Indices Nominum Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium

Peter Rauch peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Sep 24 15:52:06 CDT 1995

>Date:         Sun, 24 Sep 1995 16:36:00 EDT
>From: jr19 <James_L_REVEAL at UMAIL.UMD.EDU>

>An introduction to a database of scientific names above the rank of genus
>for extant vascular plants available through the Department of Plant Biology


>With the cooperation of the National Agricultural Library the Indices Nominum
>Supragenericorum Plantarum Vascularium are made available publicly via the
>Internet. The project is a joint effort between the International Association
>for Plant Taxonomy and the Norton-Brown Herbarium at the University of

> Access is limited to searching on a single generic
>name. As a full listing of all names will be published, this restriction is
>imposed to (a) make the final work attractive to a publisher...

BOO! What a bizarre concept. Can you elaborate on why this project, off
to such a good start with its online access, would rather be
"attractive to a publisher" than to the people who want and need
access. Surely, you don't believe that the future use of this work is
going to be by people who will not have online access? If all a
publisher can provide as "value- added" content is more than one genus
at a time, I'd say that the publishers are not being held to a very
interesting or demanding standard. If you believe that a publisher's
value-added contribution is wider distribution, I say --barely in
today's world, and never in tomorrow's.

... and (b) to hinder
>the wholesale downloading of admittedly preliminary data.

Now, c'mon. That is hardly worthy of concern. Either the stuff is
useful, given all the caveats you wish to provide, or it isn't worth
the bits used to transmit it.  Bad data in dribs and drabs are no better
than the same bad data all at once --are they?

As you meet your internal publications standards for "acceptable level of
confidence" in the data, then put the data online and make it _all_ easily
accessible, without regard for how much of it is accessible at one

Or, does anyone think that there's real money to be made by marketing
these data in book form? Or, perhaps that systematics and taxonomy can
afford to tax its scarce few workers' time and patience? You're doing
a good thing; don't mess around with baby-steps.

> The data will be updated approximately every three months.

What are your intentions/plans for "marking" changes? Will all changes
reflect their change history (i.e., will data carry a user-accessible
audit trail)?

OK. Here's counterpoint to my own critique above... The publisher you
will seek is an electronic media publisher, who will put this stuff on
CD-ROM with some neat search engine software, and anyone with a
computer, regardless of whether they are connected to the internet,
will be able to access the resource. By marketing/selling the product
in this way, you will net enough income to secure the project and
continue it into the indefinite future, correcting, updating, issuing
new editions. Right?  I doubt that there will be enough sales revenue
to carry this project; while it is a social and an intellectual good of
some great value, it just isn't going to sell like hula hoops, pet
rocks, or the latest pop music hit. On the other hand, making the stuff
_handily_ available on the internet might just prove its value and
generate continued public support and sponsorship.

>In any effort of this size, help and comments are much appreciated.

You got 'em.
Peter Rauch

>James L. Reveal

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