Julian Humphries jmh3 at CORNELL.EDU
Fri May 6 17:36:07 CDT 1994

>Of course, it would even be better for standardization of all codens along
>all biological lines (botany as well as zoology). I'm sure all those who
>want to barcode their collection will enjoy that. However, the tradition of
>using certain abbreviations for certain well-known institutions will no
>doubt result in much difficulty in requesting someone to *change* from
>something that they are so accustomed to using.
I have a different take on this entire problem.  First of all, we need to
admit several things:

1.  Different institutions (across disciplines) will have the same acronym
(coden) and the same collection may have multiple codens.
2.  Within an institution, the same institutional abbreviation may be
repeated across collections (making the resulting number non-unique) or
3.  None of the current lists will work for ATBI type studies because
multiple disciplines are involved.
4.  Computers don't care what codens have historically been used.
5.  I am assuming that the primary importance of this issue is because
people want to label specimens and exchange data with unique identifiers
associated with the data and specimens.  And, as in ATBI studies, they want
such identifiers to work across disciplines.

The problem, as I see it, is that people are assuming that the barcodes (or
specimen data) in question need to reflect current institutional/discipline
based abbreviations.  Lets admit that that goal is impossible and move on
to a solution.  If our primary purpose is to have labels on specimens that
are uniquely identifiable to institution (and collection) all we need is a
list of the players and a indentically long list of numbers.  Match 'em up
and there you go.  Leave it to computers to tell you what institution that
bar code (data record) is associated with.  Nothing will prevent
collections from adding on associated labels additional ways of notating
their collection.

Note that this makes the job of creating unique identifiers much simpler
(and cheaper).  All that is required is the assembly of lists of
collections (of which there are lots of such lists) and the agreement that
*somebody* is the source for the numbering scheme.  Whether this is ICZN or
IUBS or IOPI or ASC doesn't really matter if we can agree that agency is
the custodian.  I bet that someone with access to the net, a scanner and a
good editor could create a 98% complete list in less than a month.  If I am
right, money shouldn't be a factor.  Such a simple 1 to 1 correspondence
could then easily be incorporated into any software that needed the data.

Julian Humphries
The Vertebrate Collections and The MUSE Project, Cornell University
Building 3, Research Park
83 Brown Road
Ithaca, NY  14850

Voice: 607-257-8143
Fax:   607-257-8109
Email: jmh3 at

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