Dr. Gerald Stinger Guala stinger at FAIRCHILDGARDEN.ORG
Thu Jul 25 14:17:09 CDT 2002

Julian's point of different protocols for different disciplines is well
taken. One point of contention though with regard to botanists. Firstly,
they have figured out how to share info on duplicates - especially the
Australian herbaria - they do this as a matter of course and they do it very
efficiently.  The plan to communalize this information was a big reason for
the funding that they got to database their collections. However, funding
should definitely not be denied to those who choose to treat duplicate
specimens as individual museum specimens with separate curatorial,
annotation and use histories and needs. Ideally the data from duplicates
should be linked across databases in this particular context but not
transferred.  It all depends on the level of abstraction suitable for your
particular use.

Gerald "Stinger" Guala, Ph.D.
Keeper of the Herbarium
Fairchild Tropical Garden Research Center
11935 Old Cutler Rd.
Coral Gables, FL 33156-4299

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at USOBI.ORG]On Behalf Of
Julian Humphries
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2002 2:20 PM
Subject: Re: barcodes

Brian Brown wrote:
>>I do that anyway.  I enter data for new specimens, with defaulting and
>>dittoing when useful (less frequently such a big issue with birds as with
>>malaise samples, granted, but useful at times), and the computer prints
>>a human-readable label from the catalogue database.  How is producing a
>>code label tremendously faster or more accurate?
> You presumably work with tens or at most hundreds of birds. We work with
> thousands to tens of thousands of insects.

Sometimes I marval at ability of email to confuse issues that are so
simple or would be simple in person. Or perhaps museum workers are simply
so focused on their own field that alternative sequences of cataloging
specimens are not within our mindset.

Or perhaps I too don't know what happens, but I am assuming that in
entomology the act of giving a number and the act of "databasing" are
temporally separated.  In ornithology and most vertebrate ologies, these
are contemporaneous.  So there is no number to read in, it is produced
when the data is entered (at least by good software) and a barcode adds
little efficiency to the process, just another tag for the jar or label.
Most vertebrate specimens are only near a computer once in their lifetime
and except when reinventorying a collection, the barcode wouuld rarely if
ever be used.  Loans *might* justify barcodes, but only for the most
active of collections.  Otherwise they would seem to add little.

Perhaps botany is similar, although the distribution of duplicates
complicates the calcuations.  If botanists used barcodes to share data
entry (into the multiple database systems in use) across duplicates,
incredible amounts of time would be saved.  (in fact herbariums should not
receive any NSF funding until they figure out this most basic of labor
saving efficiencies! )

I am guessing that entomology numbers thousands of specimens, only some of
which will ever be databased fully.  I am also guessing the numbers (or
ranges of numbers) are associated with some minimal field data relating to
time and place.  Subsequent handling of the specimen in order to identify
specimens or add to the database info would require either typing in the
number or scanning a barcode, hence the assumed efficiency.  A specialist
identifying a drawer of bugs would certainly appreciate the added speed of
  point, squeeze, type in a name.

One of the things I also figured was right around the corner (certainly
more than technically possible) was that barcodes would quickly disappear
in favor of human readable automated numbers, certain the chip smarts
exist to read "ABC 1223" as easily as a barcode.  Not sure why this hasn't

Julian Humphries

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