Response from NATURE

Geoff Read at NIWA.CRI.NZ
Sun Jun 16 10:48:52 CDT 2002

I have picked out what I consider as key points in the 6 June Nature

"core area of biology .... needs to take steps to provide greater access to
its immense store of knowledge"

No problem with that. Hope we're all trying to do our bit. Although there is
a hint of "it's all been done already" which is worrying. Viz Henry Gee's
comment on "failure by taxonomists to understand matters of supply and
demand."  Sorry, a lot of what is demanded simply isn't in stock in the
store yet. At least in my neck of the woods. What other field of biology is
expected to have the answers already without doing the research when a
problem comes up?

"great fragmentation of taxonomic publication"

Could be said of any science. Irrelevant.

"would benefit from a high profile, centralized repository of nomenclature
[meaning taxonomy]"

Already in place - at least in the sense that Nature seems to want - a
simple literature deposit from which limited data will be online. Copyright
problems surely prevent fulltext from other sources being online. Also
many internet projects providing access to names underway - big doubt
in my mind that some of these are sophisticated enough in their
understanding & presentation of taxonomic data to be really really useful.

"arrangement with the Linnean Society"

no case made for Nature's not better supporting existing recording
centres - Zoo Rec, Index Kewensis, and apparently ignorant of
registration system used by  bacteriology, and the Zoo Code - Zoo Rec
link. Henry Gee's explanation mades it clear actual implementation hasn't
yet been decided upon. Not impressed, but another recording centre is
fine by me - if largely irrelevant to some real problems of taxonomy - the
dead time-wasting weight of the minutiae of history, and the
fundamentally-flawed binominal system, enforced by codes a few steps
behind the reality of biology and of modern technology.

"inability of taxonomists to forge united initiatives"

Ouch! Is that true?  Could be. :-)


Geoff Read < at>

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