Dr Bob Allkin

Programme Manager


Digital Revolution


Plant Use Informatics


Information Services, Product Management, Biodiversity Information, Data management, Databases, Health informatics, Specimen Identification systems

My early career focused on developing software, identification tools, and data standards for biologists collating and analysing biodiversity data.

More recently I focused on how this invaluable information may be deployed to achieve social, as well as academic, benefits. I worked in Mexico and Brazil building information “products” of wider use e.g. “Plantas do Nordeste” created a network of 35 Brazilian research institutions and 45 development NGOs to define and deliver the priority information needs of rural communities in support of “sustainable” livelihoods.

I managed delivery of “The Plant List” a Kew Missouri joint-venture that combined datasets from multiple sources to create a first comprehensive list of plants. This demonstrated the immense appetite, among non-botanists, for plant name services. Medicinal Plant Names Services (launched in 2014) deploys Kew’s unique & comprehensive nomenclatural and taxonomic datasets in accessible, relevant formats for health professionals.

MPNS is the most comprehensive catalogue of medicinal plants (c.34,000) and ensures our users’ scientific rigour by mapping > 0.6 million often ambiguous terms for plants and herbal substances used inconsistently between countries and disciplines.

MPNS offers a data portal, supplies data to regulators and industry enabling comprehensive retrieval of published research and enhancing the reliability of regulatory and quality controls of herbal substances.

It works with a network of major health partners, Plants for Health will now expand the scope of MPNS to cover all health products (dietary supplements, beverages, cosmetics, and allergens & poisons) to address a considerably wider set of audiences.

  • BSc (Hons) Biology, Queen Mary College, London University, 1976
  • PhD Computer-assisted plant identification, Westminster Univ. & Natural History Museum, London, 1979

Allkin, R. & Patmore, K. (in press)

Botanical nomenclature of herbal medicines and natural products: its significance for pharmacovigilance.

In. “Pharmacovigilance of herbal medicines: reflections, solutions and future perspectives” (Barnes, J. ed.). Springer. 

Allkin, R. & Patmore, K. (2018)

Mapping the Herbal Jungle.

pp. 16-20 in WHO Uppsala Pharmocogilance Reports 78.

Simmonds, MSJ., Fang, R., Wyatt, L., Bell, E., Allkin, R. et al. (2020).

Biodiversity and Patents: Overview of plants and fungi covered by patents.

Plants, People, Planet, 2: 546–556.

Bruneau, A., Borges, LM., Allkin, R. et al. (2019)

Towards a New Online Species-Information System for Legumes.

Australian Systematic Botany 32: 495–518.

Allkin, R. et al. (2017).

Chapter 4: Medicinal plants: current resource and future potential.

In State of the World’s Plants (ed. Willis, K.) Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Dauncey, EA, Irving, J, Allkin, R. and Robinson, N. (2016).

Common mistakes when using plant names and how to avoid them.

European Journal of Integrative Medicine 8: 597-601.