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Darwin Core - The Full Wiki

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Dublin Core


Darwin Core - The Full Wiki


Darwin Core is a Biodiversity informatics data standard that consists of a vocabulary of terms to facilitate the discovery, retrieval, and integration of information about organisms, their spatiotemporal occurrence, and the supporting evidence housed in biological collections. Often abbreviated as DwC it was originally created as a Z39.50 profile by the ZBIG (Z39.50 Biology Implementers Group) supported by funding from a USA National Science Foundation award [1]. The name "Darwin Core" was first coined by Allen Allison at the first meeting of the ZBIG held at the University of Kansas in 1998 during discussions about elements required in the Z39.50 natural history collections profile (prototypical Darwin Core) and the conceptual similarity with the Dublin Core[2]. The Darwin Core profile was later expressed as an XML Schema document for use by the DiGIR (Distributed Generic Information Retrieval) protocol[3]. A TDWG task group is currently engaged in revising the standard.

The latest version of Darwin Core is based on the ideas of Dublin Core and decouples the definition and semantics of individual terms from application of these terms in different technologies like XML, RDF or simple CSV text files. Darwin Core defines separate guidelines on how to encode the DwC terms as XML[4] or text files [5].

Although recently (2009-10-09) ratified as an accepted TDWG standard, DwC has seen several versions in production usage. The published standard contains a history [6] with details of the versions leading to the current standard.

The Darwin Core is body of standards. It includes a glossary of terms (in other contexts these might be called properties, elements, fields, columns, attributes, or concepts) intended to facilitate the sharing of information about biological diversity by providing reference definitions, examples, and commentaries. The Darwin Core is primarily based on taxa, their occurrence in nature as documented by observations, specimens, and samples, and related information. Included are documents describing how these terms are managed, how the set of terms can be extended for new purposes, and how the terms can be used. The Simple Darwin Core [7] is a specification for one particular way to use the terms - to share data about taxa and their occurrences in a simply structured way - and is probably what is meant if someone suggests to "format your data according to the Darwin Core".

The Darwin Core standard was originally conceived to facilitate the discovery, retrieval, and integration of information about modern biological specimens, their spatiotemporal occurrence, and their supporting evidence housed in collections (physical or digital). The Darwin Core today is broader in scope. It is meant to provide a stable standard reference for sharing information on biological diversity. As a glossary of terms, the Darwin Core is meant to provide stable semantic definitions with the goal of being maximally reusable in a variety of contexts.

The Darwin Core is based on the standards developed by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative [8] and should be viewed as an extension of the Dublin Core for biodiversity information. The purpose of these terms is to facilitate data sharing by providing a well-defined standard core vocabulary in a flexible framework to minimize the barriers to adoption and to maximize reusability. The terms described in this standard are a part of a larger set of vocabularies and technical specifications under development and maintained by Biodiversity Information Standards TDWG.

Each term has a definition and commentaries that are meant to promote the consistent use of the terms across applications and disciplines. Evolving commentaries that discuss, refine, expand, or translate the definitions and examples are referred to through links in the Comments attribute of each term. This means of documentation allows the standard to adapt to new purposes without disrupting existing applications. There is meant to be a clear separation between the terms defined in this standard and the applications that make use of them. For example, though the data types and constraints are not provided in the term definitions, recommendations are made about how to restrict the values where appropriate.


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Thefullwiki staff, “Darwin Core - The Full Wiki,” Continuing Education on New Data Standards & Technologies, accessed April 17, 2021,