ITIS principles ?

Peter Rauch anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Sep 2 12:07:49 CDT 1998

The following (far below) is the ITIS www page on "Standards" for ITIS.

You can go to to find other ITIS
information. Perhaps it would be useful to visit the site, and to
examine all the relevant information, in order to focus the Taxacom
discussion on _ITIS_'s principles of organization and operation (and
goals), rather than risking speculation on what _might_ be its

I don't know if all that there is to know about ITIS is available from
that URL above, or whether there is a more detailed description of ITIS
that exactly addresses the concerns (expressed by various Taxacom
subscribers), for you to determine which are addressed satisfactorily
(vis a vis ITIS goals), which are not so addressed (vis a vis ITIS's
goals and/or your perception of needs), etc.

I personally find the content of the www site, insofar as providing
in-depth insight into ITIS's workings, to be lacking.

For example, the following quote from below seems to have a serious
disconnect --one which I think some of the Taxocom comments have
expressed similar discomfort:

   "ITIS does not intend to serve as a forum for cutting-edge taxonomic
   classifications. Rather, ITIS is meant to serve as a standard to
   enable the comparison of biodiversity datasets, and ...."

I _do_ think there is a serious need for "a standard to enable the
comparison of biodiversity datasets", and I _do_ appreciate the
difficulties created by the "cutting-edge taxonomic classifications"
with respect to the multitude of uses to which classifications are put.
Somehow, for me however, the "difficulties" and the "standard" are
intertwined in important ways that the above quote (goal?) doesn't seem
to capture.

Maybe someone can point me to other sources that detail the objectives
and implementation much better?


[from ITIS www site]
Integrated Taxonomic
Information System


   An overriding goal of the ITIS project is to provide accurate,
   scientifically credible, and current taxonomic data that meet the
   needs of the ITIS partners and the user public. To accomplish this
   goal we have established a set of standards and guidelines. The
   initial version of ITIS includes National Oceanographic Data Center
   (NODC) data, with modifications. As groups are reviewed, quality
   indicators for credibility, completeness, and currency will be
   associated with each record. ITIS is actively seeking contributors to
   help in this process and welcomes inquiries.

   ITIS does not intend to serve as a forum for cutting-edge taxonomic
   classifications. Rather, ITIS is meant to serve as a standard to
   enable the comparison of biodiversity datasets, and therefore aims to
   incorporate classifications that have gained broad acceptance in the
   taxonomic literature and by professionals who work with the taxa

     * Data conform with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
       and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
     * A five kingdom system has been adopted as a standard. The kingdoms
       are Monera, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia.
     * Ranks in the animal kingdom below subspecies will not be included
       in ITIS regardless of their occasional inclusion in datasets, as
       these ranks are not allowed under the zoological code. The
       botanical code allows the ranks variety, subvariety, forma, and
     * Protists, depending on the group considered, have historically
       been treated according to either the zoologial code (i.e.
       protozoans) or the botanical code (i.e. algae) and in some cases
       according to both. Also, the algae are often classifed into
       multiple kingdoms. ITIS will make practical decisions as to the
       placement of these groups within the five kingdom framework.

   Last Updated: July 3, 1998

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