Accomplishments, Current Initiatives, Future Activities
Future Activities )
||Rhododendron research network is established.
||Website created, rhodo-research.net.
||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.
||Steering committee established,
network charter documents drafted.
established, published in January and July.
||Published features highlighting the network establishment in Holden's Forests & Gardens magazine,
and the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society.
||Research issue of Rhododendrons International published.
||R-RN governance page and charter documents page added to
||R-RN objectives separated into completed, current and
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
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
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
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.
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
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.