Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe (BHL-Europe)

Published on: 28/09/2011
Document

The libraries of the world, particularly those associated with natural history museums and botanical gardens collectively hold the majority of the world's published knowledge on the discovery and subsequent description of biological diversity. As yet this wealth of knowledge is only currently available to those few people who can gain direct access to these publications. The body of biodiversity knowledge is thus effectively withheld from use for a wide range of scientific applications, which includes research, education, taxonomic study, biodiversity conservation, protected area management, disease control and maintenance of diverse ecosystem services. Much of the early published literature is rare or has limited global distribution and is available in only very few libraries.

The project Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), launched 2007 in the USA, is systematically attempting to address this problem. In May 2009 the ambitious and innovative EU project 'Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe' (BHL-Europe) was launched. BHL-Europe is coordinated by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Germany, and combines the efforts of 26 European and 2 American institutions. The BHL-Europe consortium consists of important European natural history museums, botanical gardens, libraries, universities, biodiversity initiatives and IT companies. The project is financed within the framework of the European programme eContentplus for 36 months. 

The project brings together existing digital collections of biodiversity literature from all over Europe. It will provide access by a multilingual web portal with innovative search functionalities facilitating quick access to all information required by users. The interface of the portal will be multilingual enabling users to search in their native language. In addition to the biodiversity community portal, all literature will be accessible through the European Digital Library - EUROPEANA. For the first time, the wider public, citizen scientists and decision makers will have unlimited access to this important source of information. Everybody will be able to get first-hand information on animals and plants, study rare, original work by important scientists such as Charles Darwin or Alexander von Humboldt, and admire artwork in publications from the 17th or 18th century. Conservation organisations will have a tool for collecting data on rare or threatened species in order to produce better plans for protection strategies. The main focus of the project is not research and development. As a best practice network, the interoperability of existing repositories and the implementation of existing technological solutions for search and retrieval and long-term sustainability of digitised objects are the main goals of the project. BHL-Europe is not focused itself on digitising, this is within the competence of each member of the EU. However, the project can serve as a support for the implementation of digitising programmes. We hope that within the framework of BHL-Europe, we can improve the current situation with regard to the financing of digitisation in the EU.

Policy Context

BHL-Europe is a 3 year project, involving 28 major natural history museums, botanical gardens and other cooperating institutions.

The libraries of the European natural history museums and botanical gardens collectively hold the majority of the world's published knowledge on the discovery and subsequent description of biological diversity. However, digital access to this knowledge is difficult. The objective of the BHL-Europe project is to make available Europe's biodiversity information to everyone by improving the interoperability of European biodiversity digital libraries.

Furthermore, the project will provide a multilingual access point for biodiversity content through the BHL-Europe web portal with specific biological functionalities for search and retrieval and through the EUROPEANA portal.

BHL-Europe is a Best Practice Network, funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme, as part of the i2010 policy.

The Coordinator of the Programme is the  MUSEUM FUER NATURKUNDE - LEIBNIZ-INSTITUT FUER EVOLUTIONS- UND BIOVERSITAETSFORSCHUNG AN DER HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITAET ZU BERLIN, GERMANY

The Participating partners are :

  • MUSEUM FUER NATURKUNDE - LEIBNIZ-INSTITUT FUER EVOLUTIONS- UND BIOVERSITAETSFORSCHUNG AN DER HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITAET ZU BERLIN  GERMANY
  • NATURHISTORISCHES MUSEUM  AUSTRIA 
  • LAND OBEROESTERREICH  AUSTRIA 
  • AIT ANGEWANDTE INFORMATIONSTECHNIK FORSCHUNGSGESELLSCHAFT MBH  AUSTRIA 
  • NATIONALE PLANTENTUIN VAN BELGIE  BELGIUM 
  • MUSEE ROYAL DE L'AFRIQUE CENTRALE  BELGIUM 
  • INSTITUT ROYAL DES SCIENCES NATURELLES DE BELGIQUE  BELGIUM 
  • NARODNI MUZEUM  CZECH REPUBLIC 
  • KØBENHAVNS UNIVERSITET  DENMARK 
  • HELSINGIN YLIOPISTO  FINLAND 
  • MUSEUM NATIONAL D'HISTOIRE NATURELLE  FRANCE 
  • BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE  FRANCE 
  • ATOS ORIGIN INTEGRATION  FRANCE 
  • HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITAT ZU BERLIN  GERMANY 
  • GEORG-AUGUST-UNIVERSITAET GOETTINGEN STIFTUNG OEFFENTLICHEN RECHTS  GERMANY 
  • FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN  GERMANY 
  • MAGYAR TERMESZETTUDOMANYI MUZEUM  HUNGARY 
  • UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI FIRENZE  ITALY 
  • MUSEUM AND INSTITUTE OF ZOOLOGY - POLISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES  POLAND 
  • AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS  SPAIN 
  • STICHTING NATIONAAL NATUURHISTORISCH MUSEUM NATURALIS  THE NETHERLANDS 
  • STICHTING EUROPEAN DIGITAL LIBRARY  THE NETHERLANDS 
  • SPECIES 2000  UNITED KINGDOM 
  • ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN EDINBURGH  UNITED KINGDOM 
  • NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM  UNITED KINGDOM 
  • JOHN WILEY & SONS LIMITED*  UNITED KINGDOM 
  • SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY  UNITED STATES 
  • MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN  UNITED STATES 

Description of target users and groups

Two main user groups have been identified as beneficiaries of the project.

