Registration of Plant Names

Gerrit Davidse gdavidse at LEHMANN.MOBOT.ORG
Mon Jul 27 11:52:19 CDT 1998

On Fri, 24 Jul 1998 09:35:14 -0500, James Beach wrote:

> To the authors and supporters of the MBG white paper on plant name
> registration (in response to Jim Solomon's Taxacom posting):
> The absence of any informatics arguments or signatories on your
> anti-name-registration white paper is interesting.  Although your primary
> arguments seem to be directed at the dangers of organizational and
> bureaucratic centralization, there may be significant issues on both sides
> of the question in the area of computerized taxon data management on a
> global scale.  I have not seen Greater et al.'s (IAPT copyrighted) papers
> on the proposal, but wonder if they consider community information
> management issues with the way plant names are currently indexed as opposed
> to what they propose?
> If, in creating a single, on-line authoritative source of plant names it is
> important for the systematics community to be able operate in a highly
> de-centralized database model and in a networked information architecture
> which links to other research, resource management and education
> communities, then there are alternative ways to accomplish that, e.g. with
> a distributed system of collaborative taxonomic authority file maintenance.
> The Plant Names Project is one example of a reasonable technology solution
> to a distributed database maintenance problem, which through replication of
> data establishes a virtual single source of taxon records.  With PNP one
> has the benefits of both perceived centralization of the data (through
> replication) and autonomy of member institutions (or individual editors or
> scientists) to be able to update all copies of the data (by agreement)
> without the risk of building an office bureaucracy or a perceived political
> imbalance of some kind.  There are probably several other technical
> database architecture possibilities for the collaborative cataloging of
> taxon data records, PNP is just one example.
> It would be very useful if someone like John Schnase, who is an expert in
> collaboration technologies and databases would offer his analysis of the
> proposal from an informatics perspective.  John has thought a lot about how
> to track and maintain sources of unique data objects (like taxon records)
> and he would be able to look at the informatics arguments on both sides and
> evaluate them from a process, human facilitation, perspective.
> It seems to me that if you do not dig in to the underlying information
> issues here, your counter arguments seem more motivated by potential
> bureaucratic concerns than by the fundamental issues about how to most
> effectively manage taxon information on an international scale for the
> benefit of all systematics projects, large and small, and for linking taxon
> data to other communities who need a stable source of names (not
> necessarily stable names, but a stable source of names).
> I think your white paper would be greatly strengthened if you added the
> informatics arguments that support a 'no registration' view.   Somebody,
> somewhere is going to centralize this data, it would seem appropriate to
> consider the information management reasons for doing that and the
> technical architecture options, before arguing conclusively that there are
> no overriding benefits to logical or physical centralization or
> coordination of global plant taxonomic name indexes.
> This activity, managing taxonomic name information on a global scale in
> automated form, is surely at the very heart of systematic biology.
> Automating it in a organizational and technical infrastructure for the
> benefit of the science and for society is probably the largest opportunity
> systematists have to promote their science in the 21st century.  This is
> not an area where systematists would gain, if some other group or community
> took away the functions and management of this information, because of
> botanists were unable to change, due to paralysis caused by political
> territoriality -- not that I am accusing you and your esteemed colleagues
> of that. (Nor am I siding with the IAPT -- but just stirring the pot.)
> I have to admit that I am unable at this point to tease apart the issue of
> centralization, either physical or virtual, from the issues that arise from
> the specific implementation plan of the IAPT.  It could be that there are
> two distinct sets of issues here, one of conceptual needs and functional
> requirements of the discipline, and another pertaining to the specific
> implementation plan.
> Anyone care to try to begin to tease these apart?
> --Jim

> _________________________________________
> James H. Beach
> National Biological Information Infrastructure
> U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division
> Tel: (785) 331-0398 or (785) 864-4540
> E-mail:  jbeach at

Jim Beach brings up much broader issues of informatics, which, it is
true, were not included in the Missouri Botanical Garden paper on
registration. We welcome discussion and debate on these issues. However,
for additional emphasis, let us restate the narrow issue of the Garden

A vote is scheduled at the Nomenclature Section
(, 26-30 July 1999, that precedes the
International Botanical Congress in St. Louis (,
1-7 August 1999. If positive, that vote would commit plant taxonomists to
a new requirement for valid publication, an infant bureaucracy for plant
nomenclature, and it would probably commit IAPT (the International
Association for Plant Taxonomy) to significant financial support for
registration. [There are important questions even now about the financial
arrangements of IAPT; see]. We do not believe that
this is a wise investment of time or money for individuals or societies
because the indexing portion of registration fully duplicates the work of
existing indexing projects, and the secondary dating portion of
registration is unnecessary for the reasons stated in the paper.

We do support initiatives such as that announced by the Plant Names
Project ( which would provide a more useful
product than registration and which would not have the additional burdens
and overhead that registration entails.

Gerrit Davidse and Nick Turland


Gerrit Davidse, John S. Lehmann Curator of Grasses
Editor, Flora Mesoamericana (see
Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O.Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166-0299, USA
Phone: 314-577-9533
Email: gdavidse at
Fax: 314-577-9596


More information about the Taxacom mailing list