codens, continued

Gary R Noonan carabid
Mon May 9 10:15:46 CDT 1994

        Luis Ruedas raises interesting questions about both codens and
traditional lists of specimens examined.  I think it imperative that
each collection be identified by an unique codon.  We have to start
thinking about electronic sharing of data, and this means having an
unique codon for each collection.  We also should rethink how we publish
data about specimens examined.
        For example.  I am currently finishing a revision of a Holarctic
group of carabid beetles with 21 different species.  The traditional
method of publication is for me to publish a paper in a journal with the
article containing lists of specimens examined for those species with
approximately 300 or less specimens.  The costs of producing traditional paper
publications prevents publishing lists of the many species each represented
by many specimens (more than 20, 000 specimens total in study).  However,
some workers may want to check the distribution data for a given species.
This means they would have to write me for the unpublished data and
hope I still had it.
        The group of beetles occur in wetlands habitats, and agencies
such as The Nature Conservancy might be interested in having exact
information about species distributions.  However such agencies don't have
resources to comb through the printed literature or to write authors
for unpublished specimen examined data.  A simple solution to handling
specimen examined data is to put it into a database, zip the database
onto disks along with a data retrieval program and include the disks
with the printed publication.  (One might also distribute ASCII files
suitable for import into databases.)
        Such a solution requires that the codon for an institution be
the same codon as used by other workers.  It would be time consuming
for agencies such as The Nature Conservancy to have to convert
Noonan type codens into Conservancy type ones.  A single uniform
set of codens solves the problem.
        As workers increasingly use Internet to obtain information from
collection databases, the importance of unique codens will increase.  We
don't want to use resources to convert from 1 set of codens into another.
        In time of course many systematics publications will be
published on-line, but that is another issue.
        The major problem systematists face is lack of funding for a
single international agency that would handle data standardization.  We
don't have a single well funded such agency.  Instead we have a series
of professional societies which are taxon based.  Perhaps systematists
should be thinking of how we can establish (or adequately fund an
already existing one) an agency for such a purpose.  A number of
issues related to computerization need to be addressed by such an agency.
For example, if someone publishes an electronic note on Internet stating
that a given species is a junior synonym of another, should we recognize
the totally electronic publication as equivalent to a paper publication?

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