Biotics 5: Meet Your Network Technical Review Team
The next leg of the Biotics Roadmap kicked off in January, with the initiation of a Network Technical Review Team. These network representatives bring a wealth of experience and a range of user perspectives to the Biotics 5 development team, and they will play an indispensable role in prioritizing the functionality in the critical-path release and in shaping its design.
Technical Review Team Responsibilities
The Review Team met twice in February to review its objectives and responsibilities and to begin digging into details about the critical-path upgrade, such as separation of data components by maintenance responsibility. Team members will:
- Participate in recurring review meetings, scheduled every three weeks
- Respond to presented material, review documentation, and provide input and feedback
- Establish a review process within their program, across disciplines
- Serve as a liaison to IT and science concerns within their organization or agency
- Outreach with network colleagues to share what they are learning
How to Follow the Team’s Progress
Review Team meetings are posted on the Biotics SharePoint page. View the calendar to see the meeting schedule, and click on a calendar item to view the meeting agenda, review materials, and notes. Your feedback and comments are welcome anytime, and will be specifically requested at certain milestones during the development period.
Biotics para LAC
Biotics 4 is deployed in only a small number of CDCs within the LAC region, with the remaining member programs using either the previous generation NatureServe software (BCD) or their own alternative system. Challenges to adopting Biotics within the region have included funding, language, technical capacity, and lack of an active taxonomic data exchange. Biotics 5 provides an opportunity to overcome many of these challenges and to close this gap, with a more accessible web-based solution that supports a Spanish language interface.
At the annual Joint Member Management Meeting (J3M) in January, NatureServe staff and LAC Section Council Officers met to discuss future directions of Biotics and to identify ways in which LAC participation in the Network Technical Review Team can provide an opportunity to collaboratively advance LAC Strategic Plan objectives related to technology needs. We are fortunate to have the participation of CDC Guatemala in the Review Team process, led by Mercedes Barrios. As the Review Team activities progress in the coming months, we will support CDC Guatemala in establishing regular communication with other members of the LAC Section in order to share results of the Review Team activities and gather feedback. NatureServe is also working with CDC Guatemala to establish an LAC pilot for working with current tools such as Kestrel and future Biotics prototypes as they become available.
We are fortunate also to have participation from NatureServe’s volunteer staff, Alexandra Sanchez and Ana Luisa Gallardo, who are supporting LAC participation in the Review Team. With their invaluable help, we are preparing Review Team materials with Spanish translation and scheduling additional pre- and post-meetings with the CDC Guatemala staff to introduce new material in advance of Review Team meetings, answer questions, and encourage further discussion focusing on the LAC perspective. To facilitate their ability to participate and contribute to the Review Team process, several CDC Guatemala staff also participated in the 2011 Natural Heritage Methodology Training sessions via webinar.
Investing in the Network’s Future
The Biotics Roadmap enlists the NatureServe network members to invest in the long-term sustainability of the system by paying annual software-as-a-service fees of $15,000. We recognize that the annual fee increase will pose a significant challenge to some programs, especially in the current budget climate, and that it may take several years to gain budget approval within your institution. However, investments above the prevailing annual maintenance fee level by member programs starting as early as this fiscal year are encouraged and will be put to use now to continue our momentum on the Biotics Roadmap.
Software development activities underway this year are supported through a combination of NatureServe technology budget investments, member program annual Biotics fees, and Parks Canada investments in the Kestrel/Biotics platform improvements. The Roadmap timeline lays out phased software releases over a two-year period, peaking during FY12 and FY13 (July 2011–June 2013). Revenue projections during the same period target a combination of funding sources to achieve the peak staff capacity, including the proposed multi-state competitive state wildlife grant (SWG). Members of the Network Technical Review Team have committed to contribute in-kind labor equivalent to approximately one full-time position (collectively), which will provide part of the required SWG match. The largest source of revenue during the peak development period and beyond is projected to come from member program investments. Total member investments are projected to increase during the peak period, as more programs adopt the new fee structure. Long-term sustainability is achieved by FY14 based on 55 programs averaging $15,000 per year.
We are working one-on-one with member programs to determine their ability to pay annual Biotics service fees at the increased level, starting as early as the current fiscal year. We encourage program coordinators who are successful in securing the new fees in their annual budgets to share their stories with us and others in the network.
The next milestone on the Biotics Roadmap is a workshop scheduled for Monday, May 9, at Biodiversity Without Boundaries 2011 at the Lied Lodge in Nebraska. NatureServe and Network Technical Review Team members will demonstrate a working prototype of the next-generation Biotics system and engage workshop participants in discussion to solicit reactions, document feedback, and guide ongoing development activities. During the coming months we will also distribute one or more “readiness” surveys to assist with the transition to Biotics 5. Your survey responses will provide valuable input to the development team on questions ranging from performance considerations (e.g., Internet connection speeds) to database customizations (e.g. extensible tables).