HISCOM 2000 AGM Darwin

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The 2000 HISCOM Annual General Meeting was held in Darwin from 2 – 4 May, 2000. This document represents the minutes of the meeting.


  • Barry Conn (Coordinator)(National Herbarium of NSW)
  • Reed Beaman (National Herbarium of NSW)
  • Bill Barker (State Herbarium of South Australia)
  • Peter Bostock (Queensland Herbarium)
  • Gary Chapple (National Herbarium of NSW)
  • Jim Croft (Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, ACT)
  • Clyde Dunlop (Northern Territory Herbarium)
  • Anne Fuchs (Northern Territory Herbarium)
  • Nicholas Lander (Western Australian Herbarium)
  • Peter Neish (National Herbarium of Victoria)
  • John Rayner (State Herbarium of South Australia)
  • Ben Richardson (Western Australian Herbarium)
  • Greg Whitbread (Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, ACT)

Invited Guests

  • Alan Brooks (KE Software)
  • Chandi Perera (CSIRO Publishing)
  • Philip Short (Northern Territory Herbarium)
  • Aaron Wilson (LandCare Research, Christchurch, New Zealand)
  • Annette Wilson (Australian Biological Resources Study, ACT)



Clyde Dunlop (Northern Territory Herbarium) welcomed participants and invited guests to HISCOM2000 workshop. Barry Conn (Coordinator) introduced the group to the general schedule of the meeting.

Review of HISCOM2000 Actions

The Meeting reviewed progress on actions. Since the matters raised from HISCOM99 were also discussed during this meeting, most Actions are discussed in Section 3. Those actions that were not discussed further are presented below.

HISCOM99 Action Item Outcome summary
ACTION 2: Demonstrate VAH at all member institutions Completed
ACTION 12: Provide each Herbarium a form for completing the IT capability details in each herbarium; and ACTION 13: Update each herbarium’s IT capabilities and notify CHAH of useful data elements to include in the Australian Herbarium Resources database. Complete proforma at meeting or soon after (to be coordinated by Jim Croft)
ACTION 21: NSW to send HISPID programming scripts to PERTH so that PERTH can evaluate their capability of implementing HISPID exchange protocols as soon as possible. Programming scripts from NSW were not required because PERTH contracted conversion of WAHERB to HISPID3 compliance.
ACTION 22: DNA and HO to be contacted to identify issues preventing regular exchange of data from these herbaria; and ACTION 23: Seek ways of expediting DNA’s and HO’s participation in the regular transfer of data in HISPID format. No contact made by HISCOM coordinator because of delay in receiving CHAH report. HISCOM to ask CANB to release Greg Whitbread to assist with the development of HISPID export facility for Northern Territory Herbarium as part of VAH concept (see new actions 1 & 2).
ACTION 24: CHR to implement HISPID exchange protocols immediately. Completed September 1999
ACTION 33: Link APNI Web site to HISCOM Web site, namely as http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/anshir Completed February 2000
ACTION 39: AD’s electronic ‘fieldbook’ to be made available on the Web ‘Fieldbook’ largely functional. Copy available at moment for review by HISCOM (see new action 3).

HISCOM2000 Agenda and Actions


A major goal of HISCOM is to get all herbaria in Australia regularly exchanging data as part of their specimen exchange program. To this end, there was much discussion on ways of getting the remaining herbaria to do this.

ACTION 1: Assessment of the Northern Territory Herbarium’s database to ascertain the level of difficulty of developing a HISPID export facility. ACTION: Greg Whitbread (Completed 3 May 2000)

ACTION 2: CANB to be asked if Greg Whitbread can be release to help Northern Territory Herbarium develop a HISPID export facility as part of the Virtual Australian Herbarium concept. ACTION: Peter Neish (as Coordinator-elect) May 2000

ACTION 3: Copies of the electronic ‘Fieldbook’ developed by AD available to HISCOM members. ACTION: Available on request to John Rayner (Immediate)


The strategic plan and associated HISCOM brochure were discussed and commented on. This was seen as a good way of publicising HISCOM, CHAH and the VAH.