The first group of users (content users) - European citizens - will be interested in the content itself. They will include natural scientists interested in taxonomic information and the distribution of species through space and time. Social scientists and historians interested in the history of science, and background information about famous and significant scientists of the past. Artists may adapt the artistic representations of plants and animals. For hobby scientists, hobby gardeners, and regional conservation organisations the literature is an inexpensive and easy available resource of information about animals, plants, and fossils occurring in their area. Policy makers on various levels (from local to governmental) need the literature as base and background information for their decisions. Students and learners on various levels (from school to university) need the content as a primary source for their studies. Teachers will now be able to complement the content of textbooks by downloading historical and original texts of Charles Darwin, for example. These texts may be used as a teaching resource, since many of those historical texts contain important biological concepts and theories still valid today. These classic and scientifically important contributions help to put the results of modern research projects into context. Eventually, every European citizen who is interested in biodiversity, and has access to the Web is a potential user. These target users are manifested by the visitors to the large natural history museums that are now able to get background information on topics and objects present in museum exhibitions.

The second group (technology users) - in particular libraries, digitisation centres, and digital library networks - are interested in the technological outputs from the project, the best practice approach, and the quantity and quality of content. New partners are also end-users of the technological solutions and best practice guidelines. They will be able to adopt our established standards and best practice; ensuring efficient scanning, and enabling their connection with EUROPEANA and BHL. Digital library networks may adopt our approach and distribute to partners in other domains of digital libraries.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

WP 1 - Project Coordination and management

Administrative objective: Ensure adherence of the consortium to the rules, regulations, and financial guidelines of the eContentplus programme; establish the project in the European biodiversity community.

Technical objective: Implement the project as set out in the work plan; ensure exchange of information and communication between partners; ensure progress of the project; guarantee timely deliverables.

QA objective: Ensure verifiable progress of the project and be committed to high quality output that has tangible impact on eContentplus programme objectives.

WP 2 - Analysis of domain content and management of the content acquisition process

Objectives: Establish bibliographic database systems, metadata repositories and Web-based content management systems.Ensure that all relevant biodiversity literature is listed to be scanned following a priority list; ensure that all content providers agree on the technical architecture of the project; ensure effective scanning in all content providing institutions; ensure linkage to EUROPEANA; ensure extension of the content providing network.

WP 3 - Technological implementation

Objectives: Management and coordination of technological development and associated standards to allow for a pan-European, distributed and multilingual BHL-Europe. The technological implementation will concentrate on the innovative application of proven technologies to deliver stable and sustainable solutions.

WP 4 - Intellectual Property Rights

Objectives: Management and coordination of the intellectual property rights (IPR) framework for BHL-Europe and agreements with Rights Holders. Ensure that BHL-Europe, EUROPEANA, and the BHL are using common approaches and common agreements, such that data can be exchanged between these partners without further Rights activity.

N.B. The majority of the material being digitised by partners is public domain, and where the Rights have expired. This material will remain public domain and be freely available to all users.

WP 5 - Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation

Dissemination objective: Develop dissemination strategy; raise awareness, understanding and action of the project among the community and stakeholders in EU member states; ensure effective dissemination of project goals and results to the target users; ensure good communication within the European scientific community.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The lack of access to the published biodiversity literature is a major obstacle to efficient research and a broad range of other applications, including education, biodiversity conservation, protected area management, disease control, and maintenance of diverse ecosystems services. This literature also has cultural importance as a resource for the study of the history of science, art and other non-science applications. Currently, a large number of small projects are digitising biodiversity material in numerous institutions across the EU to make access more open, but the corpus will still be seriously fragmented. These projects do not use common standards or interfaces and are not interoperable. In alignment with the EC i2010 initiative, BHL-Europe aims to make the biodiversity knowledge available to everybody who is interested by improving the interoperability of European biodiversity digital libraries. BHL-Europe will review and test different approaches for such libraries based on the experiences of the partners involved in the project. The consortium will establish a best practice approach and promote the adoption of standards and specifications for the large-scale implementation in a real-life context. BHL-Europe will provide a multilingual access point for search and retrieval of digital content through EUROPEANA. In addition, it will provide a robust multilingual portal with sophisticated search tools to facilitate the search for taxa-specific biodiversity information. The project will also develop operational strategies and processes for long-term preservation and sustainability of the data produced by national biodiversity digitisation programmes. BHL-Europe will generate activities to raise awareness and to ensure that the project outputs are known and used by the target users and that the proposed approach directly addresses user needs. BHL-Europe experience and best practice will be shared with the wider digital library community.

Lessons learnt

This field will be completed by the submitter when the lessons learnt have been identified and understood.

 

Scope: International