Helping Preserve and Share Vital Scientific Data
Saving the University of Minnesota's PlantInfo Database
The University of Minnesota (U of M) has been the keeper of a vital database called PlantInfo, used around the world to find images and resources for people studying plant species. TEN7 was called in to fix and maintain the website. Then, when funding for the site had to be cut, TEN7 decided to work pro bono to find a new solution and save the database.
The University of Minnesota Andersen Horticultural Library’s PlantInfo database was compiled through decades of work logging and updating images and resources for more than 100,000 plant species. It is an extremely complex portal, managing more than 400,000 citations and allowing researchers to search for content by scientific nomenclature or by common naming.
This resource is accessed by researchers around the world hoping to find information about specific plants and where to buy them.
When the Library decided to move PlantInfo into Drupal, the resulting website had numerous bugs and proved to be difficult for the Library staff to maintain and update. That’s when TEN7 was called in to help.
Then, in 2021, funding for PlantInfo had to be cut, threatening the loss of decades of important and historic data. This prompted TEN7 to work on a new solution.
The initial PantInfo Drupal website was built by a different developer and was proving to be difficult for the Library staff to maintain. Essential functionality, including the “search” function, would go down for long stretches of time.
When TEN7 was engaged, we set our sights on fixing the existing bugs and updating modules to ensure the site could be easily maintained without significant effort by the client.
Then, when the funding for the site was cut, we knew the data was too valuable to lose. So TEN7 took on a pro bono mission to develop a simple, non-Drupal solution that could live on after the U of M site was shut down.
Fix bugs and maintain the PlantInfo website
TEN7 is a preferred provider for the University of Minnesota, which made it easy for us to get started on the site and make quick progress fixing the existing issues. Our first goal was to eliminate errors and enhance the user experience to make sure researchers could count on the site.
We then worked closely with the U of M team to be sure they were able to regularly update the citations, links and other data that are required to keep this site a vital source for researchers.
Find a way to keep the resource available without funding
When funding was cut for the PlantInfo website, TEN7 immediately reached out to offer a solution. We have a deep appreciation for the value of science and data, so in keeping with our mission to Make Things That Matter, we offered to work pro bono to find a way to keep this data alive.
We’re currently working on a new version of PlantInfo that uses GitHub and a technology called Eleventy. When this tool is complete, people in the community will be able to update PlantInfo by gaining access to the GitHub repository.
from the client
We want to make a difference and to have TEN7 share that value, yeah, it does make it easier for us to work with them. And it really makes it easy for us to tell other people to work with them too.