HISCOM Terms of Reference (2009 Draft)

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HISCOM has had responsibility for the technical development/leadership of our Virtual Herbarium (i.e., the AVH and now the NZVH). However the management and processes for delivering this (and potentially other) projects have been ad hoc.

We believe that it is desirable to match our commitments with terms of reference that specify how we will collaboratively manage HISCOM's general business and any ad hoc projects. We believe we should be adopting a minimal level of structure to ensure it is simple, efficient and effective.

This has arisen from discussions while Bill has been working at Lincoln, coinciding with Landcare implementing the NZVH. We have drafted the following TOR for all to consider.

A lot of what we are saying has been roughly followed in the past, but we believe that must maintain a strong focus on priorities. Implementation of the NZVH has also highlighted the need for some more structure in decision making, actions, responsibilities and meeting timelines to assist projects. We think this is an internal HISCOM responsibility, and doesn't require a lot of work - just recognition of roles/responsibilities in delivering timely outcomes.

This are really our initial thoughts for discussion... (don't get too hung up about the terminology - we're not!)

Aaron Wilton and Bill Barker 22 April 2009

HISCOM Terms of Reference

Vision [1999] “A widely accessible integrated Australasian flora information system.”


[Following the 1999 Strategic Plan] [Are all these still relevant?]

  • [NEW] Provide technical advice on information systems to CHAH and other bodies
  • Provision of a forum for Australian herbaria for the exchange of ideas
  • Setting cooperative directions for handling data and information
  • Promotion of the advantages of a cooperative approach to management of herbarium data and information
  • Continued development of data interchange standards
  • Promotion of sharing of expertise
  • Promotion of the free exchange of common and shared datasets
  • [NEW] Technical advice, leadership or review for ad hoc projects
  • [recommendations of policy positions to CHAH e.g., on LSID's/GBIF provision]

[we need a document in the wiki that captures all policy/strategic decisions so that we build on past decisions]


There is a need to distinguish between the regular business of HISCOM, and the management of specific projects for which it is responsible.

These TOR should be reviewed annualy as a standing agenda item.

Meetings and Communication

[Note: we think we need a balance between free discussion and focus on outcomes]

  • Meetings will be face to face or by telephone. There will be
    • Annual meeting
    • Quarterly meetings
    • ad hoc meetings as required by projects

Business may also be conducted by wiki and list server.

Minutes and Reporting
  • A minute taker (ideally from within HISCOM) will be arranged by the Chair prior to the meeting.
  • Emphasis of the minutes will be on the actions (who and by when) and recommendations to CHAH.
  • Minutes will be compiled on the wiki immediately.
  • The Chair, or nominated representative, may be required to report to CHAH on any HISCOM business
  • The status of an action should be indicated in the wiki, and updated at least a week prior to any meeting.
  • this should be prioritised by the CHAIR to maximise the use of available time.
    • CHAIR should review actions prior to the meeting and determine critical items. I.e., we do not need to review all actions from previous meetings
    • priority should be items that require discussion by all of HISCOM
    • any member may propose an item for discuss prior the meeting, or with the Chair agreement, during the meeting
      • the CHAIR may postpone discussion of an item to ensure that all prioritised business is addressed

Ad hoc Project Management

[We feel this is ineffective at the moment, although some people have performed these roles unofficially from time to time]

Once a project has been established with a specification

  • Project Sponsor = CHAH
  • Advisory Team = HISCOM
    • define high level specification and priorities
    • provide advice to Project Team and report to Sponsor
  • Iteration Manager [we need to give someone the mandate to lead the implementation. E.g., historically Greg took on this role to establish the data providers, Bill to implement the AVH/EWS website]
    • given authority by CHAH/HISCOM to manage or oversee the implementation of a defined set of tasks for a given period
    • may be responsible for: managing the tasks, actions
    • is contact point for any development work during that period.
    • maintains the specifications for the project
  • Technical manager [we need a better title, but HISCOM needs to take responsibility for technical infrastructure, and probably give this to one person to act in this capacity]
    • oversees coding standards, etc.


  • proposals for improvement, additions that fall outside the current iteration/specifications that may come from any member of HISCOM or project
    • presented to HISCOM for discussion [this needs to be timely!]
    • a decision making model[to be developed]