EOL Content Partners: Planning Your Data Export

Once you have decided to become an EOL content partner, please review some EOL pages and take note of how our partners' materials are presented. Note that each of their media files and articles represents an individual data object that is accompanied by information about its source, authors, copyright owner, and license. Think about how your information could be displayed alongside these materials and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have ready-to-go taxon descriptions, or do you need to generate them from multiple fields in a database?
  • Are your descriptions divided into chapters that can be served to EOL as separate data objects? How do the subjects for which you have information available relate to the EOL Table of Content topics?
  • Are your text articles, images, videos, sounds in a web-compatible format?
  • Can you associate each of your data objects (articles, image files, etc.) with a particular taxon (a species, genus, family, etc.)?
  • Do you have information about the copyright owner of each of your data objects?
  • Have your contributors agreed to releasing the information under a particular license?
  • Are there other people, institutions, sources who need to be credited in addition to your project and the copyright owner?
  • Do you have a scientifically vetted list of names/classification hierarchy that would be a valuable complement or alternative to the current EOL name/classification data? - See Exporting a Classification

Rights Information is Required

Unless the materials you want to share are in the public domain, you need to specify a creative commons license. You also must provide information about the copyright owner. In general, we recommend that you simply provide the name of the copyright owner(s) (which can be persons or institutions) which will result in a simple copyright statement like © Jane Doe, some rights reserved. You can also provide a more elaborate rights statement. However, please make sure that your rights statement does not contradict the license you have chosen; for example, you cannot limit the use to educational or academic use. If you choose a non-commercial license, all non-commercial use will be permitted.

Exporting Descriptive Information about Taxa

At its core, EOL is a collection of descriptive information about taxa. In order to create a comprehensive survey of the knowledge available about each group, EOL aggregates text objects from many different content partners. You can contribute to this collection if you have information to share about any aspect of the biology of a group of organisms.  Here is some information on how you can best prepare your taxon descriptions for export to EOL. Following the advice below will ensure that your materials will be displayed on EOL in a way that is valuable to users and that will reflect well upon your project.

Share information about taxa, not specimens.  The information you provide should be about the group as a whole, or a substantial subgroup (e.g. a population in a particular geographic region). In general EOL focuses on summary data, not information about individual specimens. Since the features of type specimens are highly significant for the taxonomy of a given group, EOL is interested in type specimen information. This includes information about characters as well as the location of the specimen, label data, etc.

Each text object must be associated with a particular taxon.  Taxa provide the backbone for the EOL information architecture, so each of your data objects must be associated with at least one taxon.  It is also possible to associate a single object with multiple taxa.

Credit your contributors.  Youi can credit a variety of different kinds of contributors (agents). For text objects, we recommend that you credit authors and editors if applicable.

Descriptions can be in any language.  Be sure to specify the language of each of your text data objects. Although  most EOL content is currently in English, users have the option to select a preferred language for browsing the EOL collection.

Provide a bibliographic citation for your text object.  People will want to cite the information they find on EOL. Rather than citing an entire page, which is an evolving patchwork of information from many different sources, we want to encourage them to cite particular text objects. In order to make this easy, we recommend that you provide an explicit bibliographic citation for each of your text objects. If your text objects is taken verbatim from a published book or paper, you can use the citation for this work. If your material is available in digital format only, use an online citation. Include authors, dates, the text object title, and version information if possible, e.g.:

Young, Richard E. and Michael Vecchione. 2007. Iridoteuthis iris (Berry, 1909). Distribution. Version 26 December 2007. http://tolweb.org/Iridoteuthis_iris/111801/2007.12.26 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

Indicate your audience. Please provide information about the suitability of your descriptions for Children, the General public or Expert users. You can indicate multiple audiences if your text is useful for more than one audience level.

Map your text objects to EOL subject types. EOL Schema supports a series of standard subject types. You should map each of your data objects to one of these subjects. These mappings will then determine where EOL puts each text object in the Table of Contents of a given taxon page. Use the subject types/table of contents table to decide where each text objects should map.

Unstructured accounts should be mapped to the General Description.  Some content partners have taxon descriptions that contain information about different subjects, but they are not structured into different chapters, so the different sections cannot be mapped to different EOL subject types. If you are sharing such multi-subject text objects, you should map them to the GeneralDescription subject type.

Be explicit about the context of your data.  If the information you provide is context-dependent, please be sure to provide this context along with your text objects. You can do this either in the title of your text objects or by adding a comment at the beginning of each of your text objects. For example, your text may describe host plant preferences that are characteristic only for a particular part of a group's range; or your project may focus on the larvae of a given group, and your text provides a morphological description of the larva without explicitly stating which stage is being described. In such cases, we recommend that you choose explicit titles, e.g., Host Plant Preferences in Italy or Morphology of the Larva, or you could add a comment like: The following information applies specifically to the host plant preferences of this species in Italy.

