standardized taxonomy

Peter Rauch anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Sep 3 10:11:01 CDT 1998


On Thu, 3 Sep 1998, JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE wrote:
> But you must realize that people other than professional systematists
> do exist and have their own needs and own problems.

If their need is for identifying the organisms they
observe/count/measure, and if those identities will make the difference
between making the right decisions (e.g., about how to manage an
environmental resource), then I would want those other people to have
the best information available about the possible identity of those
organisms.

> Practicing
> conservationists, whether working for a national government or an
> NGO such as World Wildlife Fund or Nature Conservancy, have a pressing
> and immediate need to use some sort of nomenclature and classification
> in their efforts.

Indeed they do. But, rather than "some sort of ...", I'd suggest that
they be given the _best_ sort of information possible --the information
that is going to permit them to make the most informed decisions about
their task at hand. Where can one reliably obtain that kind of
information?

> Given the environmental nightmare happening on
> this planet at the present moment, they cannot afford to sit and
> wait several decades until this "exciting time in taxomomy" is over
> and formal biological classification calms down and stabilizes again.

I don't think waiting is what anyone is suggesting --neither the ITIS
folks nor others who may want to take an alternative approach to
providing "names".  The issue is simply --do we want to assure that
"full disclosure", to the extent needed to make "right decisions", is
supported in our name/relations-dealing (names/classifications servers?)
infrastructure? Or, if the infrastructure is fallible, then do we want
to understand fully where and when and to what degree it can be
fallible?

Some are asking these questions with respect to whether ITIS is designed
to provide that sufficient disclosure, and understandability. They're
not unreasonable question, are they? If ITIS is providing the service,
fine. If not, then what is ITIS designed to provide (and, is that a
useful goal [also])? (Or, alternatively, is there any other "system"
which is providing an adequate names/classifications-serving
infrastructure; and, if not why not?)
 Peter




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