ACTION 4: Review strategic plan and produce draft before end of HISCOM2000 and distributed to HISCOM members. ACTION: Bill Barker, Barry Conn (Completed 3 May 2000)

AGREED: Bill Barker to manage all versions of HISCOM’s strategic plan.

ACTION 5: All comments on current strategic plan to Bill Barker. ACTION: All Members (August 2000)

ACTION 6: Request CHAH to produce and meet all publication costs of HISCOM brochure. ACTION: Peter Neish (August 2000)

ACTION 7: Discuss (on HISCOM-L) the number of copies of the HISCOM brochure required and identify the target audience of this brochure. ACTION: Bill Barker (to coordinate)(August 2000)


Since HISCOM meets approximately six months prior to CHAH it was agreed that this effectively meant that HISCOM operated on a six monthly cycle.

ACTION 8: Coordinator of HISCOM to notify committee one month prior to CHAH to ensure that all relevant actions arising from the previous meeting have been completed. ACTION: Peter Neish (as Coordinator-elect)

AGREED: To use HISCOM Listserver as an essential tool in maintaining HISCOM activities and commitments throughout year.

Virtual Australian Herbarium

Discussion took place on the concept of the Virtual Australian Herbarium. The proof of concept web site has been very useful in demonstrating one component of what the VAH will be able to provide. To take this a step further requires continuing commitment from all partners.

AGREED: To continue to use the Virtual Australian Herbarium as the official title of the distributed database.

ACTION 9: BRI to progress linkage to Virtual Australian Herbarium. ACTION: Peter Bostock (programming to begin December 2000)

ACTION 10: CANB to provide BRI and Northern Territory Herbarium with gateway software. ACTION: Jim Croft (May 2000)

ACTION 11: MEL to develop Internet access to data for Virtual Australian Herbarium. ACTION: Peter Neish (December 2000)

ACTION 12: All mainland Australian herbaria to provide all data at all levels to HISCOM members. ACTION: All Members (September 2000)

ACTION 13: CANB to host DNA's data. ACTION: Jim Croft, Clyde Dunlop (August 2000)

ACTION 14: Develop external view to VAH using Myrtaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Poaceae and Callitris. ACTION: Alex Chapman (to coordinate discussion on HISCOM-L (August 2000)

ACTION 15: Develop discussion paper on caveats on VAH data. ACTION: Bill Barker (December 2000)

ACTION 16: Ask HO if they want a demonstration of the VAH. ACTION: Clyde Dunlop (to approach G. Kantivalis)(May 2000)


It was decided that it is not necessary to register separate domain names for HISCOM, CHAH etc., and that it would be better to register one name that would allow other names to be added (e.g. flora.gov.au/chah/ or chah.flora.gov.au)

ACTION 17: flora.gov.au be registered as the VAH URL and delegated the website to NSW. ACTION: Jim Croft (30 June 2000)


Discussion took place on the problems associated with unrestricted access to information.

AGREED: To display all accession data and all fields of information as part of restricted website available to HISCOM members only.

AGREED: A restricted view of the VAH to be available to external users.


A need to restrict the viewing of some plant names was identified. These may be unpublished names, or otherwise embargoed names that a particular institution does not want displayed to the external customers of the VAH.

ACTION 18: Discussion via HISCOM-L listserver of filters required to protect embargoed and manuscript plant names in the external view of VAH. ACTION: Bill Barker (August 2000)


The possibility of incorporating predictive modelling tools in the VAH was discussed, with the view to making the VAH data more useful.

ACTION 19: To evaluate the possibility and appropriateness of developing a partnership with another agency for interpreting the herbaria’s spatial data. ACTION: Jim Croft to contact Chris Margules (CSIRO Wildlife Ecology)(30 June 2000)


Considerable discussion took place around this issue. It was felt that ABRS and CHAH should be working together to minimise or eliminate any duplication of effort with regard to an electronic Flora of Australia. It was felt that CHAH should discuss this matter internally as a matter of priority.

