Thomas Orrell elected chair of GBIF Science Committee

Global collaboration and open access to data are essential to biodiversity science, equitable use of knowledge, says U.S. research biologist

Thomas Orrell
New GBIF Science Committee chair, Thomas Orrell. Photo CC BY Sam Sheline.

The GBIF Governing Board has elected U.S. research biologist Dr Thomas M. Orrell as chair of the GBIF Science Committee. Orrell, Deputy Director of ITIS: the Integrated Taxonomic Information System and Informatics Branch Chief of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, took up the post during GB24, the 24th meeting of the GBIF Governing Board last month in Helsinki.

“My research focuses on strengthening the links between biodiversity information and scientific knowledge, and linking biodiversity data remains at the core of GBIF’s mission,” said Orrell.

“The GBIF network already brings together its unique information resources and extraordinary pool of knowledge to support researchers whose global collaborations are essential to scientific discovery. Working with the Science Committee, I want to see that we reach those who haven’t yet found GBIF and increase coordinated capacity building across biodiversity science.” Orrell succeeds Rod Page of the University of Glasgow after his four-year tenure as the Science Committee chair.

Orrell’s involvement with GBIF dates to 2005, when he first served as a delegate for ITIS. Since 2007, he has been co-chair of the Catalogue of Life Partnership, a global collaboration between Species 2000 and ITIS that GBIF helped convene in 2001 with the mission to build a coherent, authoritative taxonomic index.

Orrell is now engaged in coordinating the development of an integrated taxonomic backbone service being called Catalogue of Life “Plus”, or CoL+. “We want CoL+ to fulfill the essential needs of stakeholders from the biodiversity community by sharing the resources, rewards and risks through a durable, mutually beneficial collaboration,” said Orrell.

Orrell will join Dr Tanya Abrahamse, newly elected chair of the Governing Board on the GBIF Executive Committee.