The International Consortium for Zoomorphology Standards (herein called "ICZS") is a not-for-profit, scientific and educational association formed to establish international collaboration among the creators, managers and users of morphological information about Metazoa (i.e. multicellular animals).
develops, adopts and promotes standards and guidelines for the recording and exchange of morphological data about multicellular animals;
promotes the use of its standards through the most appropriate and effective means;
acts as a forum for the discussion of zoomorphology standards related topics by organizing symposia in meetings and through the ICZS web site that provides a collaborative infrastructure that effectively supports standards development;
undertakes any other activities that are judged useful to the organization.
Central to the general organization of ICZS is the clear distinction between data, metadata and 'raw data' and the recognition of four fundamental aspects required by any modern data standard, i.e. content, nomenclatural, concept and format standards. This basic conceptual framework is reflected in many ways in the overall organization of ICZS.
Talks given at the Inaugural meeting of the ICZS22.06.2011
at the second Meeting of the International Society for Invertebrate Morphology at Harvard, MA USA
- Vogt, L.: Data and metadata standards in zoomorphology: a call to action
- Jenner, R.: Remedying rampant imprecision: the importance ofstandardizing morphological descriptions for metazoan phylogenetics
- Deans, R. A.: Changing the way we describe biodiversity
- Nickel, M.: Data and metadata standards in zoomorphology — a report on the initiative's activities so far
Minutes of the Round Table on Data and Metadata standards in Zoomorphology22.06.2011
Thomas Bartolomaeus, Andy Deans, Ron Jenner, Michael Nickel. Chair: Lars Vogt.
Discussion on the contents of the talks by Vogt, Jenner, Deans:
- Audience 1 introduces question by pointing to the long historical tradition of the term 'homology' and its original meaning coined by Owen as "the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function". Then Audience 1 questions the view that anatomical terms are homology-free and argues that we always hypothesize (on homology) when naming structures;
- Ron Jenner agrees but considers this issue a semantic debate about structural similarity;
- Audience 2 disagrees that morphological terms necessarily represent homology hypotheses and favors the view that terms should be defined homology-free;
- Audience thinks that this discussion primarily requires a definition for homology;
- Ron Jenner replies that the diagnosis or recognition of homology is based on similarity;
- Lars Vogt argues that the use of homology-based terms take away the basis/reason for distinguishing between convergence (homoplasy) and homology;
- Audience 3 argues that troubles with homology-based terms in character conceptualizations can be avoided when descriptions show a maximum of preciseness, which is achieved when morphological complexity is reduced to its simplest components;
- Thomas Bartolomaeus argues that homology-based terms must be avoided as they already imply an assumption on common ancestry;
- Audience 1 replies that common ancestry is not implied by the term homology as defined by Owen but merely represents an explanation for similarity;
- Audience asks: What are the top level definitions of terms (e.g. Antennae) and do they include methods for observation?
- Lars Vogt replies that one has to distinguish between (theoretical) structural or purely anatomical definitions of terms, which are independent of the method and techniques used during observation, and recognition criteria (operational definitions), which provide method dependent criteria for recognizing a specific structure (e.g. color of cell nucleus when using a specific staining chemical);
- Audience 2 argues that homology-free terms have the practical advantage that new phylogenetic insights enforce no changes to the name of structures;
- Audience asks how data sets can be build up upon this problem;
- Lars Vogt replies that any attempt to communicate evidence for a specific homology hypothesis requires hypothesis-free descriptions of the respective structures;
- Andy Deans argues that we can have multiple different concepts for a term like "coelom" as long as the terms are explicitly referenced and documented. He considers the view as unrealistic that entomologists stop using the term "wing" for insects because the same term is also used for birds;
- Audience 4 argues that morphologists are used to the convention that in manuscripts the use of a specific term requires explaining the term;
- Michael Nickel argues that the main aim is to make descriptions computer-readable, even if this requires accepting different opinions. Everyone should be able to contribute own definitions to an online database;
- Audience 3 argues that we need to agree on terms and to reduce character conceptualizations to structures that can unambiguously be homologized ("spiral cleavage" as an example for inappropriate character formulation). Absent coded characters are not homologous.
- Ron Jenner replies that such approach causes a tremendous increase in the number of character states to be described (35 phyla may show 33 states for a particular character);
- Lars Vogt considers as main aim that morphological data are made available in a manner that allows non-morphologists to make use of them; morphology is not only about evolution, other (scientists) may only require the descriptive data of morphological structures, without consideration of their underlying putative homology relations.
- Ron Jenner asks the audience for their opinion on whether or not this standardization initiative in zoomorphology is really necessary - those, who disagree with the major goals of this initiative should please come forward and articulate their opinion because the initiative will only be successful if it is supported by the majority of the community;
- Andy Deans prompts to think about data apart from anatomy, which forms only a piece of a larger concept;
- Matthias Starck invites the speakers to contribute articles to a new section of the Journal of Morphology on "Perspectives" and admits that he as the editor of Journal of Morphology cannot push forward present attempts on standardizations and that he does not want the journal to be utilized in some way or the other;
- Audience 5 asks for more information on practical implications, e.g. mandatory deposit of data in online-databases;
- Ron Jenner replies (to M. Starck) that to maximize efficiency general willingness must be increased, but he sees no way of enforcement at the present stage of the project. People need to agree on a common set of standards;
- Lars Vogt replies that the only way to go is to make suggestions to the community and that standardization is a slowly evolving progress. The way to go is: We have an idea (i.e. the initiative) and we must now await whether the community follows. He points out that besides data we also have metadata, for example: what kind of metadata must accompany SEM images?
