A large amount of data is collected each year in the subprojects of the Biodiversity Exploratories (BE), reflecting the broad spectrum of scientific questions. It is essential to store these data centrally to ensure easy, fair and reproducible data sharing between the researchers. 

It is also crucial that these data are not lost and are available for future generations of researchers within the BE and as well as external projects. Long-time series are for many questions in biodiversity research of great interest.

To ensure this, the data management project, as one of the central infrastructure projects, has accompanied the BE from the beginning. It is located at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.
It is the first contact point for all aspects of research data management for all BE participants, other researchers, and the interested public.

We achieve the main goals described above regarding the storage and exchange of the research data with a web application called BExIS. Below you will find sections with additional information on this. 

We support researchers in using BExIS and in all data management issues. We offer help in uploading data into BExIS and ensure high data quality (data curation). Last but not least, we advise and support researchers in publishing their data.

In addition to the research data support, we promote the exchange of important documents and publications in the overall project and offer software tools for querying basic data, such as climate data. Furthermore, we support the researchers by providing important information and tools for planning and conducting fieldwork in BExIS. These aspects are shown in the following figure and explained in more detail in the ‘Functionalities of BExIS section’.

Figure 1: Overview of the overall tasks of the core project Central Data Management.
Data management is one of the main aspects of the project. It includes various requirements and tasks related to the datasets that are first available internally and extends them to the datasets that are subsequently available publicly. Functionalities of BExIS mainly ensures the realisation. Other software solutions provide resources and functionalities in addition to research data management. They support coordination, improve resource sharing, and foster collaboration. These are programmed as modules in BExIS2 and extend the data management system to an information system. The third task area is to support BE members in the use of BExIS and general data issues. This increases the acceptance of data management systems, facilitates the exchange of high-quality data, and helps to mobilise data.

BExIS is the abbreviation of our information system name ‘Biodiversity Exploratories Information System’. Initially, the software was developed and continuously extended in the BE project since 2007 (BExIS, 1st generation). Other research projects also showed interest in such an application. But it was not easy to set up BExIS for other projects, as it was developed for the demands of the BE. Hence, a DFG project was initiated in 2012 with the participation of our team. The goal was to develop a modular data management system for ecological data that can be easily adapted to the needs of different projects. 

The new software was named BEXIS2 and is a freely available, server-based research data management application. It is designed to support the entire data life cycle and is highly configurable. Among other things, it supports the use of different metadata schemas, access to different versions of the data, predefinition of variables, rights assignment with an integrated release request and release management for datasets, search configuration, and DOI assignment. 

Please visit the websites of BExIS and BEXIS2 if you are interested in the development of the platform.

In February, the BE project started to use the BExIS2 software. However the name ‘BExIS’ continues to stand for the BE’s information system. Since the BExIS2 software is modular, we extended it with our BE-specific functionalities (see section ‘Functionalities of BExIS’) and made them available to other projects using BEXIS2.

For the current phase, various work packages have been proposed to guarantee the day-to-day operation of the research database and data management in general. The secure storage of high-quality data in a sustainable data management system requires the management of the research data and the support of the users, maintenance of the technology and software, and the further development of BEXIS2. It also includes tasks related to the publication of the datasets.

In addition, some newer aspects are included. Firstly, after the move to BEXIS2, some necessary adjustments to the system are required. In addition, access to the data is to be improved through a better search and by supporting additional data formats (spatial data, sound data, genetic data). 

Another task is the development of an environment in BEXIS2 to support the curation of datasets. This should support researchers and data management team members to achieve a very high data quality.

An additional point for potential innovation is to explore software-related communication options to reach various stakeholders from non-scientific fields.

BEXIS2 mainly provides functions for handling data and managing the registered persons. An overview can be found here.

In addition, we develop special functions tailored to the needs of the BE (see goals). Since we also follow the modular approach during programming, these modules are usable by other projects. Here is an overview of these components:

Resource booking system

With this system, resources can be self-defined and administered in a calendar. We use it for the booking in the field stations of the study regions. The researchers can reserve sleeping places and equipment available in the stations. Furthermore, it shows planned work and affected areas .

Document upload system

This module is used to create web pages to manage documents in BEXIS2. On these pages, important and cross-project-related documents can be shared centrally. It is adjustable who can see the page and its files, who can upload files and also delete them again.

Event registration system

The system allows the management of registrations for own events. Details such as the required information for the events and the registration period can be configured individually. Participants receive an email after registration and can customize it later.

Photo gallery

Many photos are taken during fieldwork and events by the several projects. The photo gallery is a central place to store these photos and make them available to other researchers. The images are displayed in a preview and can be filtered by keywords. You can put pictures into a shopping cart to order them afterward.

Graphical research area management

With this system, it is possible to draw maps of the study areas using simple graphical shapes, such as circles, squares, and lines. These maps assist researchers in planning the various studies. It also documents all previous investigations.

Climate data embedding system

The data from the climate stations are managed in a separate application. With this module, the application is integrated seamlessly in BEXIS2.

Calculation of an important parameter of land-use

The so-called LUI (land-use intensity index) is a parameter that describes the management intensity of grassland. The calculation is based on different parameters of grassland management. With the help of this application, researchers can calculate the LUI specifically for the current question by selecting relevant years and areas.

Central data management

Central Data Management BExIS
Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena
Dept of Mathematics and Computer Science
Leutragraben 1, Jentower
07743 Jena

Prof. Dr. Birgitta König-Ries
Prof. Dr. Birgitta König-Ries
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Project leader, core project Central Data Management
Andreas Ostrowski
Andreas Ostrowski
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Data manager
Dr. Cornelia Fürstenau
Dr. Cornelia Fürstenau
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Data curator
Eleonora Petzold
Eleonora Petzold
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Research software developer
Franziska Zander
Franziska Zander
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Research software developer