History and future
The need for a national resource like NZOR has long been recognised. Other countries likewise have recognised the need and some have established equivalents of NZOR, for example the USA established a federal agency to deliver the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). In 2006 TFBIS sponsored the development of a Scoping Study (What’s in a name?). The report was developed through a series of workshops, interviews and subsequent analysis. The key finding of that Scoping Study was that New Zealand could establish a national taxonomic data catalogue that would be beneficial. The report suggested that we develop a federated data-sharing infrastructure allowing us to integrate existing data, and keep it updated, whether from New Zealand or elsewhere in the world. In that way we could minimise the on-going cost and not duplicate the work already taking place in different institutes in New Zealand and elsewhere. This was a novel approach, and not without significant technical challenges. In 2009 TFBIS funded the first year of a project to develop NZOR as a proof of concept. In that year the NZOR Governance Structure established, detailed user-needs analysis carried out and the federated information architecture designed and validated. In 2010-2012 we built the NZOR infrastructure around a number of key data providers and consumers.
The NZOR infrastructure now exists, as envisaged the Scoping Study. Since deployment in July 2012 NZOR remains in a transition period, from a proof of concept to full operation.
End users are now starting to use NZOR services, for example in NIWA, Department of Conservation and the iNaturalist Citizen Science platform. We still need organisations to link their systems to NZOR content in order to derive the benefits of cost saving and better decision making. In doing so it is inevitable we will discover improvements which need to be made, both to the infrastructure and the content. NZOR needs to find a way of expanding the range of data sources and the quality and coverage of data. It needs to be able to harness the energy of those willing to improve data content, beyond the confines of the national research institutes. In short we need to expand and continue to maintain the digital version of the checklists within the New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity.
NZOR data content provided by taxonomic data providers, and the NZOR infrastructure, both require sustainable funding to deliver the original vision. NZOR currently (August 2016) has no on-going funding. Since 2012 NZOR has been maintained through infrastructure support from Landcare Research, and periodic funding support from the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and Minstry for the Environment. The infrastructure is currently most vulnerable to the lack of on-going support. TFBIS funded the development of the infrastructure but cannot fund its on-going maintenance or development. The NZOR Steering Group has discussed various models for supporting NZOR and developed a Business Case (2012) and Business Case (2016) which can be used as the basis for seeking on-going support.