Holy War?

Hugh D. Wilson wilson at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Mon Oct 23 16:18:55 CDT 1995

Jim Beach recently wrote:

> 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?

This is an interesting problem that we have been tinkering with as an
element of the Texas Flora Project.  Preliminary work with data
supplied by the Biota of North American project has allowed WWW
access to machine-generated HTML pages that display taxonomic
structure for North American vascular plants.  Sample output from the
BONAP database, which carries over 67k names, is at:


While these pages could be accessed via numerous nodes, such as our
'flowering plant gateway' at:


or as indexed files for keyword search, we feel that WWW-based
access to structured taxonomic information provides options, aside
from an immediate update capability, that could take us beyond the
traditional 'hardcopy' approach for dealing with taxonomic treatments
which are constantly changing as new data (and taxa) emerge.

We have been kicking around the notion that this type of taxonomic
structure could be refined via specialist interactions mediated
through WWW-based systems.  This could involve links from each
listed taxon to an 'annotator' system that would manage comments from
specialists regarding nomenclature, distribution, and - perhaps -
many other relevent bits of information relating to vascular plant
taxa.  Management of this input could be similar to that employed for
the TAXACOM archive, with comments organized by taxon.  Those
involved with the creation and maintenance of 'standardized'
taxonomies or other data resources could use this information to
update/alter treatments as needed, i.e., development of taxonomic
structures would move into an interactive realm.

Such a system would be relatively easy to create, but we are
wondering if plant taxonomists would actually use this type of
system if it was available, either as a 'standardized' taxonomic
structure or center for discussion/debate regarding 'accepted'
taxonomic treatment for national/regional floras?

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at tamu.edu (409-845-3354)

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