Mary Barkworth stipoid at CC.USU.EDU
Wed Sep 2 22:14:34 CDT 1998

In this herbarium, and no doubt in many others, we frequently consult the
many standardized references available - Kartesz' Synonymized Checklist,
Tropicos, Gray Card Index, floras that list synonyms etc. We take none as
constantly being true, but all as useful.  But that is the point, we
consult them and then decide what to do.  The effects of the decision
are,of course, internal.  But having decided under what name we are going
to file specimens called either x or y or z, we then put reference sheets
under the names we do not use.  And people can see the alternative names by
looking at the annotation labels (not, of course, all alternative names).
In other words, standard operating procedure.

What I could not see in the presentation is any overview of how the
database is going to handle synonymy.  IF (a very big if) it would send a
warning message and a request for advice on how to proceed any time it were
asked for a name for which more than one full or partial synonym exists AND
if it were required that any document that used the database also state up
front whether the taxonomic data contained within have been converted to
conform to some standard without consulting the specimens involved, then I
would be interested in seeing a pilot project for a small family (but one
with some contentious species) developed.  Sometimes the meaning of a name
is best determined by knowing how the organisms were identified - some
reference, my preference, what I learned in class 50 years ago?  Will there
be any attempt to provide a means of interpreting a name according to the
reference used for identification?

My impression, and I would love to hear that I am wrong, is that an
elaborate system will be set up and lots of data entered from existing
sources using the basionym as the sole guide to the meaning of a name and
automatic conversion to what some one person (or perhaps a small group or
one paid  employee and taxonomists throughout the country asked to review
the proposed synonymy and provide information free of charge) decides is
the best for now.  With no formal mechanism for getting a change made.

There has, over the last few weeks, been input.  It would be nice to hear
some response other than that we should be grateful that the US Federal
government is going to do this as a nucleus of something greater.  How
about some information on the proposed development stratefy.  Will time be
taken to develop one that responds the critisms being made or is the goal
going to be to get as many names in as fast as possible?

And now a declaration.  I have no involvment in the development of the
proposed database, never anticipate any funding as a result of it, would
consult it as a resource if it were free, just as I consult Tropicos and
the Gray Card index.  I am employed at an institution in the USA.

Mary Barkworth, Intermountain Herbarium
Department of Biology, Utah State University,
Logan, Utah 84322-5305
Voice: 435-797-1584 FAX: 435-797-1575

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