Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – possiblywith the additional conditions that the owner of the data is attributed and copies or adaptations of the work must have the same or similar license as the original. The concept of open access to scientific data has existed since the 1950’s, but with the advent of the internet, the availability of fast networking has significantly changed the context of open science data, since publishing or obtaining data has become much less expensive and time-consuming.
Data, information and knowledge are held by many different kinds of people (academics, managers, amateurs) in different capacities and for different purposes including personal interest, research, and resource management, as a public good or as a by-product of other processes. Often, data collected by one individual or organization for one purpose could be of great importance to another individual, in ways that the original collector did not or could not foresee. For example data collected by weather satellites for predicting weather and made openly available is now used by many ecological researchers for modeling the possible changes in species ranges as a result of future climate change.
The government of India has also understood and appreciated the importance of open data and has instituted the “Open Government Data Platform India”(data.gov.in), a platform for supporting Open Data initiative of Government of India. The portal is intended to be used by Government of India Ministries and Departments to publish datasets, documents, services, tools and applications collected by them for public use. It intends to increase transparency in the functioning of Government and also open avenues for many more innovative uses of Government Data to give different perspective. This is a result of the passing of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) in 2012. Currently the government portal hosts 23,000+ resources, 3,800+ catalogs from 100 government departments
Biodiversity data and information are essential for effective decision making at all levels, and currently there are a number of hurdles to the effective use of biodiversity data such as data access, interoperability, and the inadequacy of data for addressing particular issues. There is an urgent need to consolidate and expand existing initiatives to facilitate access to biodiversity and ecosystem service information. Open and free access to biodiversity information is essential to promote conservation, management and sustainable use of biodiversity and has immense potential to increase the current and future value of a country’s biodiversity for a sustainable society.
Just 17 of the world’s 190 or so countries contain 70 percent of its biodiversity, earning them the title “megadiverse”. India is one of these megadiverse countries with 2.4% of the land area, accounting for 7-8% of the species of the world, including about 91,000 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants that have been documented in its ten bio-geographic regions. Of these 12.6% of mammals, 4.5% of birds, 45.8% of reptiles, 55.8% of amphibians and 33% of Indian plants are endemic, being found nowhere else in the world (Olson and Dinerstein, 1998; Stattersfield et al., 1998; Myers, 2003). It is further estimated that about 4,00,000 more species may exist in India which need to be recorded and described. The baseline data on existing species and their macro-and micro-habitats, is also inadequa
The India Biodiversity Portal (IBP) (http://indiabiodiversity.org) is an open access biodiversity informatics platform that seeks to aggregate biodiversity information for India through participation. The intent of the portal is to facilitate the sharing of data and knowledge between various stakeholders. Currently IBP has over 8,000 registered users who have contributed over 90,000 observations of plants and animals with images from around the country. Most of these images have been identified by members of the community with a little over 8,000 images still awaiting identification. Recently we also added a large dataset of approximately 12,00,000 species observations from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, vastly increasing the amount of data on IBP. This data can be valuable to researchers and students for studying the occurrence and distribution of species across the country, and is also important for members of civil society, informing them about the species present around them.IBP also has many groups where members can view data pertaining to a particular species group or geographical area of their interest (eg. ButterflyIndia, FrogWatch and Western Ghats groups).
Over time as we collect more data contributed by nature enthusiasts, IBP will become an invaluable biodiversity database. This will be extremely useful for many different types of users ranging from academics and researchers to policy makers and also to casual amateurs with an interest in the biodiversity in the region. This project will also serve as a platform for amateurs to interact with experts and learn from them. We hope to have more users register and participate in this project, and build a robust database for all to learn from and appreciate.
Northeast (NE) India is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, and the data currently on the portal is just a tiny fraction of the wealth contained in the region. In September 2015, a group was created on IBP specifically for documenting the rich biodiversity of the region.Currently the group has over 9,500 observations of species contributed by 71 users.To increase participation, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) has spearheaded an effort in collaboration with a number of local partners from the region to conducttraining workshops in different parts ofNE India. We have conducted 5 workshops so far, one each in Gangtok, Siliguri, Makunda (Assam), Miao (Arunachal Pradesh) and KeibulLamjao National Park (Manipur) with a total of over 120 people participating in these workshops. We plan to hold many more of these workshops in the near future and hope that through these efforts much of the wealth of biodiversity of the NE region can be documented.
Rohit Matthew George, Coordinator, Northeast India Biodiversity Portal
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Regional Office Eastern Himalaya, Gangtok, Sikkim. [email protected]
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