Email from John Pickering to Peter Raven, 10 July, 2005

Date: Sun, 10 Jul 2005 20:10:34 -0400
From: John Pickering
Subject: Technology centers + search tool


Thanks for the email. Here are some more details.

We're planning 8 international centers to assemble and share biodiversity
information. The centers will give regional technical support and training
to get images, maps, identification guides, and other information about
species on the Web.

Our team will include contributing partners and host institutions. Trust
that Mobot and you will join us. Ed has said that he'll help raise funds
from various sources and has asked for a prospectus by 23 August, my next
visit to Boston. I'm working our contacts to get an eclectic group
together and seeking advice. Our goal is for the Caribbean, Central
America, South America, Europe, North Africa, Southern Africa, Asia, and
Australia/Pacific each to host a center. Too early to set anything in
stone regarding specific host institutions, other than to say that BioNET
International's ASEANET has agreed to host one in Kuala Lumpur. I leave on
Friday to lay ground work and start training.

Discover Life and its partners will provide Web tools and expertise. Gary
Alpert at Harvard will help get the centers up to speed with high-end
imaging. We envision staffing each center with a local botanist,
entomologist, and pest/invasive/marine type that we'll train to help others
share high-quality information on the Web. In short, we'll train the
trainers, Amway style, if you will.

Seeking Mobot's support in selecting sites and coordinating our botanical
activity. Have already talked with Bob Magill. Certainly, hope to add
your good name to the prospectus when it's at that stage. Also, Cristian's
and the Smithsonian's, though this will be news to him!!!

Unless Ed is fortunate enough to find one large donor, funds will come from
multiple sources. By staffing the centers with recent college graduates
and asking host institutions to house them without charging overhead, we
can keep our annual costs to around $500K -- a deal in the grand scheme of

How do our efforts relate to other ones? First, we're open to everyone
with something to offer joining us. Second, no plans to get bogged down in
attempts to standardize everything. Our technology doesn't require it.
Third, we're largely virtual, will have no control central, and hence, will
be very, very cost efficient. Again, if you will, think Linux, not

As a preview of what's to come, we're now testing
This is a thin front-end that we'll share with everyone freely as an entry
into the Web's growing encyclopedia of life. It's a cross-site search box
that folks can put on their Web sites (the HTML source explains how). They
do not need to go to Discover LIfe to initiate a search. It returns pages
with information from multiple sites (e. g., it includes Tropicos, thanks
to Bob) and can be set up to return users to the Web page that hosts the
search box. Thus, a Mobot user could use it, see info combined from
Tropicos, Discover Life, and other contributors, and then navigate back to
a Mobot page.

Hope your game. Thoughts?

Will be in touch. I return 29th July.


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