Taxonomic Names and Metadata: A Framework for Big Data Interoperability

Co-Organizers: Henry L. Bart Jr, Tulane University (; Noah Daniels, University of Rhode Island (

Research involving organisms depends critically on a long-standing tradition of defining and assigning names to species and higher groups of organisms (taxonomy) and conventions for recording metadata on where, when and under what conditions specimens of organisms were observed or captured (provenance). Taxon names are governed by nomenclatural codes that aim to ensure uniqueness and universality of all taxon names. However, different groups of organisms (animals, bacteria, algae, fungi and plants) are governed by different codes, and some repetition exists. Principles are in place for restoring order to the surprisingly large number of cases where the same taxon has been assigned multiple names (synonymy). Similarly, standards have been adopted for recording metadata describing provenance of biological specimens (e.g., Darwin Core). Less formalized are metadata for describing the specimens themselves, digital analogs (images) of specimens, or anatomical and morphological features of specimens, which frequently are the objects of study. This special session will feature abbreviated presentations on challenges with taxonomic names and metadata associated with biological specimens, including their associated images, omics, and environmental datasets currently being used in research projects. Presenters will highlight approaches that have been adopted to address these challenges. The presentations will frame the issues as general questions in need of answers, and current as intermediate solutions. The session will conclude with a discussion that will explore more robust solutions to the challenges of using taxonomic names and metadata in research.