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Rhododendron Research Network


Accomplishments, Current Initiatives, Future Activities
   (Jump to:  Current Initiatives,   Future Activities )


2017 Rhododendron research network is established.
2017 Website created, rhodo-research.net.
2018 Additions and improvements to the R-RN website, including:
 1) a pedigree database and search tool,
 2) participant list search tool,
 3) newsletter archive and subscribe link.
2018 Steering committee established, network charter documents drafted.
2018 Bi-annual newsletter established, published in January and July.
2018 Published features highlighting the network establishment in Holden's Forests & Gardens magazine,
and the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society.
2019 Research issue of Rhododendrons International published.
2019 R-RN governance page and charter documents page added to web site.
2019 R-RN objectives separated into completed, current and future activities.

Current Initiatives:

Action Item #1 – Webpage improvements and additions – Led by Bob Weissman

The R-RN webpage serves as the primary point of communication and resource sharing, both between network members and between the network and the public. In 2019 Bob will work with Co-Chairs and Steering Committee Members to make improvements to the clarity of information about our network presented on our webpage and to develop new scientific resources.

Specifically, during 2019 we will:

1. Improve access and clarity of organizational structure, goals and accomplishments.
    a. Add a governance page denoting R-RN leadership and charter documents.
    b. Page displaying ARS reports - also available at www.arsoffice.org
    c. Split up stated objectives page to clearly define what is currently being done:
        i. Page with current Action Items.
        ii. Page announcing successful completion of action items.
        iii. Page with more vague/future activities/ideas that we aren't quite working on yet.

2. Develop web-based resources:
    a. Page for searching publicly available Rhododendron transcriptomes and genomes for BLAST searches.
    b. New articles alert on the home page, with a link to the Mendeley Invite-Only group.
    c. Develop and test chat capabilities.

Action Item #2 – Searchable literature database – Led by Juliana Medeiros

Over 2.5 million scientific papers are published each year, making it is increasingly difficult for Rhododendron researchers to locate articles relevant to their research. Also, the cost for individual scientists to obtain PDF copies of scientific articles can be a significant barrier, particularly for scientists in developing countries where many native Rhododendron populations are located. To address this problem, Juliana is working with volunteers to build an online database of scientific literature on Rhododendron, to be freely shared with researchers world-wide via the R-RN web site and newsletter. We also plan to create a digital library of PDF copies of all the scientific literature on Rhododendrons.

We are using the freeware Mendeley platform (www.mendeley.com) to organize our references. Mendeley facilitates collaboration via "Groups". Due to constraints on sharing PDFs within this type of social network, we will maintain two types of groups. Both groups will contain the same reference lists. R-RN network member recruitment and broad use by the ARS community and the public will be facilitated by maintaining an "Invite-Only" group. This type of group is visible to the public, and it can be "followed" which will promote our network to Mendeley users who search for the term "Rhododendron". References and comments posted to the group are publically displayed. Only members of the group are allowed to add content, which will maintain a level of content appropriateness that our members should expect. All network members, R-RN newsletter recipients and ARS members will be invited to join this group, and anyone requesting to join the group will be accepted. R-RN leadership maintains the ability to remove members if necessary. This type of group does not allow sharing of PDFs between group members, but abstracts can be included. Collaboration between R-RN network members will be facilitated by maintaining a "Private" group. This type of group is not visible to the public, and cannot be searched within Mendeley. Within a private group, all members can obtain uploaded PDFs freely from inside the Mendeley software. Storage for the entire group is limited to 2 gigabytes, unless all members purchase storage upgrade plans. This group has a limit of 20 members. Only network members will be allowed to request an invitation to this group. If more than 20 members request membership, we will maintain additional private groups.

Specifically, during 2019 we will:
    1. Roll out invitations to the literature database in January R-RN Newsletter.
    2. Enter references from Homer Salley literature database (approx. 1800 items, early 1900's to 1992).
    3. Enter references from Charles Andrews (approx. 400 references dating from 1571 to early 20th century)
    4. Conduct searches to add all new references on a quarterly basis.
    5. Maintain .doc, .bib and .xml copies of the database, updated quarterly, available to R-RN members upon request.

Action Item #3 – Build capacity for Citizen Science – Led by Robbie Hart

Attention has recently been drawn to the value of botanical gardens in phenology monitoring projects, and data from well-documented personal plantings could be equally valuable. In many cases, well-known species are planted across a wide variety of climates and microclimates, offering an excellent opportunity for comparison. In some cases, widely distributed well-documented wild seed collections offer the possibility of studying plants both in their native populations and simultaneously in gardens in diverse climatic situations. Despite the great potential of citizen science, many nuanced aspects of experimental design and data collection need to be considered in advance, to facilitate publication of citizen science findings in peer reviewed scientific journals. In order to begin building this type of opportunity, we plan conduct fact-finding research during 2019 to determine the available resources and potential pitfalls of a citizen science phenology project. Specifically, Robbie will work with Co-Chairs to produce a report that provides information on the following:
    1. Identify gardens and living collections with legacy or ongoing phenological observations that include rhododendrons.
    2. Review tools used for distributed phenological data collection and suggest a method for phenological monitoring, chosen to be easy to apply across diverse environments, while at the same time allowing comparison to existing legacy or ongoing data collection initiatives.

Action Item #4 - Build data hosting capacity – Led by Valerie Soza

Many excellent resources concerning Rhododendron are available on the web, but these resources may be difficult to locate, or they may become abandoned due to lack of support. Over the long term, we expect R-RN to become a premier source for information about Rhododendrons, including content like species identification pages, and a data submission portal. Though the value of these resources is obvious, the potential problems of data hosting, like upkeep and cost, are not trivial. Thus, the capacity for data hosting must be built smartly, so our steps in this direction for 2019 will be largely fact-finding. Following this, we expect to be poised to implement larger data hosting goals in 2020.

Specifically, Valerie will work with webmaster Bob Weissman and Co-Chairs to produce a report that provides the following:
    1. Determine what resources are out there and consider which ones we would like to host.
    2. Determine exactly what it would take to host those resources long-term (staff, cost, etc.)
    3. Explore logistics of data hosting and potential web-based challenges.
    4. Explore funding options.

Future Activities:

Become a primary source for information on Rhododendron and tools to support research. In addition to our current initiatives targeting genetics information and tools, Valerie Soza (University of Washington) is conducting a study to determine other potential resources and opportunities for tools and data hosting.

Publish collaborative review papers on Rhododendron peer reviewed scientific journals. We will communicate the network objectives to the broader scientific community through at least one review article published in a peer-reviewed journal. Articles will provide a technical summary of past work in Rhododendron, and also suggest pressing questions and future directions in Rhododendron research.

Organize an International Rhododendron Research conference in conjunction with an ARS conference. We plan to organize a research conference be held in conjunction with a national meeting of the ARS to facilitate planning the activities of the rhododendron research network, and to stimulate the interaction between research scientists and ARS membership.

Establish collaborative experiments and citizen science experiments. Collaborative experiments are the hallmark of a robust research network, and they provide opportunities for scientists to engage in interdisciplinary projects that would otherwise be out of reach. A long-term goal of the rhododendron research network will be to support development of such projects. Currently, Robbie Hart (Missouri Botanical Garden) is conducting a study to determine potential resources and opportunities in this area.

Seek funding for Rhododendron Research Network activities. We will seek funding for these efforts from a variety of sources to support a scientific research conference, collaborative experiments and web resource development.


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