Sharing Biodiversity Heritage through Social Media: Mining Biodiversity’s “Big-Data”

Hall of Biodiversity AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Ryan Somma
Hall of Biodiversity by Ryan Somma (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd, Director of the Social Media Lab, is the co-lead on one of 14 teams of international researchers that will receive funding from the Digging into Data Challenge, an international competition designed to challenge the research community to investigate how new computational techniques can be applied to “big data”—the massive multi-source datasets made possible by modern technology— in humanities and social science research.

The winners of the Challenge were announced yesterday by the ten international research funders from Europe and North America. The first round of the Digging into Data Challenge was held in 2009 and the second in 2011. For the current round, fourteen teams representing Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States will receive a total of approximately $5.1 million US. Each team represents collaborations among scholars, scientists, and information professionals from leading universities and libraries in Europe and North America.

Dr. Gruzd is the Canadian Principal Investigator on the “Mining Biodiversity” project, along with Dalhousie colleagues at the Faculty of Computer Science: Dr. Evangelos E. Milios, Dr. Stan Matwin, Dr. Vlado Keselj, Dr. Stephen Brooks and Dr. Sophia Ananiadou at the University of Manchester (UK) and William Ulate Rodriguez at the Missouri Botanical Garden (US).

The “Mining Biodiversity” project will develop a 21st Century “Social Digital Library” to facilitate the study and discussion of legacy scientific documents on biodiversity housed at the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). The BHL is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.”

One of the aims of the project is to turn heritage or legacy science documents into “social” digital objects that can be easily shared among researchers and the public via social media. The expectation is that this will help to make these earlier biodiversity documents and artifacts more accessible and will help to raise the public awareness of how our planet’s biodiversity has changed over time. By creating an easy-to-use mechanism to share and discuss biodiversity digital artifacts this project will also create the opportunity for future research on how these artifacts are being used, and their impact on biodiversity awareness among the public. The project will integrate novel text mining methods, visualisation, crowdsourcing, and social media into the BHL. The project will be funded by SSHRC (The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Canada), IMLS (The Institute of Museum and Library Services- US), and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee- UK).