Unique Numbering of Specimens

Peter Rauch peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Jul 31 13:46:20 CDT 1995

Doug raises some of the sticky issues that would need to be addressed
by the biocollections community.

Here are a couple of further comments in response.

>Date:         Mon, 31 Jul 1995 14:32:39 -0600
>From: Doug Yanega <dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU>

Peter said
>> does the loaning institution send Gary a bunch of
>>(unique) labels and say go to it, or ....?

Doug says
>        It would be pretty rude for an institution to send labels and say
>"go to it".

It could be rude, but not if it is done in the context of a mutually
understood, community agreement. Say, for example, that the "best" time
to put those labels on the specimens is at some point in [Gary's]
handling of them, rather than during the loaner's handling time. They
could agree that Gary would install them. We'd assume also, as part
of the community-wide agreement to play this game, that either the
loaning institution or Gary would have requested funding (successfully!)
to support the labelling activity, and that those funds would be made
available to the actual labeller to do the job at the most cost-effective
time. If we talking about a few specimens, then no big deal who does it;
if we talking big loans, then who does the labeling (i.e., when) may matter
a lot.

> However, if he doesn't make that
>database accessible to the loaning institution(s), it does them no good,
>does it? [One of the reasons that I've contended that folks should use
>multiple-platform programs like FoxPro, rather than those exclusively for
>DOS or Mac].

Actually, the community-wide exercise here is not that everyone agree
to a specific database (nor platform), but to a standardized protocol
for interchange of data  --could be data stored in Taxir on one side
of the transaction to data stored in a milk jug on the other side.

>The alternative is to keep a database but not to use unique
>identifying labels (which can work almost as well, if the data fields are
>detailed enough...in a way, it can be *easier* - ask a person to scan
>through a box of 500 specimens for a unique "00023415" versus a unique
>"Cochise Co, Arizona, June 1937" and see).

Of course, one can ask for either, regardless of whether the specimen
has a number (assuming that we don't throw out the other labels!!)

> It'd be interesting to see whether these
>numbers are still in use in 100 years.

Hmmm, I won't be here. Do you think there'll be an internet connection....

>..there is no rhyme or reason apparent
>to which inventory efforts get outside funding, and which do not.

OK. This is another community-wide problem and issue to be brought forth
to the agencies in a coherent manner. Who knows better than the user
community (and I mean both the collection managers/owners _and_ their
full constituencies) what the funding needs and priorities should be.
I've heard many entomologists say forever that "it can't be done."
Maybe the funding agencies believe them. Maybe they're wrong....

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