Peter Rauch peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Jun 11 21:06:46 CDT 1995

Two additional aspects to weigh in the assignment of "confidence" to
a solicited determination focus on "what is it that is important to the
person who requests the determination?".

1. An agency/organization which must make management/development planning
decisions submits some specimens. You, the taxonomist, reply with the
determinations, appropriately weighted by the mother of all "confidence"
measures. Now, the "customer" says to you  --"This is a life and death
(or a million-dollar) matter. Are you _really_ sure about this
determination." You say, "Well, wait a minute. Let me take another
look at it."

Surely this has happened to you, at least for a beer if not for life and
death, at least once. What does this mean?

2. You provide the agency/org with a determination, X_us y_us, that
you've given a "confidence" measure of 8 on a scale of 1-10 (10 = perfect
knowledge); another series of similar specimens, X_us z_us, with
a 5; and yet another, different but closely similar series, X_us ?b_us,
with a 4. The agency comes back and says "But can you tell me if
any of these might be the rare species X_us g_us?"

You might say, "Well, no, not a chance." Or, you might have to say,
"Possibly, but if it is, then I'd have to call it X_us g_us with a
score of 2."

Again, the information the agency needed might not have been adequately
indicated by a simply taxonomist- or taxon-centered confidence scale.

I don't believe any of the measures thus far described really address
the issue of "user importance", for want of a better term. The
proposals appear to assume that the determination/score is made in a
vacuum, and will not vary based on some "importance" knowledge gained,
perhaps only after the initially-tendered determination, from the customer.
The determination is "elastic" in some important unspecified sense,
even after being given one of the confidence score suggested by earlier
messages (I think).

Given that most species in the world are yet to be described, I don't
think the above scenarios are too far-fetched. Or, forget all of those
undescribed species; we even still "fight" over the status/splitting/
lumping of what have been considered well-known taxa.

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