The need for data standards in zoomorphology

Lars Vogt, Michael Nickel, Ronald A. Jenner, Andrew R. Deans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


eScience is a new approach to research that focuses on data mining and exploration rather than data generation or simulation. This new approach is arguably a driving force for scientific progress and requires data to be openly available, easily accessible via the Internet, and compatible with each other. eScience relies on modern standards for the reporting and documentation of data and metadata. Here, we suggest necessary components (i.e., content, concept, nomenclature, format) of such standards in the context of zoomorphology. We document the need for using data repositories to prevent data loss and how publication practice is currently changing, with the emergence of dynamic publications and the publication of digital datasets. Subsequently, we demonstrate that in zoomorphology the scientific record is still limited to published literature and that zoomorphological data are usually not accessible through data repositories. The underlying problem is that zoomorphology lacks the standards for data and metadata. As a consequence, zoomorphology cannot participate in eScience. We argue that the standardization of morphological data requires i) a standardized framework for terminologies for anatomy and ii) a formalized method of description that allows computer-parsable morphological data to be communicable, compatible, and comparable. The role of controlled vocabularies (e.g., ontologies) for developing respective terminologies and methods of description is discussed, especially in the context of data annotation and semantic enhancement of publications. Finally, we introduce the International Consortium for Zoomorphology Standards, a working group that is open to everyone and whose aim is to stimulate and synthesize dialog about standards. It is the Consortium's ultimate goal to assist the zoomorphology community in developing modern data and metadata standards, including anatomy ontologies, thereby facilitating the participation of zoomorphology in eScience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-808
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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