- Audience 2 asks Andy Deans for his experiences with his Hymenoptera Anatomy Ontology-project; Andy replies that his experiences are positive, the project being slowly growing, presently they implement a module to allow the annotation of free texts by the use of ontologies. The first publications are about to be coming out;
- Ron Jenner adds to Lars Vogt’s and Matthias Starck’s replies that enforcing scientists to make scale bars on images is not a great task;
- Ron Jenner asks the audience (again) whether anyone is fatally skeptical about the intended standardization attempts. There was no objection from the audience;
- Ron Jenner furthermore considers the problem of understanding the available literature; ideally all terms need to be brought into form;
- Lars Vogt finishes the discussion with the conclusion that if definitions of terms are exclusively based on intrinsic structural properties and do not include homology assumptions, they will nevertheless often refer to structures that are homologous, but not necessarily so.
Discussion concerning the consortium's organization:
- Audience 3 worries about the retrieval of national funding. It should be made clear how different disciplines will be pushed forward by the standards;
- Audience 1 agrees that the question on funding is a tricky one; she remarks that in the US (i.e. the NSF) no funds are provided for projects that solely aim to erect data archives; main criterion is how intended projects push ahead different fields;
- Audience considers similar problems in the EU;
- Lars Vogt argues that the situation is different at least in Germany; the German Research Foundation supports data repositories;
- Audience suggests to include palaeontologists into the project;
- Lars Vogt considers this a good idea; in general the whole system is intended to be very open – presently, the main question is, which structure is required to enable this openness for the consortium;
- Audience 4 suggests to use the International Society for Invertebrate Morphology together with the International Society for Vertebrate Morphology as platforms; he is concerned about feedback mechanisms, which he considers to be still too diffuse;
- Audience 6 wonders on how the steering committee is set up;
- Michael Nickel replies that a more formalized way to organize the steering committee is to be realized in the next years,
- Audience wonders about the "ultimate product" of establishing a consortium on data and metadata standardization; Michael Nickel replies with a reference to his presentation;
- Lars Vogt asks the editors of Journal of Morphology (Matthias Starck) and Zoomorphology (Thomas Bartolomaeus) whether their journals are interested in publishing suggestions for method/data dependent metadata standards like minimum information checklists;
- Matthias Starck and Thomas Bartolmaues consider such contributions as inappropriate for their journals and recommend using an online-platform instead;
- Lars Vogt mentions that time resources of researchers are limited, there should be publications possible by major journals (e.g. Journal of Morphology). He asks the audience whether it considers the project as worth to be supported; upon common agreement he suggests to erect a preliminary steering committee, composed of Thomas Bartolomaeus, Andy Deans, Greg Edgecombe, Gonzalo Giribet, Maureen O'Leary, Stefan Richter, Greg Rouse, Lars Vogt.
General ICZS Organization
The ICZS Organization is currently under discussion and needs your input and comments.
Comments can be posted in the Discussion Forum.
ICZS is organized into several main levels, listed below. The different levels communicate with each other and the public through this web site.
Executive Board: ICZS is governed by an Executive Board consisting of the officers elected by the membership as defined by Article 5 of the Constitution of ICZS and one Convenor from each Interest Group. Up to two additional individuals can be appointed to the Executive Board by the officers, who hold office for a period not exceeding three years. These additional individuals do not necessarily have to be members of ICZS.
Editorial and Advisory Board: organizes evaluations of proposals and provides independent advice from standards experts who are not member of ICZS or in any other way involved with activities organized by ICZS.
General Discussion Forum: provides a communication platform for all members of ICZS as well as all who are interested in the activities of ICZS. It should be restricted to the discussion of very general topics of interest, as for instance possible changes to the constitution or the overall organization of ICZS. The General Discussion Forum is also used for the communication of announcements and notifications from the Executive Board.
Groups: Interest Groups with and without associated Task Groups: Groups take in a central position within ICZS. Members (and non-members) organize themselves in groups in order to discuss specific topics relating to standards in zoomorphology (i.e. Interest Group) and in order to collaboratively develop specific standards (i.e. Task Group).
The ICZS Constitution is currently under discussion and needs your input and comments.
Comments can be posted in the Discussion Forum.
Preliminary Steering Commitee
The Steering Comittee will be replaced by an elected Executive Board after ICZS Constitution and Organisation has been approved.
- Thomas Bartolomaeus
- Institut für Evolutionsbiologie und Ökologie, Universität Bonn, Germany
- Andy Deans
- Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, NC, USA
- Greg Edgecombe
- Palaeontology Department, Natural History Museum, London, GB
- Gonzalo Giribet
- Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
- Maureen O'Leary
- Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University NY, USA
- Stefan Richter
- Allgemeine und Spezielle Zoologie, Universität Rostock, Germany
- Greg Rouse
- Marine Invertebrate Phylogentics Lab, UC San Diego CA, USA
- Lars Vogt
- Institut für Evolutionsbiologie und Ökologie, Universität Bonn, Germany
ICZS Documents & Forms
... Under construction ...
ICZS Defined Processes
ICZS has established a set of Defined Processes that provide standards for various processes within ICZS.