Plantae is a web-based database of ecological and evolutionary data for plants. The success and utility of web projects, such as Entrez and Treebase demonstrate the power of collaboration on the submission of and access to data. Our goal for Plantae is that it relieves evolutionary ecologists from the burden of collecting and maintaining private databases of relevant plant traits. Rather, as data is discovered it is submitted to the Plantae project and made available to all researchers. We all gain access to a growing collection of data that is easily searched, annotated, and updated.
Plantae’s creation was guided by three principles to ensure the scientific utility of the project:
1. Open access: We do not restrict access to the website for people who want to search or view the plants and their associated traits. Anyone with access to a web browser can benefit from the data within Plantae.
2. Collaboration: Plantae’s usefulness increases with researchers’ contributions. Consequently, we encourage people to add data to Plantae. Although we do ask that they register before doing so to track collaborations and provide some control over the database. We also welcome suggestions for the addition of new traits to Plantae. We began with traits that were relevant to our particular research goals, but hope to cover all relevant plant traits with help from the community. Finally, we provide links to other web-based projects (e.g., iSpecies) whenever appropriate to link Plantae’s data with other efforts.
3. Scholarship: To ensure that Plantae contains accurate data, we require that each submission be accompanied by a peer-reviewed citation. These citations are managed by Nature Magazine’s Connotea project which further encourages collaboration among the users of Plantae. This decision ensures that any data contained within Plantae is as accurate as the primary literature and the linked citations can be queried for additional information on the study’s design and implementation.
Plantae is written in the Ruby programming language and relies on the Ruby on Rails web framework and sqlite3 database. Consequently, Plantae is constructed with open-source software. Furthermore, the source code for Plantae itself is also governed by an open-source license and available from