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Dr. Richard J. White trained as a biologist and has been employed for 22 years with a dual role in biological computer applications research and support for projects. His research activities have been mainly in collaborative projects and centre on the design of databases to contain or provide access to biological information, organised by taxa, and focussing on methods for exchanging data between, merging or linking databases with differing structures, most recently on the World-wide Web. This area requires constant attention to the relationships between structure and function, with the appropriate practical compromises between data integrity, software complexity, user needs, and so on. This background is ideal for the proposed purpose of assembling existing database solutions and developing strategies for integrating them in the future.
His early work on relational database design led to the implementation of a software suite ("Alice") by the Alice Software Partnership, an SME with whom he continues to collaborate. Alice is widely used in the management of species databases. With Dr Frank Bisby, White was closely involved in the development of the pioneer Vicieae Database in the early 1980's, leading to his association with the ILDIS project, of which he is a director.
In a collaborative project between ILDIS and Chapman & Hall, Publishers, London, White designed the data structure for the Phytochemical Module of the ILDIS database and supervised its creation. It was completed with the publication in 1994 of a two-volume Phytochemical Dictionary of the Leguminosae, the first volume (1050 pages) being generated from the database using retrieval and report formatting software designed and implemented by White and by an assistant under his supervision. He recently implemented software to support a copy of the ILDIS database on the World-wide Web as the experimental ILDIS LegumeWeb service and to link it to the Species 2000 Common Access System, in which a single global index to all organisms is being developed by a Technical Group led by White.
In addition to some database design work for IOPI, he is starting work in three new collaborative projects in 1998: BioCISE, the EU-funded EOLIS project, to assemble a checklist of marine species of Europe, and LITCHI, funded by the UK research councils BBSRC and EPSRC, which will develop models for detecting taxonomic conflicts between checklists and algorithms for merging and linking species databases.
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