases incorporated;
3.      proposals for modes of publication to be circulated
4.      outstanding problems addressed.

Phase 6 - 1997.
first `edition' of preliminary World Checklist of Vascular Plants (WCVP) 
available on communication
s network in electronic form and hardcopy. 

IOPI has, thus, got well underway and we look forward to the next progress 
report.  Readers are encouraged to support IOPI and join the organisation; 
contact Alex George, Australian Biological Resources Study, Australian 
National Parks & Wildlife Service, GPO Box 636, Canberra, Australian Capital 
Territory 2601. 

Jury, Stephen L. SBSJURY at READING.AC.UK (Internet) Herb. C
urator (RNG) 
                 Department of Botany, Univ. of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading,
                 RG6 2AS, United Kingdom  Ph (44) 734318169  FAX (44) 734753676
From:	AS8250::WINS%"david at" 22-DEC-1992 23:16:49.01
Subj:	Introduction to IOPI

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From: david at (David Green)
To: jkirkbride at
Subject: Introduction to IOPI


Today, despite the widespread utilization and exploitation of plant
species, growing concerns about loss of biodiversity and the urgent need
for conservation of genetic reso
urces, there is no modern unified
conspectus of the plant species of the world, their distribution and
attributes. The problem has been addressed in part by the Species
Plantarum Project and the Global Plant Species Information System groups.
IOPI has been established to integrate and extend the work of these
groups, and to replace them.

IOPI's objective will be to prepare such a conspectus as expeditiously as
possible through the establishment of a series of integrated, dispersed,
computerised da
tabases which will summarize the basic taxonomic
information, biological attributes and potential for utilization of all
species, in the first instance, of all the vascular plants of the world;
to document the data, and to make them accessible in a variety of ways
for the benefit of a diversity of users. This is a major undertaking but
an essential, minimal, first step will be to provide, as a fundamental
framework, a World Vascular Plant Checklist. Therafter, it will be
possible to integrate further
 databases concerned with other attributes,
taxonomic, biological, ecological, useful - whether to agriculture,
forestry, horticulture, medicine, biotechnology or in other ways - or of
relevance to conservation, around this Checklist.

This checklist project depends upon the voluntary collaboration of
numerous botanical institutions and individuals worldwide. The urgent
need for a checklist means that it should be completed as quickly as
possible, and a timescale of 5-10 years has been mooted.

 achieve its objectives, IOPI has established a Checklist Committee, 
an Information Systems Committee and a number of Working Groups. It is 
considered that the sharing of information and experience in planning 
and operating networks will benefit both IOPI and other groups concerned 
with biodiversity.

For further information regarding IOPI, contact ...

name        Mr. Alex George
            IOPI Secretary
address     Australian Biological Resources Study
            GPO Box 636
 Canberra A.C.T. 2601

To obtain electronic information about IOPI use anonymous ftp to ...

directory    /pub/biodiversity/iopi


directory    /pub/standards/iopi

or through the Harvard biodiversity gopher 

             gopher 70  

The files on the ANU ftp server will be available on gopher early in 
the new year.


IOPI maintains a regular news service about its activities for members 
and anyone else interested. 

To register for electronic news about IOPI contact ...
name        Dr David Geoffrey Green
email at
phone       61-6-249-2490 / 249-5031 / 249-5111 (switch)
fax         61-6-249-4437
address     Bioinformatics Facility
            Research School of Biological Science
            Australian N
ational University
            GPO Box 475  Canberra 2601 AUSTRALIA

To submit items of news relevant to IOPI, contact ... 

name        Catherine Zellweger
            Chairperson, IOPI Information Systems Committee
email       zellweger at
phone       41 22 732 69 69
fax         41 22 738 45 97
address     Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques
            C.P. 60
            CH-1292 Chambisy

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