ACTION 20: CHAH to explore the appropriateness of developing a partnership with ABRS according to the concepts of the Virtual Australian Herbarium. Bill Barker, Barry Conn, Jim Croft to draft letter (Completed3 May 2000) Letter for comment via HISCOM-L (Completed 9 May 2000) Peter Neish (as Coordinator-elect) to contact CHAH (Completed 9 May 2000) [Reply received from Dr Laurie Haegi – CHAH, May 2000]


Barry Conn presented edits and additions to HISPID.

ACTION 21: Minor correction to HISPID, as agreed to by meeting, to be implemented. ACTION: Barry Conn (Completed 22 May 2000)

[ except 'prohis' and 'dont' not decodified yet (will do) and 'Kind of Collection & Additional Components Flag' not reworked yet (This will be present on HISCOM-L separately)]

ACTION 22: Provide examples of HISPID transfer of spatial data using X and Y coordinate approach. ACTION: Reed Beaman (June 2000)

ACTION 23: Provide examples of how to transfer multiple geocode information using X and Y coordinate. ACTION: Reed Beaman (June 2000)

ACTION 24: Develop HISPID transfer fields for host and plant-host relationships. ACTION: Peter Neish in association with Tom May (July 2000)

ACTION 25: Include ‘Spore Print’ as a value in ‘Kind of Collection’ ACTION: Barry Conn (Completed 22 May 2000)

AGREED: Spatial data to be transferred in HISPID according to GDA94/WGS84 standard.

AGREED: ‘Spatial Datum’ field to be included in HISPID transfer (transfer code ‘spadat’). If spatial datum not known then the value ‘Unknown’ to be transferred.

AGREED: Transfer of formatting codes should use existing HTML codes or rely on XML codes (when available) to format data within records (see appendix 1 for example of HTML formatting).


The internet portal developed by CANB was presented. This allow querying of CANB specimen data, with results being returned in a table, labels, an excel spreadsheet or a HISPID3 file.

ACTION 26: CANB to enable other herbaria to query CANB Internet portal using assigned exchange numbers. ACTION: Greg Whitbread (May 2000)

ACTION 27: NSW to develop an Internet portal to their accession data. ACTION: Barry Conn (June 2000)


AGREED: If an electronic record is transferred by one organisation to a second organisation and this record is linked with a physical object (held at the second organisation), then custodianship of the electronic data is transferred to the former. However, if the electronic record is transferred to a second organisation, but is not attached to an object held at that organisation, then the custodianship of the electronic record remains with the former organisation.


The possibility of using XML to transfer data was discussed. XML was seen as an appropriate technology for this purpose and further investigation was supported by HISCOM members.

ACTION 28: Develop HISPID in XML as a demonstration for discussion. ACTION: Alan Brooks, Barry Conn, Ben Richardson (September 2000)

ACTION 29: Opinions on appropriate hierarchy to XML version to be posted on HISCOM-L. ACTION: Greg Whitbread (September 2000)


AGREED: HISCOM needs LISTSERVER (HISCOM-L) to maintain rapid communication between members.

AGREED: HISCOM-L must retain restricted access so as to maintain privacy and that archives should not be publicly accessible.

ACTION 30: Establish private HISCOM-L to replace Eric Gouda’s listserver ACTION: Chandi Perera to set up (Completed May 2000)

ACTION: Ben Richardson to administer (Completed May 2000)

ACTION 31: Write letter of appreciation to Eric Gouda for offering to establish listserver for HISCOM. ACTION: Ben Richardson (Completed May 2000)


ACTION 32: Evaluate implications of Kew Initiative to HISPID/ITF transfer standards ACTION: Greg Leach to send copy of initiate to Barry Conn (May 2000)

ACTION: Barry Conn to evaluate and report to CHABG and CHAH(August 2000)


A discussion took place as the usefulness of the Typephoto database. Reasons for its lack of use were discussed.

