Interactive visualisation tools for supporting taxonomists working practice
The necessity for scientists and others to use consistent terminology has recently been regarded as fundamental to advancing scientific research, particularly where data from disparate sources must be shared, compared or integrated. One area where there are significant difficulties with the quality of collected data is the field of taxonomic description. Taxonomic description lies at the heart of the classification of organisms and communication of ideas of biodiversity. As part of their working practice, taxonomists need to gather descriptive data about a number of specimens on a consistent basis for individual projects. Collecting semantically well-defined structured data could improve the clarity and comparability of such data. No tools however currently exist to allow taxonomists to do so within their working practice. Ontologies are increasingly used to describe and define complex domain data. As a part of related research an ontology of descriptive terminology for controlling the storage and use of flowering plant description data was developed. This work has applied and extended model-based user interface development environments to utilise such an ontology for the automatic generation of appropriate data entry interfaces that support semantically well defined and structured descriptive data. The approach taken maps the ontology to a system domain model, which a taxonomist can then specialise using their domain expertise, for their data entry needs as required for individual projects. Based on this specialised domain knowledge, the system automatically generates appropriate data entry interfaces that capture data consistent with the original ontology. Compared with traditional model-based user automatic interface development environments, this approach also has the potential to reduce the labour requirements for the expert developer. The approach has also been successfully tested to generate data entry interfaces based on an XML schema for the exchange of biodiversity datasets.