Introducing the ID Signpost

Tom.bio ID SignpostIntroduction

The ID Signpost is an online searchable catalogue of UK biological identification resources. A key feature is that the records of ID resources are crowd-sourced. This means that it can be kept up-to-date more easily and have a much wider reach than if only a few people were able to edit it.

Who can use it?

Everyone.

Who can update it?

Anyone. To add an entry to the catalogue you just register for a Tom.bio account. Once you have an account, use the 'Request editor role' button to request permission to update the ID Signpost.

Once authorised, you can add entries as well as edit or delete entries that you have previously created. The Tom.bio team can edit all entries, so if you spot a mistake on an entry that you do not have authorisation to edit (or want to suggest another change like the addition of a keyword), just email us (admin@tombio.uk) and we will sort it out.

The data-model has been kept deliberately simple so that adding entries is quick, easy and intuitive. For each new entry, you specify a minimum of three pieces of information (those italicised below) and, optionally, a few more:

  • ID resource name
  • Short description
  • Author(s)
  • Free (checkbox to indicate whether or not the resource is freely available)
  • Availability (checkboxes to indicate if the resource is available online, as a PDF, as a printed publication and/or as a computer app or program)
  • Weblink (a URL to the resource, if online, or information about it)
  • Additional weblinks (other useful URLs associated with the resource)
  • Keywords (to add to those included in resource name, description and authors)
  • Major group(s)

Each catalogue entry must have at least one value for a major taxonomic group - even if this is left as 'unspecified' (the default). You can specify more than one major group. The groups are neither exhaustive or exclusive, but they should represent the most useful categories. Be as specific as you can - for example for a beetle catalogue entry, specify 'insects - beetles' rather than 'insect' or 'invertebrate', but for an unusual invertebrate taxa that is not specifically listed, you should use 'invertebrate'. If you don't know what to put, leave it as 'unspecified'.

All constructive additions to ID Signpost are welcome, but we will remove links to online material which has not been made available with the permission of the copyright holder. We reserve the right to remove any catalogue entry which we don't feel fits the profile of the ID Signpost.

How to use it

Couldn't be simpler. Specify a keyword such as shieldbugs or lichens and click the search button. Optionally you can also filter searches based on whether or not the resource is free and what media it is available on (e.g. 'online'). Another approach is to select one item (or more by holding shift key when clicking) from 'Major group(s)' instead of, or in addition to, specifying a keyword. This can be useful to avoid returning resources that include your keyword incidentally.

The tabulated search results show all entries that match your search criteria. You can jump straight to the referenced resource (if a weblink is specified) by clicking on the title of the resource. To look at (or edit) its entry in the catalogue, click the 'View' link. The info available from the 'View' link can be more comprehensive than that displayed in the search results table.

At this stage there is no facility to carry out a more complex search (e.g. using 'AND' or 'OR' operators), but we may add this as the project develops.

Why has FSC Tom.bio created this?

During the Tomorrow's Biodiversity consultation in 2014 there was a strong appetite for more 'signposting' of resources to enable UK biological recorders to quickly see what is available in respect of training, ID resources etc. People often referred to Richard Comont's blog where he has collated links to a huge number of online resources: http://insectrambles.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/web-id-resources.html.

Richard's monumental effort, which to a large degree inspired the ID Signpost, relies mostly on the work of a single person to keep it up-to-date. Platforms like Drupal can facilitate a crowd-sourcing approach to collating this kind of information - spreading the burden of maintenance and increasing reach and coverage.

The future of the ID Signpost

We are committed to the future life of this resource beyond the end of the Tomorrow's Biodiversity project. One option is to transfer, at some point, the hosting of the ID Signpost to the website of the National Forum for Biological Recording (NFBR). The NFBR is moving to a new Drupal-based website. The Tom.bio website is also Drupal-based, which means that it should be possible to transfer the ID Signpost relatively easily.

We also aim to add, before long, a facility to allow anyone to export the entire ID resource catalogue as a CSV file at any time, ensuring that the data are truly open and reusable.

Comments

A distance learning course - currently unavailable, but downloads of the identification guides is welcomed

Trying to add this to the list, but can't seem to find the input form - course is located at https://www.fba.org.uk/identification-freshwater-invertebrates-species-l...

This deserves to be much better known:
Aphid Identification