AGREED: Transfer Typephoto database to a distributed database model.

AGREED: To leave Internet version of Typephoto for those who wish to use it.

ACTION 33: Recommend to CHAH that type photographs be sent to State and Territory herbaria as part of normal exchange protocols and then loan to non-HISCOM individuals (if necessary) so that this resource is not lost to the Australian botanical community. ACTION: Peter Neish (as Coordinator-elect)(June 2000)


Discussion took place about linking those herbaria that have an electronic version of their plant census. This would be a combined census allowing a user to query if a name is being used to refer to a plant in that state.

ACTION 34: Link PlantNET and FloraBase as a demonstration of distributed census of Australian plant names. ACTION: Barry Conn, Ben Richardson (August 2000)

ACTION 35: At DNA's request, CANB to host an Internet accessible version of the census of plant names for the Northern Territory. ACTION: Jim Croft, Clyde Dunlop (July 2000)

AGREED: That it was appropriate to develop a distributed database model for displaying the census of Australian plants as part of the VAH

AGREED: Genus, species and infraspecific names to be presented graphically by colouring each State and Territory in which it occurs.

ACTION 36: Add the Australian Plant Name Index to VAH. ACTION: Jim Croft (July 2000)

DISCUSSED: Importance of maintaining a history of nomenclature in the distributed Australian plant name census, but it was agreed that no further action was appropriate at this stage.


Most herbaria are involved in capturing digital images of plants. In order to reduce duplication of effort a cooperative approach to sharing of plant images was proposed.


  • Do not standardise resolution.
  • Do not standardise format.
  • Each herbarium to provide images at best resolution possible and/or at the resolution that meets their needs.
  • That the Dublin Core Set of Attributes be used.

It was noted that .gif format is not supported anymore

ACTION 37: Develop prototype image bank as a distributed database ACTION: Jim Croft, Ben Richardson (September 2000)

ACTION 38: Members to view CSIRO Publishing's Image Bank on www.publish.csiro.au ACTION: All Members (June 2000)

ACTION 39: Post information on the Dublin Core to HISCOM-L ACTION: Alan Brooks (May 2000)

ACTION 40: Each herbarium with image scanning and image storage experience to post summary of knowledge on HISCOM-L. ACTION: All Members, Jim Croft (to coordinate)(June 2000)


To further the development of the VAH a number of funding sources are being pursued. One of these is a proposal to ABRS and Biotechnology Australia.

ACTION 41: To ensure that HISCOM has full ownership of the proposal for financial support to develop the VAH, the project plan will be developed on HISCOM-L.

Jim Croft (to coordinate)(May 2000)


With the decision of CSIRO not to support further development of the DELTA program, the future of DELTA is not clear. HISCOM members thought it appropriate to collate information on DELTA datasets completed to date.

ACTION 42: Ask ABRS if they hold a list of the DELTA datasets and report back to HISCOM-L Annette Wilson (Completed May 2000)[No lists of this sort kept by ABRS]

ACTION 43: Ask Terry MacFarlane if he has a list of the DELTA datasets on Australian flora and report back to HISCOM-L. ACTION: Nick Lander (May 2000)

ACTION 44: If no DELTA lists available, then prepare a list ACTION: Nick Lander (to coordinate)(August 2000)


CHAH have run a number of technical workshops for herbarium technicians that have been very successful. HISCOM members thought that a workshop on herbarium data and associated electronic tools would be useful.