Descriptions don't have to be in essay format.  If you have well-formulated taxon descriptions, that's great, but it is not required. You can also provide lists or tables compiled from database records. Just make be sure to provide enough context for the reader so they know what they are looking at.

Your text can be formatted using HTML tags.  If your text contains paragraphs breaks, italics, tables, or other formatting, you can supply the HTML tags for these formats in your text objects. However, be sure to escape any special characters inside data elements.

Don't use text objects to provide taxonomic hierarchies.  You can provide taxonomic hierarchies, scientific and vernacular names to EOL in the export document that contains your data objects or in a separate file. For more information see Exporting a Classification.

Provide cited references with your text object.   You can provide bibliographic references at the taxon level or at the data object level. EOL does not currently recommend a standard citation format, so you are free to use your preferred format.

Exporting Images, Videos, Sounds, Maps

Images, videos, sounds, and maps are important components of the EOL site. Here is information on how you can best prepare your media files for export to EOL. In some instances, we may focus on image objects, but most of the information applies to other media objects. Please note that we locally cache images that we harvest for re-display, in order to improve our site performance.  Following the advice below will ensure that your media files will be displayed on EOL in a way that is valuable to users and that will reflect well upon your project.

Make sure your media files are in a format that EOL can handle. Currently, we can process and dislay the following file formats:

media type supported formats
image bmp, gif, jpeg, png, svg+xml, tiff
video mp4, mpeg, quicktime, flv, wmv
sound mp3, mpeg, wma, realaudio, wav

You can share images and videos of any resolution or dimensions.  You don't have to scale your images for EOL use. If you provide us with a large image, we will scale it automatically to fit into the EOL media browser. Currently the media browser displays images up to 460 pixels wide and 330 pixels high. We provide a link to the largest image versions available to EOL, and users can follow the original data object links to find larger versions that you may provide on your own web site. You may give us images and videos that are substantially smaller than the image browser area (e.g., thumbnails) but most likely curators and other users will consider such media of lesser value, and user ratings may move them to the end of the media collection.

Each media object must be associated with a particular taxon, ideally a species.  Taxa provide the backbone for the EOL information architecture, so each of your data objects must be associated with at least one taxon.  If a given media object applies to more than one taxon (i.e., if more than one species is displayed), you can associate the object with multiple taxa.  However, you do not need to provide taxon associations at different taxonomic levels. Media objects associated with a species are automatically aggregated at the genus, family, etc. level.

Credit your contributors.  You have the option to credit a variety of different kinds of contributors (agents). For image objects, we recommend that you credit photographers and illustrators if applicable. If you have a mixed collection of photographs and other illustrations, without a way of distinguishing between them, you can also use the creator agent, which is neutral with respect to the method of creation.

Provide a caption for your media. A media description is particularly important if an image or video does not depict the plain habitus of a typical specimen. If only certain body parts are shown, this should be explained in the caption, with information about the view and method of preparation if applicable. If you have information about the sex of a given specimen or any other special characteristics, please put them in the media description.

Provide location information if available.  Ideally information about the geographic location of a depicted specimen should be provided as a natural language descriptions of localities or as latitude and longitude data. However, if you cannot separate the location information from other parts of the image description, you can include it in the media description.

Provide links to media files. Rather than sending us media files, you should provide us with information about the location of each media file on your server. This will then allow us to harvest your files and process them for display on EOL. If your files are not yet available on the internet, you can make special arrangements for their transfer to EOL.

Creating your EOL export files

Once you have decided which materials you are going to share with EOL and what information will be associated with each of your data objects, you need to create the export file(s) for your data.  EOL can import data in one of two formats:

  1. Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) – This is the preferred format for new EOL content partners.
  2. EOL XML Transfer Schema – This is the old EOL schema which is still used by many EOL content partners.

Most EOL content partners host the EOL export files on a web server and provide the URLs of these files in their content partner resource description. EOL will then download and process the files at regular time intervals specified by the content partner. If you are unable to host your export files, talk to us about alternative options.

If you don't have any technical support, or if your programmer needs assistance from the EOL informatics team, please contact us.  We will try to help in any way we can.  You may be able to share your data through a simple spreadsheet.  If necessary, we can parse data dumps in any format, as long as they include all the required information. We can also scrape information from web sites or translate pdf files into text. However please be aware that we have to prioritize our services based on the desirability, quality, and quantity of the materials offered by each content partner requesting assistance. In some cases, we may suggest alternative options. For example, if you would like to provide images that are not yet uploaded to the internet, you could consider sharing them with EOL through existing content partners like MorphBank, CalPhotos or Flickr; if you have a large collection of images that you'd like to post quickly as a batch, there are several options, see Offline Digital Image Collections. If you would like to post taxon descriptions, these could be shared through one of our other content partners or a LifeDesk.