IBOL Targets and Milestones Review

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This is a report on a review of iBOL targets and milestones at the project’s mid-point. The review was carried out in consultation with the iBOL Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) and over 65 other iBOL participants and other DNA barcoding stakeholders. Acknowledging that this review is based on information provided by a cross-section of global DNA barcoding stakeholders at a single point in time, and cannot therefore be viewed as comprehensive, the key findings and recommendations are summarized as follows:


  • The DNA barcoding stakeholders consulted in this review affirm iBOL’s goals (i.e. to build a global accessible library of DNA barcodes for eukaryotes and promote applications for science and society), but also raise concerns and note conditions for success. These include concerns about the tension between data quality and quantity.
  • As part of iBOL’s numerical targets, approximately 1 million specimens will need to be barcoded to support applications. There is a higher quality requirement for these specimens, particularly in relation to how well they are identified.
  • The extent to which these 1 million specimens overlap with the growing DNA barcode reference library is unknown. What is the identity of these specimens? If and when the numerical target of 5 million specimens is reached, will it include them? If not, the success of iBOL’s Goal B – the promotion of applications of DNA barcode data fro science and society – is potentially at risk.
  • The combined, planned efforts of the DNA barcoding stakeholders consulted for this review will result in the barcoding of approximately 4 million preserved specimens and 2.8 million newly collected specimens. Well over 200,000 additional preserved specimens and approximately 1 million additional newly collected specimens could (and would) be made available for DNA barcoding at an external sequencing facility, if funding to support that sequencing could be identified. Thus the provision of specimens is unlikely to be a rate-limiting factor in meeting iBOL’s numerical targets.
  • The sequencing infrastructures of the existing DNA-barcoding facilities are sufficient to meet iBOL’s goals – both the numerical targets and in terms of supporting applications – but these infrastructures are not operating at full capacity. Funding is the limiting factor.


  • Subsequent to this review, a more in-depth follow-up activity should be undertaken to generate the information and tools needed to establish a stronger and more deliberate connection between iBOL’s goals and the specimen-to-barcode supply chain. This “matchmaking service” should enable the use of wish-lists of species needed to support applications to identify sources of priority specimens. The development of such a service – which would need to be done at the level of species names – is well beyond the scope of this review. It will require contracting a bioinformatics-savvy postdoctoral level research assistant for perhaps 6-12 months, full-time, to create databases on both ‘goals’ and ‘supply chain’ sides, and a tool to match them.
  • To use this matchmaking service in support of iBOLs goals, a rigorous and transparent mechanism will need to be put into place to facilitate the movement of priority specimens identified through the service through the specimen-to-barcode supply chain, and to promote and ensure the higher standard of quality required for specimens that support applications.
  • Barcoding stakeholders who participated in this review affirm that an important iBOL priority is broad phylogenetic coverage across eukaryotic life. Thus, in terms of the definition of targets and milestones under the SSC’s Theme 1 in support of iBOL’s Goal A, this review recommends the establishment of a a new “breadth target” on top of existing numerical targets for each Working Group.
  • Finally, this review recommends that iBOL explore opportunities for securing funding to support the full utilization of existing but dormant sequencing infrastructures for DNA barcoding. The establishment of a “matchmaking service” as recommended above will support and inform any funding proposals that might emerge from this review.

Contact: mark.stoeckle@rockefeller.edu

About this site

This web site is an outgrowth of the Taxonomy, DNA, and Barcode of Life meeting held at Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, September 9-12, 2003. It is designed and managed by Mark Stoeckle, Perrin Meyer, and Jason Yung at the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University.

About the Program for the Human Environment

The involvement of the Program for the Human Environment in DNA barcoding dates to Jesse Ausubel's attendance in February 2002 at a conference in Nova Scotia organized by the Canadian Center for Marine Biodiversity. At the conference, Paul Hebert presented for the first time his concept of large-scale DNA barcoding for species identification. Impressed by the potential for this technology to address difficult challenges in the Census of Marine Life, Jesse agreed with Paul on encouraging a conference to explore the contribution taxonomy and DNA could make to the Census as well as other large-scale terrestrial efforts. In his capacity as a Program Director of the Sloan Foundation, Jesse turned to the Banbury Conference Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, whose leader Jan Witkowski prepared a strong proposal to explore both the scientific reliability of barcoding and the processes that might bring it to broad application. Concurrently, PHE researcher Mark Stoeckle began to work with the Hebert lab on analytic studies of barcoding in birds. Our involvement in barcoding now takes 3 forms: assisting the organizational development of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life and the Barcode of Life Initiative; contributing to the scientific development of the field, especially by studies in birds, and contributing to public understanding of the science and technology of barcoding and its applications through improved visualization techniques and preparation of brochures and other broadly accessible means, including this website. While the Sloan Foundation continues to support CBOL through a grant to the Smithsonian Institution, it does not provide financial support for barcoding research itself or support to the PHE for its research in this field.