ACTION 45: Develop proposal to hold a CHAH Herbarium Technicians Workshop on herbarium data and information management after each HISCOM meeting ACTION: Jim Croft (to develop proposal)(20 May 2000)

ACTION 46: Proposal to be sent to CHAH from HISCOM ACTION: Peter Neish (as Coordinator-elect)(30 May 2000)


  • VENUE: Melbourne
  • Time: 1st WEEK of MAY 2001 (not Monday)
  • COORDINATOR: Peter Neish
  • CHAH Representative: Nick Lander

Appendix 1 - HTML Formatting Notation Recognised in HISPID4

A Proposal

Barry Conn

Royal Botanic Gardens Mrs Macquaries Road Sydney NSW 2000, Australia barry@rbgsyd.gov.au


The HISPID3 transfer format does not specify formatting notation within the transfer file. As a general principle, it is recommended that formatting of text be minimised in the transfer file. However, to simplify the transfer of formatted data, it is here recommended that the following standard HTML formatting notation be used as the approved HISPID4 transfer standard:

  • <b> </b> [note: 'strong' is the preferred standard]
  • <em> </em>
  • <i> </i> [note: 'em' is the preferred standard]
  • <strong> </strong>
  • <u> </u>

The following could be used in special circumstances:

  • <a href > </a>
  • <font color=" "> </font>
  • <font [style]> </font>
  • <font size= " "> </font>

Appendix 2 - Presentation of Accession Data through the VAH

A Discussion Paper for HISCOM2000

Barry J. Conn

Royal Botanic Gardens, Mrs Macquaries Road Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia barry@rbgsyd.gov.au


This brief paper outlines the major issues for the State and Territory Herbaria when presenting accession data on the Virtual Australian Herbarium Internet site. In particular, this paper address ACTION 10 of the HISCOM99 Workshop, namely, "Develop discussion paper on the issues involved with making data available to external users via the VAH Internet site, with particular reference to the needs of each member herbarium"

The development of the VAH distributed database is an outstanding example of cooperation between the Australian National Herbarium (CANB); National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW), National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL), Queensland Herbarium (BRI), State Herbarium of South Australia (AD), and the Western Australian Herbarium (PERTH). This prototype database presents the electronically captured accession data of the genus Acacia, as held at each of the above herbaria, as point distribution information on a base map of Australia.


Some of the major issues that have arisen with the presentation of these data in the VAH include:

Lack of data-processed Acacia data

Although the lack of completely data-processed herbarium accessions does result in a reduced data set for mapping purposes, the combined dataset of the participating herbaria significantly reduces the inadequacy of the distributional information held by any individual organisation. However, the significant proportions of the accessions that have not been data-processed are expected to severely limit the usefulness of some parts of the data.

The solution to this problem include:

  • Increased number of accessions that have been data-processed;
  • Increased sharing of data between all herbaria, but particularly by those that have completely data-processed their accessions;
Geocode accuracy

The accuracy of the geocode information is frequently inadequate. Considerable checking of these data is required particularly when all taxa are available for presentation on the VAH. Unfortunately, replicate accessions are probably having the geocode information being checked/corrected several times by different organisations with

  • each organisation being unaware of these changes
  • no assurance of all replicates of an accession having the same geocode data

The solution to this problem must include:

  • The sharing of corrected geocode data
Plant Name Synonymy

Since different taxonomies are used by different herbaria, the VAH is currently not able to present complete distribution maps of certain taxa. This will prove to be a serious impediment for external users.

The solution to this problem must include:

  • A distributed Australian census of plant names, representing the State and Territory taxonomic concepts, that filters all plant name queries in the VAH
Maintenance and of Promotion of State and Territory Identities

The development of State- and Territory-based Internet sites is an integral part of marketing and promotion of these organisations within their respective regional spheres of influence. The integrity of these Internet sites must be maintained, even when part of a nationally distributed database like the VAH. A similar challenge is faced by these organisations as the integration of natural resource data within States or Territories are being promoted.

The solution to this problem must include:

  • Very clear recognition of all participants in the VAH, including any Internet sites that these organisations may wish/need to promote.
  • The ability to incorporate and satisfy all the custodial responsibilities of each organisational partner.
  • A recognition of the financial restraints of each organisational partner