database integrity

Peter Rauch anamaria at GARNET.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu May 6 09:21:47 CDT 1993

Barry writes on:
>Date: Wed, 5 May 1993 19:49:45 PDT
>From: Barry Roth <barryr at UCMP1.BERKELEY.EDU>

 . . . stuff deleted . . .

>Should management of biodiversity/natural heritage databases be
>kept in the hands of systematists and collection managers, who
>have a personal stake in the quality of the information?  With
>the sanctions of peer review to keep us honest?

>Barry Roth
>Museum of Paleontology
>University of California, Berkeley
>barryr at

Hopefully, lots more people have a "personal stake" in the quality of
the information than just systematists and coll. managers. I say
hopefully, because it has been clear that systematics collections (and
systematics, for that matter) haven't fared all that well over recent
decades --not enough of the right kinds of people have cared about this

While systematists may represent the more traditionally concerned
group, natural history infobases must become highly valued by many
other constituencies (e.g., those who are concerned for the environment
and the survival of our varied habitats around the world, and would
make good use of collections information; see D. Janzen's recent series
of taxacom postings on the subject of biodiversity and its

I suspect that systematists and their collections managers *will*
retain significant influence over the management of biodiversity
information-- it's a natural for them. But, these collections are just
part of the fabric of bio-information, and cooperation, collaboration
*and* shared responsibility among the disciplines using this
information will make for a more robust and useful bio-infobase.

Nonetheless, Barry's point about information (data) degrading with
distance from the source is important, regardless of who is caretaker.
Building systems that minimize this phenomenon becomes a serious
information system design task, and the impact of using poorly designed
systems can more than overwhelm even the best-intentioned caretaker.
Museum Informatics Project
U C Berkeley

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