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The Conservation Commons

conservation_commons.gifCareful readers of today's NASA/IUCN post below may have noticed an interesting sentence in the pull-quote: NASA data will also be provided under the IUCN Conservation Commons Initiative on sharing environmental knowledge.

But what is the IUCN's Conservation Commons Initiative? The World Conservation Union site is unhelpful (search is broken, and there are no clear links to anything like this Initiative), so we turn to Google, which points us to a document at the ant biology information resource The AntBase: The Conservation Commons (PDF).

The Conservation Commons is [...] the expression of a collaborative effort to improve open access to, and unrestricted use of, data, information, and knowledge related to the conservation of biodiversity with the belief that this will contribute to improving conservation outcomes. At its simplest, it encourages organizations and individuals alike to place documents, data, and other information resources related to conservation in the public domain. [...] the Conservation Commons is an approach designed to improve the management of data, information, and knowledge related to conservation. [...] The Conservation Commons will support and strengthen conservation decision making and our ability to scientifically comprehend the complex integrity of nature through improved logical synthesis of these resources and technical “interoperability” between systems and databases.

The goal of the Conservation Commons is to build a database of "fair use" material specifically to "improve open access to, and unrestricted use of, data, information, and knowledge related to conservation of biodiversity." Organizations involved in the initiative include NGOs (such as the Nature Conservancy, WWF International, Conservation International), government-connected agencies (such as NASA, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences), and corporate entities (such as Chevron Texaco, Shell International Exploration & Production, Red Hat - Open Source Affairs). The initiative's principles are straightforward: Open Access; Mutual Benefit; and adherence to Rights and Responsibilities.

As it stands now, the Conservation Commons remains a proposal; the database and fair use information resources are not yet compiled, although some organizations are now offering their material under Conservation Commons terms of use. According to Open Access News, the proposal will be officially adopted by the IUCN on November 20, at the World Conservation Congress now underway in Bangkok.

Comments (3)


It's encouraging that petrochemical companies are involved. I would really like to see Big Pharma on board, though, in order for the Conservation Commons to succeed. And I wonder what iceberg is underneath the "Rights and Responsibilities" tip?

(Still, just knowing that there is something called 'AntBase' in the world cheers me up.)

Any of our database gurus out there doing work that could be purposed to the goals of the Conservation Commons?

Here is the full text of the principles of the Conservation Commons:

Principle 1 Open Access
The Conservation Commons promotes free and open access to data, information and knowledge for conservation purposes.

Principle 2 Mutual Benefit
The Conservation Commons welcomes and encourages participants to both use resources and to contribute data, information and knowledge.

Principle 3 Rights and Responsibilities
Contributors to the Conservation Commons have full right to attribution for any uses of their data, information, or knowledge, and the right to ensure that the original integrity of their contribution to the Commons is preserved. Users of the Conservation Commons are expected to comply, in good faith, with terms of uses specified by contributors and in accordance with these Principles.

The "Conservation Commons" initiative is just getting off the ground -- a resolution supporting the Cons Commons will be voted on at the World Conservation Congress here in Bangkok in the next 2-3 days but 40+ organizations have endorsed it and it is a continuation of other efforts. (SEE for ex http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june02/moritz/06moritz.html ) -- I'd be glad to have feedback or comments...

Tom Moritz
American Museum of Natural History


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