The DINA project develops an open-source Web-based information management system for natural history data. At the core of the system is support for assembling, managing and sharing data associated with natural history collections and their curation ("collection management"). Target collections include zoological, botanical, geological and paleontological collections, living collections, biodiversity inventories, observation records, and molecular data. DINA is primarily intended for large installations servicing the collection management needs of a country, a region, or a large institution.
DINA is developed by the DINA consortium, an unincorporated international partnership among organizations and individuals for collaborative open-source development. The DINA consortium was founded in 2014 by six natural history collection institutions in Europe and North America and is open to additional members as detailed below. The DINA acronym stands for "DIgital Information system for NAtural history data", and has its roots in a Swedish initiative to replace a heterogeneous collection of unsustainable in-house databases with a modern, web-based national collection management system.
Several DINA consortium partners now have hybrid collection management systems in production, which are largely based on Specify 6/7 but also include additional components developed within the DINA consortium. For instance, public interfaces to the system currently in production at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm include Naturarv ("Natural Heritage" - collection portal), Swedish DNA key (DNA barcode portal), and Naturforskaren ("The Naturalist" - species profile pages [in Swedish]; for an English version of the latter system (with very little content), see The Naturalist.
The development teams in the consortium are currently developing the next generation of the DINA system, DINA-Web, which will be a stand-alone, modular, fully web-based collection management system that is independent of Specify components. The first complete version of DINA-Web is slated for release in January 2018. Various DINA-Web components and APIs will be made available in test versions during the period leading up to the release of the full system. See the DINA Technical Committee page on this wiki and the DINA-Web github repository for additional information about DINA-Web development.
The current partners of the DINA consortium are:
- Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Stockholm, SE (Core Member, founding member)
- Tartu Natural History Museum, EE (Core Member, founding member)
- Statens Naturhistoriske museum, Copenhagen, DK (Core Member, founding member)
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Canada (Core Member, founding member)
- Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin, DE (Associate Member, founding member)
- Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh, UK (Associate Member, founding member)
Project structure and governance
The governance model of the DINA consortium is outlined in the DINA Memorandum of Cooperation, which can be downloaded from the link below. The consortium is led by an International Steering Committee (ISC). The consortium also has a permanent task force addressing technical DINA issues, the Technical Committee (TC). The ISC may appoint additional task forces, as needed.
There are two types of members in the DINA consortium: Core Members and Associate Members. Core Members commit staff resources to the project (1.0 full-time equivalent, half of which must be developer resources) and are voting members in the Technical Committee. The staff resources committed to the project must be put at the disposal of the TC. Associate Members participate as observers in the TC, but are not voting members. Both types of members are represented in the ISC. A member may switch status given sufficient notice; in particular, a Core Member will be expected to finish its current TC-assigned task(s) before becoming an Associate Member.
If you are interested in having your institution or project join the DINA consortium, please study the DINA Memorandum of Cooperation below and then contact one of the members of the DINA ISC.
DINA-Web architecture and design principles
DINA-Web is a modular collection management system based on a services-oriented architecture. The design is intended to facilitate collaborative open-source development of the core system components by IT teams in a distributed consortium of natural history collections institutions. The design is also intended to allow external teams and commercial providers to easily develop plug-and-play modules extending the functionality of the core DINA-Web system.
A modular design requires well-defined modules, each with a robust and well-documented API based on proven technology, and reliable information linking mechanisms extending across modules through persistent unique identifiers. The predecessor of DINA-Web, "DINA Light", relies to a large extent on the Specify system and its comprehensive data model. A significant task for the DINA team is to break this model up into smaller pieces, each of which can be handled within the context of a semi-autonomous DINA-Web module.
A major goal for the DINA consortium is to provide a coherent and consistent look-and-feel across the user interfaces provided for the different modules of DINA-Web and developed by different IT teams. The DINA consortium has chosen an eclectic approach, allowing participating teams to rely on the technologies with which they are most familiar. Integration across DINA-Web subsystems is obtained through the use of tools such as Docker, providing easy installation and upgrading of the complete DINA-Web system in production environments.
The DINA Technical Committee coordinates the work on DINA-Web design guidelines, module definitions and API specifications As different parts of the technical documentation are drafted, discussed and finalized, you will see them appear here together with links to the currently available DINA services, clients and modules (most of them still in prototype versions). The DINA code and various DINA documents are available from github.
Migrating to DINA
For most DINA consortium partners, migration to and implementation of DINA-Web includes an intermediate step involving Specify 6. Therefore, there is a substantial amount of experience in the DINA consortium on issues like installing Specify 6, running Specify 6 clients that connect remotely over the Web to a Specify database server, and migrating existing data to the Specify 6 data model. Some DINA partners are also planning to use Specify 7.
Because of the special role of Specify 6 at most DINA institutions, the DINA consortium is committed to providing an easy migration route from Specify 6 to the DINA-Web system. Thus, if you are not interested in running DINA Light but would like to prepare for a future shift to DINA-Web, it may be a good idea to adopt Specify 6 or Specify 7 as an intermediate step.
For more information on this, please contact one of the DINA consortium partners. You can also explore this site, which will provide some information on the migration activities at each of the participating DINA institutions, or you can contact the Specify team directly.