Task or Interest Group?

Image by Alex Guillaume

The difference between Interest Groups and Task Groups

The TDWG by-laws describe two kinds of working groups: Interest Groups and Task Groups. The fundamental difference between these two kinds of groups is that an Interest Group is ongoing and continues to exist until there is no longer sufficient interest in the group’s topic of interest, while a Task Group only continues to exist until its designated task is completed.

Vocabulary Maintenance Groups are a special type of Interest Group described by the TDWG Vocabulary Maintenance Specification. They have only one purpose: to maintain one or more vocabulary standards. Unlike a regular interest group, they must continue as long as the vocabularies they maintain remain in use. If the convener of a Vocabulary Maintenance Group does not keep the group going, the Executive Committee must replace them.

Who can start an Interest Group?

Anyone can start an Interest Group by organizing a group of interested people and writing a charter. The Interest Group may be formed with the specific purpose of developing standards, or simply to allow for like-minded people to promote and improve some aspect of biodiversity informatics.

The most important thing is starting an Interest Group is to find someone who is willing to commit to serving as the convener. The convener does not need to be the most knowledgeable person in the group. It is more important that the convener has the time and bandwidth to organize meetings, communicate with the group, and generally “keep the ball rolling”. It is also good if the convener is acquainted with people in the community of interest, since the convener will need to recruit participants for the group. The full responsibilities of a convener are listed here.

Although core members are not mentioned in the by-laws, it has come to be expected that core members will commit to working in the group. Core members show up at meetings and help to do the work. If the convener can’t continue, a core member should be able to step in and keep the group going. So the convener should recruit several core members who are willing to partipate at that level.

Once core members are identified, the convener should work with the core members to write a charter for the group, using the interest group charter template. When the charter is finished, it’s submitted to the secretary of the Executive Committee for consideration by the committee.

For next steps, see Running an Interest Group

Who can start a Task Group?

Task Groups do not operate independently. They are always chartered under an Interest Group (including Vocabulary Maintenance Groups) or a permanent subcommittee, such as the Technical Architecture Group. A Task Group can be formed by request of the sponsoring Interest Group, or people interested in a particular task may approach the Interest Group and suggest that a Task Group be chartered.

Some examples of tasks are: develop a new standard, revise an existing standard, develop an extension of a vocabulary, develop a controlled vocabulary for a property term in a vocabulary, complile and publish best practices, create a technical specification, and create an ontology or application profile to clarify how a vocabulary should be used in some context. The end product of a task group is called its “deliverable”.

Once the convener and Interest Group are in agreement about the task, the formation of the task group is similar to what was described in the section above. The template for Task Group charters can be used as a basis for writing the charter. Before submitting the charter to the Executive Committee for approval, the sponsoring Interest Group should sign off on it. In particular, the Interest Group should make sure that the proposed tasks and timeline are reasonable and within the scope of the Interest Group.

For next steps, see Running a Task Group

Revised 2023-08-19