Unpublished theses represent a vast and untapped source of biodiversity information in Southeast Asia, and Indonesia is no exception. As the largest country in Southeast Asia, the volume of research deposited in various research reports produced by Indonesian universities could exceed published scientific literature and gray literature combined. Unfortunately, very few of these theses are publicly available, hence the gap in Indonesian ecological data.
The Biodiversity Theses Database project (Biodiverskripsi) seeks to increase the accessibility of local biodiversity research in Indonesia by collating ecological monitoring data from student theses in a sustainable platform to assist with research and national policies concerning conservation. This project will utilize data inherent in undergraduate student theses, Masters and PhD dissertations in the form of sampling-event data from at least five Indonesian universities produced from 2000 to 2017. The project is led by Tambora Muda Indonesia, a network of young Indonesian conservation enthusiasts working to increase the contribution of conservationists in Indonesia to national biodiversity conservation practices. Together with the Indonesian GBIF node, InaBIF, the initiative will be able to boost the popularity of biodiversity research for use in future research and policy needs.
Initial activities for the project were centred around a kick-off meeting in July 2018 with project partners from five universities to outline project goals and methods. After establishing how the project activities should be implemented and participating universities signed memorandums of understanding, the team moved to produce a data enumeration protocol that could support institutions and stakeholders. A data enumeration workshop was held with the aim to mentor student helpers for transcribing data from theses to sampling event data following Darwin Core Standard. In order to share the data, arrangements have been made to create a custom web-based information system alongside establishing evaluation procedures so that its usability can be maintained in the long-term.
Biodiversity data situated in academic thesis papers has been extracted and progress has been made to digitize records. The project team has so far digitized more than 3,000 occurrence records from a collection of 28 theses held by three Indonesian universities. Work will continue to allow more of records to be digitized and cleaned to prepare data that can be accessed and in a format that can be used internationally. Two future workshops have been planned to analyse data from the web portal and a closing-conference to summarise project efforts and promote the web-based information system and outcomes for biodiversity informatics to a wider audience. As a result of the project’s close-working with academic institutions, the team have been able to create new network opportunities and have been promoting data publishing for greater visibility of Indonesian biodiversity.