Biodiversity Information Science and Standards : Conference Abstract
Conference Abstract
Assessment of Annotation Needs of Botanists
expand article infoWilliam Ulate, M. Marcela Mora
‡ Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, United States of America
Open Access


Annotation (i.e., making comments on a resource) is an important part of the vision for the Semantic Web as defined by the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Its goal is to make Internet-published information and data, machine-readable to better utilize it. Despite the important role that annotation plays in the Semantic Web, many cultural heritage institutions have been slow to adopt it. The access to open historical biological literature hosted in digital libraries, like the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), has improved the efficiency of biodiversity research, especially in the taxonomic field. This amount of information has even greater potential for research if annotation capabilities are incorporated within those legacy digital repositories. As part of the project Consumers as Creators, developed by the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) with partners at Saint Louis University (SLU), the Web annotation needs of the botanical community were analyzed. Likewise, the practicality of using existing annotation tools to satisfy this community’s particular needs was assessed, including technical and operational considerations. To do so, 15 users of a botanical virtual library from five institutions were interviewed. Their answers were analyzed and classified taking into account the user role and purpose. Desirable functionalities of annotation software were classified into three orders of priority (Must, Should, and Could). Subsequently, six open-source annotation tools were evaluated (i.e. Digilib,, Pundit Annotator Pro, Recogito, rerum, and VGG Annotator) to explore if they fulfilled the annotation needs of botanists. The selected annotation tools were installed (when necessary), assessed based on different functional aspects, and their advantages and disadvantages were identified. Finally, a proof-of-concept prototype was developed to exemplify how those needs could be met within a digital library platform. Botanicus, a free portal to historic botanical literature from the Peter H. Raven Library at MOBOT, and rerum, functioning as a repository of annotations, were used to explore the implementation of a minimal subset of these requirements. A summary of the results of the assessment, the lessons learned and some of the best practices recommended are presented.


digital library, biodiversity information, semantic web, software requirements, analysis, prioritization, use cases

Presenting author

William Ulate

Presented at

TDWG 2020


The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable contribution and guidance from colleagues at the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Digital Humanities, particularly Patrick Cuba, Donal Hegarty and Thomas Finan, as well as the collaboration of Doug Holland, Director at the Peter H. Raven Library at MOBOT. The initial phase of this work was lead by Trish Rose-Sandler, as former Principal Investigator and Data Manager at the Center for Biodiversity Informatics, IT Division, MOBOT.

Funding program

The project Consumers as Creators Understanding the annotation needs of the scientific community through the domain of botany, developed by the Center of Biodiversity Informatics at the IT Division of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) with partners at the Walter J. Ong, S.J. Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) at Saint Louis University (SLU) was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. (LG-87-18-0057-18).

Grant title

National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Hosting institution

Missouri Botanical Garden