specimens examined lists, again

Bruce Neill bneill at LCLARK.EDU
Mon Aug 7 12:43:13 CDT 1995

At 10:37 8/6/95, Lynn Kimsey wrote:
>Somehow biologists always behave as if their problems, in this
>case tracking specimens, lots of specimens or whatever, are
>somehow unique. Has it ever occurred to any of you that industry
>has not only managed but mastered how to track anything from
>individual widgets to warehouses of stuff. As a result, if you look
>outside the biological community you may be suprised to find that
>these problems have already been solved in simple easy to
>implement ways, usually with software and hardware available
>off the shelf (so to speak).

I suspect that most people (not only biologists) and indeed non-humans with
the appropriate neural abilities, in most situations tend to think of
themselves as unique.
>The same could be said of any kind of database needs. It is sheer
>arrogance to assume that somehow our problems are unqiue and
>that only we can solve them. I might add that an enormous amount
>of federal funds have been wasted because of this attitude.

In this particular case, I do think that the inventory of biological
diversity is a little larger than most widget-manufacturers are faced with.
Most industrial institutions do not have the diversity that biological
collections are faced with.  A second problem is that of long time
intervals.  I have recently been tracking down (with a great degree of
success...not easily gotten, but success nonetheless) specimens that were
curated in the the 1820s in Europe.  I would dare say that few industries
borrow things from other corportations that were manufactured and stored
175 years ago.

No, we are not unique in our database problems, but I think it a litlle
simplistic to assume that the corner software store has the answer to
creating a system of storing items and information regarding those items
that are not static in their location.


Bruce Neill

>Lynn S. Kimsey
>Bohart Museum of Entomology
>Department of Entomology
>University of California
>Davis, CA 95616 USA
>lskimsey at ucdavis.edu

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