FW: barcodes

Dr. Gerald Stinger Guala stinger at FAIRCHILDGARDEN.ORG
Fri Jul 26 11:16:18 CDT 2002


Thanks for your comment. It does seem ludicrous to duplicate effort 11
times, but we really don't have to. Actually for museum management of
specimens as an inventory process I am saying that we should use the data
that we have on the specimen (for legacy specimens) and we link the rest or
we should at least note in metadata where the transferred data came from. We
shouldn't be entering data that isn't there and we should be trying to
minimize duplicated entry of data by providing consistent, distributable
electronic data for newly collected specimens and automating data
acquisition for legacy specimens in general.

I have reviewed a number of proposals lately that have proposed to develop
databases for museum specimen management without appropriate controls on
where the data came from, or without an inherent understanding of what the
data mean. This devalues the specimens as museum objects and the incorrect
metadata that accompanies them down the road (because it is generally only
an herbarium acronym of where the specimen sits - not where the data came
from) and makes them much less useful for integration later.  As a purely
biological data kind of project, it doesn't make sense to copy the data
either. You should just have an accession number or other key and have a
pointer in your database to the other specimen in another database. Then you
aren't using your resources to support data that another place has already
supported.  If herbaria are entering all of their data by hand (without a
graphical way for the end user to assess the validity of the data) the then
they are stuck in the past and wasting a huge amount of time and they
shouldn't be funded anyway.  I hope that you realize that I'm being less
tactful here because this is us speaking Peter and I don't need to sugar
coat it, but it is frustrating to me to see copying of data often thrown up
as the thing that will get all herbaria databased cheaply when it really
isn't exactly where we should be going. I think that we should be
concentrating on semantic web technologies that allow us to integrate
existing data better, and on developing much better graphical automated data


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: Peter Stevens [mailto:peter.stevens at mobot.org]
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2002 12:51 PM
To: Dr. Gerald Stinger Guala
Subject: Re: barcodes

But you are not suggesting that we all (everybody who got the 11
duplicates) enter in all the same info. associated with Guala 1003?
I thought that is what Julian was saying, and it seems perfectly
reasonable to deny funding in such cases...


>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
>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

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