Terms of Reference (pre 2014)

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The Herbarium Information Systems Committee (HISCOM) provides technical advice on information management for Australasian herbaria. HISCOM is responsible for the technical development of the Virtual Herbarium (including Australia's Virtual Herbarium and the New Zealand Virtual Herbarium) and promotes the application and development of new information processing technologies in herbarium management, botanical research, data curation and information delivery.

HISCOM reports to the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH). The following terms of reference describe the purpose, structure and governance of HISCOM and provide guidelines for the management of HISCOM business.

These Terms of Reference will be reviewed annually by HISCOM and CHAH.


A robust, integrated and interactive information system that provides access to comprehensive and authoritative information about the flora of Australasia.


The purpose of HISCOM is to:

  • promote the free exchange of herbarium data
  • develop and promote data interchange standards
  • provide technical advice on botanical information systems to CHAH and other bodies
  • provide technical advice about project management and resource requirements to CHAH and other bodies as agreed
  • exchange ideas and expertise relating to an integrated Australasian flora information system
  • build manage and maintain open and integrated botanical information systems
  • develop and implement new biodiversity information management technologies.


Membership of HISCOM is open to anyone within the Australasian herbarium and botanical research communities who has time and expertise to contribute to HISCOM activities. The chair of HISCOM is a representative of CHAH.

At its core, the major Australian Commonwealth, state and territory and New Zealand herbaria are represented on HISCOM by at least one staff member from each of actively involved in herbarium information management. Australian and New Zealand university herbaria are represented by as many staff as are able to attend and contribute. Other institutions involved in botanical information management are also represented. These institutions include the Australian Biological Resources Study and the Atlas of Living Australia.

Members of HISCOM subscribe to the HISCOM e-mail list. Membership of the HISCOM e-mail list is granted by request, approved by the HISCOM Chair. The HISCOM e-mail list will be reviewed at the annual HISCOM meeting.


The Chair of HISCOM will be a member of CHAH, and will be decided in consultation with HISCOM.

The HISCOM Chair is responsible for:

  • convening meetings
  • collating meeting agendas
  • liaising between HISCOM and CHAH.

Project managers will be appointed to manage the Virtual Herbarium and ad hoc projects. CHAH participants will support project managers in their roles and will ensure they have adequate time and resources to fulfil the requirements of those roles.

Where resources permit, project managers will come from within HISCOM, but it might at times be necessary or desirable to engage outside expertise.


A member of HISCOM will be appointed to coordinate the development of the Virtual Herbarium and other projects, and to ensure that work progresses as planned.

The Coordinator is responsible for:

  • ensuring that projects are communicating and interacting with each other
  • ensuring that projects are acting consistently with other non-HISCOM projects
  • communicating progress of projects to other HISCOM members.

If the Coordinator is not available for an extended period, another HISCOM member will be nominated to cover this role.

Project managers

Once a HISCOM project has been established, a project manager will be appointed to oversee the implementation of the project tasks. CHAH will act as the sponsor for projects, and HISCOM will act as an advisory group.

CHAH is responsible for:

  • approving and endorsing projects
  • resourcing projects
  • engaging contractors as required
  • defining the high level specification and priorities of the project in consultation with HISCOM.

HISCOM is responsible for:

  • identifying projects
  • providing and reviewing project specifications
  • undertaking project work as required
  • providing input on decision-making.

The project manager is responsible for:

  • prioritising and scheduling projects
  • ensuring that the project remains on schedule
  • managing project tasks and actions
  • providing advice to the project team
  • reporting to the project sponsor
  • engaging subcontractors as required.

Meetings and communication

HISCOM business will be conducted via the HISCOM wiki and e-mail list, via regular meetings and teleconferences, or in project workshops. At minimum, HISCOM will communicate via:

  • an annual two-day meeting of HISCOM members and invited guests
  • a one-day meeting with CHAH following the annual HISCOM meeting
  • two teleconferences each year.

Where possible, HISCOM and the Faunal Collections Information Group (FCIG), and HISCOM and the Managers of Australian Herbarium Collections (MAHC), will have reciprocal representation at each other's annual meetings. Generally, the local member/s will represent HISCOM at these meetings. Other representatives may attend if there are particular items to be considered.

Minutes and reporting

A minute taker will be arranged by the Chair prior to the meeting. Minutes will be compiled on the HISCOM wiki during the meeting, and updated by HISCOM representatives during and after the meeting as necessary. The emphasis of the minutes will be on actions for HISCOM and recommendations to CHAH. Once minutes are ratified, they will be converted to a non-editable form and published on the HISCOM wiki. The status of an action should be indicated on the HISCOM wiki, and updated at least two weeks prior to any meeting.

The HISCOM Chair or a nominated representative will report to CHAH on outcomes of HISCOM meetings and any other HISCOM business. The HISCOM Chair will report back to HISCOM on CHAH's response to recommendations arising from the annual HISCOM meeting and other CHAH input to HISCOM activity.


The HISCOM Chair reviews the minutes of the previous meeting and determines which items need to be reviewed. Any HISCOM member may propose new items for discussion. The agenda should be finalised at least two weeks prior to meetings to allow participants adequate time to prepare. The Chair will prioritise agenda items to optimise the use of available time. The Chair may postpone discussion of an item to ensure that all prioritised business is addressed.

Project proposal and modification

HISCOM projects should involve data management within and between two or more herbaria; HISCOM projects should preferably be applicable to all or most participating herbaria.

Any member of HISCOM may propose a new HISCOM project or subproject. Proposals for project improvement or enhancement that fall outside current iteration or specifications of an existing project may come from any member of HISCOM or HISCOM project. Proposals involving new work or changes in direction should be presented to HISCOM for consideration, and ratified by CHAH.

Proposals should be submitted and circulated to the HISCOM e-mail list well in advance to allow adequate time for consideration and discussion.

Appropriate resources need to be determined

Decision making

HISCOM decision making is by negotiation, mutual agreement, compromise or bitter resignation.

HISCOM is not able to compel participants to manage data in in particular way. HISCOM acknowledges that each institution will have local organisational, operational and technological constraints. Majority practice is a guiding principle for development and acceptance of standards.

Where agreement cannot be reached, the matter is referred to CHAH. When agreement is reached, HISCOM participants will use best endeavours to implement the decisions, following appropriate celebrations.

Conflict resolution

Where matters of unresolvable technical or operational conflict arise within HISCOM, the matter will be referred to CHAH for resolution.