releasing rare sp. localities

Dennis Paulson dpaulson at MAIL.UPS.EDU
Thu Dec 12 10:45:26 CST 1996

>Aside from contributing daylength by latitude information awhile back, I
>usually just lurk, but I would like to comment on the current discussion
>about restricting information in herbaria databases.
>I can appreciate the rational behind many of the reasons given for
>keeping some habitat information restricted. However, I would like to
>point out that there are legitimate users of information other than
>taxonomists. If the curator of a collection chooses to limit the
>information available on any particular database, I would hope that a
>very simple means could be devised for someone with a legitimate need for
>the data to obtain it. It can then be withheld from redistribution if
>that is the desire of the curator, but at least it would be available for
>legitimate use. It is impossible for us to visit herbaria where specimens
>are stored, but sometimes habitat elevation and location have not been
>published and yet that information is critical to our work.
>Charles and Margaret Baker, Portland, Oregon USA (cmbaker at

I wrote about restricting data in our on-line catalog, which generated a
number of postings about the inadvisability of restricting such data.  I'm
not sure if I added that we always release *full* data for all specimens to
anyone with the interest and the apparent credentials, but they have to
ask.  I agree entirely that museums and herbaria can't be the holders of
this information and then arbitrarily decide not to make some or all of it
available, with the likely exception of rare species of interest to
commercial or personal collectors.  But when you put your collection on
line, you have absolutely no control over what is done with the
information, and we feel we would like to have a higher level of knowledge
of exactly how the data are used.

The systematics community, much of it through ASC, has paid considerable
attention recently to this matter of information sharing--how much
information should be shared, with whom, and whether there should be
compensation for sharing it--and it appears to me that policies are still
undergoing rapid evolution.

Dennis Paulson, Director                           phone 206-756-3798
Slater Museum of Natural History                 fax 206-756-3352
University of Puget Sound                       e-mail dpaulson at
Tacoma, WA 98416
web site:

More information about the Taxacom mailing list