Electronic Holy War (fwd)

John Wiersema sbmljw at SUN.ARS-GRIN.GOV
Mon Oct 23 09:37:19 CDT 1995

Multiple recipients of list TAXACOM:

This is in response to some of the points raised by Jim Beach (see below)
regarding the need for a "Holy War" by taxonomists to reclaim control of
the electronic dissemination of taxonomic information.  As many of you
know, this effort began nearly five years ago with the development of the
International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI), whose aim was to
provide a core of essential global taxonomic data (or facilitate linking
to these data) on the Internet.  A critically important feature of this
effort is that all IOPI data would be subject to review and control by
taxonomists themselves.  I am not privy to the latest developments in IOPI
(which has been slowed in its progress by lack of funding), but in my
estimation it is currently the most likely and most appropriate mechanism
for disseminating taxonomic information on the net.

In the meantime (since the existence of IOPI plant name and associated
data appears to be years away) I would like to update you on the progress
of the taxonomic data in the Germplasm Resources Information Network
(GRIN) of USDA's National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS).  The focus of
these data are:  a) taxa represented by germplasm in NPGS (currently ca.
10,000 taxa), b) taxa of global or regional economic importance in
addition to those currently represented in NPGS, and c) taxa related to
those of the previous two groups.  For a variety of other reasons, a
large number of other taxa are also represented in GRIN.

To summarize current GRIN taxonomic data, it includes:

1287 family records, 438 accepted - These include all vascular plant
families from USDA Techn. Bull. 1796 plus those for the ferns and fern

17,309 generic records (all verified by taxonomists in last 5 years), of
which 13,731 are accepted - This includes a complete global representation
of genera as reflected in USDA Techn. Bull. 1796 and updated since (as
time has permitted) and the provision for reflecting alternative family
classification or acceptance/synonymy.  3,561 of these genera have links
to 5221 literature citations.

50,670 species and infraspecific records (36,301 verified by taxonomists
in last 10 years), of which 33,478 are accepted - Of accepted names,
16,124 have one or more of the 63,642 distribution records linked, 31,059
have one or more of the 111,364 literature citations linked, 5,613 have
one or more of the 9,233 common name records linked, and 3,606 have one or
more of the 4304 economic uses attached.

It is timely to bring this to your attention at this time because we will
soon (by months end) be providing new, and hopefully improved, Web access
to our taxonomic data.  Our current Web address (for the existing and new
access to our data) is:


John H. Wiersema
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Systematic Botany & Mycology Lab
Beltsville, Maryland
(jwiersema at ars-grin.gov)

> On Thu, 19 Oct 1995, George Schatz for the Madagascar Flora project wrote:
> > In the process of putting it all together for the
> > Web, I have been forced to ponder a number of issues related to
> > electronic publishing (format, copyright, etc.).  What are people
> > currently thinking along these lines?  For example, should we be
> > considering modifying our Codes of Nomenclature to allow Web publishing
> > of new taxa (so many species; too little time)?
On Thu, 19 Oct 1995, James Beach of NSF, in response to George Schatz, wrote:
> George's suggestion about the need to accelerate the pace of new taxa
> descriptions through electronic publication is a timely (some would say now
> overdue) one.  It also begs the question of when classifications and all of
> their nodes will be available and navigatible on the network.
> We are now swimming in taxon data on the net which are mostly binomials
> disconnected from the descriptions, types, data, distributions, and
> bibliographic links.
> Is it time for taxonomists to launch a holy-war to regain mastery of taxon,
> node and classification knowledge dissemination?  Will other communities find
> ways to live without authoritative names *and taxonomic authorities* for
> organisms if the taxonomic communities don't swarm all over this electronic
> challenge, now?

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