NATURE to save taxonomy!

Peter Stevens peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG
Thu Jun 6 12:55:58 CDT 2002

>I couldn't agree more with such sentiments.  Whether with the Linn
>Soc., or simply using the Nature-Linn. Soc. connection as a spur, we
>need to finish the development of mechanisms that almost do the kind
>of thing Jim talks about.  I suspect we have the resources as
>individual communities to do this, the challenge is to channel the

Peter S.

At 10:54 AM -0700 6/6/02, Doug Yanega wrote:
>Neverthless, despite a need for us to be responsive to outsiders,
>what we don't need is outsiders imposing their standards on us. WE
>should be the ones who set the rules, and they should be above
>I argue that we need to develop and implement - SOON!! - new and
>explicit standards that apply to all taxonomic disciplines equally;
>standards of integrity, of accountability, of accessibility.
>Standards that are NOT part of the Codes, but should be. If they
>were, we wouldn't have things like this NATURE nonsense slapping us
>in the collective face.

>  and Jim whitfield - In my opinion we as taxonomists need to recognize that
>the end-users of our information  are as much the reason for our
>scientific existence as our own curiosities and academic or other
>institutional reward systems.   Each time one of us does a revision,
>we have to sort through often months of literature searches,
>interlibrary loans, differential application of nomenclatural rules
>over time, etc.  Unless we develop some kind of general-access
>database of current information, we are basically condemning all
>end-users to either going though the same process (good luck for a
>non-taxonomist!), or going through us to get the information.  Given
>the number of active taxonomists working today, we could better use
>our time actually adding to the information base, rather than
>rescuing information from a dispersed information retrieval system.
>        Bill Shear's comments are well taken about how science works,
>and about how effective the web is for integrating people worldwide.
>Scientific research NEEDS to work in a massively parallel way, with
>free access among the disparate scientists.  Taxonomists can and
>should also do this with our research (even the descriptive)
>publications.  But the NAMES and REFERENCES and DEPOSITORIES
>associated with our work NEED to be deposited in a central,
>universally accessible database.  To make an analogy with GenBank,
>molecular systematists don't put all their publications in the same
>journal, nor do they put the trees they infer in a universal source
>(although this is the desirable goal of Tree BASE).  They DO,
>however, put their primary data into sequence databases, so that it
>contributes in a cumulative and easily usable universal way to our
>knowledge.  I think we can do the same with proposed names.   I am
>not sure we need (or want) the "administrators" of such a database to
>make so  many value judgements as Barry Roth fears (I must admit to
>having those same data-control fears myself).   I would feel that a
>HUGE advance would have been made if we even got all legitmately
>proposed names anywhere in the world, and their source publications
>and voucher locations, anywhere in the world, organized into an
>easily accessible central database, even if we could not be sure
>which names will be recognized and used by which taxonomists.  The
>last problem is not fundamentally a database problem, but it is one
>we will probably always have to deal with.  One could even then have
>alternative synonymies, classifications, etc, also available, but
>these are interpretations of the primary NAME information, which it
>seems to me can be very basic and relatively non-controversial to
>        I'll be interested of course in other viewpoints!
>                                                        Cheers, Jim

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