Database Design and Implementation

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PhyloInformatics 7: 1-66 - 2005

Relational Database Design and Implementation for Biodiversity Informatics
Paul J. Morris
The Academy of Natural Sciences 1900 Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103 USA
Received: 28 October 2004 - Accepted: 19 January 2005

The complexity of natural history collection information and similar information within the scope of biodiversity informatics poses significant challenges for effective long term stewardship of that information in electronic form. This paper discusses the principles of good relational database design, how to apply those principles in the practical implementation of databases, and examines how good database design is essential for long term stewardship of
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This is not to say that database design is not important. Good database design is vitally important for stewardship of biodiversity information. In the context of limited resources, good design includes a careful focus on what information is most important, allowing programming and database administration to best support that information. Database Life Cycle As natural history collections data have been captured from paper sources (such as century old handwritten ledgers) and have accumulated in electronic databases, the natural history museum community has observed that electronic data need much more upkeep than paper records (e.g. National Research Council, 2002 p.62-63). Every few years we find that we need to move our electronic data to some new database system. These migrations are

usually driven by changes imposed upon us by the rapidly changing landscape of operating systems and software. Maintaining a long obsolete computer running a long unsupported operating system as the only means we have to work with data that reside in a long unsupported database program with a custom front end written in a language that nobody writes code for anymore is not a desirable situation. Rewriting an entire collections database system from scratch every few years is also not a desirable situation. The computer science folks who think about databases have developed a conceptual approach to avoiding getting stuck in such unpleasant situations – the database life cycle
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