European Ocean Biogeographic Information System

Standards and quality control

Compiling data from different sources collected under different circumstances and with various purposes requires a minimum of standardization and quality control before sound and useful integration becomes possible.

EurOBIS follows a number of international standards and runs a number of quality control procedures on each received dataset, in order to be able to estimate the quality of the provided data and to define the fitness for purpose of the data for our various users. A basic overview of the followed quality control (QC) procedures can be found in the FAQ section.

Metadata standard: IMIS

All datasets within EurOBIS are described in the Integrated Marine Information System (IMIS) - developed by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). The advantage of IMIS is that it not only stores the metadata of the datasets, but it can also capture and interlink information on persons, institutes, projects and publications. In practice, this means that - when you look at the metadata of a dataset - you can click on the listed person or institute to get to the contact information. When a dataset has been collected in the framework of a project, you will be able to link to the project for more details. And when a dataset has led to one or more publications, these will also be listed on the metadata page and - if available - a copy can be requested through the VLIZ library.

Within IMIS, existing international standards are taken into account, such as ISO 19115 - the international standard for geographic information - and EDMED, the European Directory of Marine Environmental Data. Both ISO and EDMED present a standardised list of items needed to make a good description of a dataset.

In addition, we use the thesaurus of the Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (in short: ASFA thesaurus) to assign searchable keywords to datasets.

Data standard: OBIS Schema

The OBIS Schema is a content specification designed to capture data about the geographical occurrences of species, e.g. the collection or observation of a particular species or other taxonomic group at a particular location. The OBIS Schema is the content standard used by OBIS. It represents an extension of the Darwin Core Version 2 and is designed for marine biodiversity data, specifically to record the capture or observation of a particular taxon at a particular location. It can also be applied to museum specimen data, which can also contribute to EurOBIS.

Following this standard allows seamless data exchange between databases over the internet.
The full OBIS Schema can be consulted through the data formats page.

Taxonomic standard: World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)

EurOBIS uses the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) as a standard list for taxonomic names. WoRMS is an authoritative taxonomic list of species occurring worldwide in the marine environment.

All taxon names are matched with WoRMS to trace and rule out spelling variations and resolve frequently used synonyms. This way, all taxon names are linked to the currently accepted name, avoiding e.g. a 'double-count' of the same species under different names in diversity calculations.

If a taxon does not match with WoRMS, it is matched against other authoritative taxonomic databases, such as e.g. the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) or the Catalogue of Life (CoL). If a match can be found - and the taxon is considered marine or brackish - the taxonomic expert of WoRMS is contacted, to add the taxon to the Register. If the taxon is not marine, it will be added to an annotated list.

When taxa cannot be matched to the World Register or other authoritative taxonomic database (e.g. ITIS or CoL), the taxa are sent back to the data provider for a secondary check-up. If the data provider can provide a source containing the given taxon name, this information is sent to the taxonomic experts. They can then decide if the taxon can be added to the World Register or not.

The annotated taxon list will help EurOBIS in its taxonomic quality control, and will avoid that taxon names are sent to taxonomic editors twice for clarification.

Geographical occurrence check: European Register of Marine Species (ERMS)

Within the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), several regional species lists are available, amongst which the European Register of Marine Species (ERMS). ERMS lists all species known to occur within the European marine waters.

By matching the received species names with ERMS, it can be checked whether it concerns a likely occurrence: if the name occurs in ERMS, there should be no doubt about the general geographical correctness of the record. If the name does not occur in ERMS, several other checks can be done to assess the correctness of the occurrence record.