B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Fri Aug 20 16:19:24 CDT 2004

I was wondering whether to reply.... Strange that Peter Stevens, Paul Kirk,
Paul van Rijckevorsel all raise the topic of access to the literature and
lists of names. Certainly one of the problems is the nomenclatural mess
which one could solve by lists - (NCUs, protected names, etc.) and a system
of indexing of all new names - not on the index - no standimng in
nomenclature. It works in both bacteriology and virology. As correctly
pointed out sorting out the names and creating some kind of "cut-off" date
doesn't forbid you accessing the older literature, just provides an
up-to-date list of what to consult - even put it on the Internet. The other
way of doing it is to construct your Codes in such a way you apply a simple
rule with 20 exceptions, each of which applies to a different taxon.  Or
rules which say you have to work out if the name was used in the past 50
years. Isn't this what makes Codes problematic to follow?

Once you sort out the nomenclature, you try to simplify the Codes and then
think about linking the circumscriptions to the names (including, of course
the known synonyms, and even homonyms).

I would certainly agree that something like "Codes of Nomenclature for
Dummies" might help, because it is amazing the misconceptions one often
hears - get the right message across that would help too.

Alas that does not completely replace a few years of experience and
training in systematics, but it might help to make the end product of
systematics a bit more transparent - wouldn't that help?


At 00:58 20.8.2004 -1000, you wrote:
>First, apologies for the cross-posting.
>I wonder if people on these lists could comment on the magnitude of the
>"problem" (if it exists) of taxonomic descriptions published by scientists
>who are not intimately familiar with the Codes of scientific nomenclature,
>and thus clutter the BioNomenSphere with unavailable names, or poorly
>documented taxa. Is this sort of thing relatively rare, or does it persist
>at a non-trivial level?
>Conversely, I was wondering if part of the "taxonomic impediment" couldn't
>be alleviated by making the process of naming new taxa easier for biologists
>who do not otherwise consider themselves taxonomists.  Would there be a net
>improvement in the current situation by distributing the workload of naming
>new taxa to a broader population of researchers?  Or, would there be a more
>significant loss in the overall taxonomic situation by encouraging
>unqualified individuals to mess around in the taxonomic and nomenclatural
>world, and do more harm than good?
>The reason I ask these questions relate to a thought I had while drifting
>off to sleep last night.  I beg for your indulgence:
>Anyone in the U.S. who has used the software program "TurboTax" to help them
>to file their income taxes with the IRS has probably been impressed with how
>the program cuts through the obtuse and often unintelligible U.S. Federal
>Tax Code, and presents the user with a series of straight-forward and
>easy-to-understand questions, and thereby walk the user through the process
>of filing tax returns.  There are features that allow, with a single
>mouse-click, access to a clear and readable interpretation of the Tax Code,
>with good explanations of how to comply with the Code, etc.
>The thought I had was whether an analogous tool might be useful for
>Taxonomy.  Rather than walking the user through the process of filing taxes
>in accordance with the U.S. Tax Code, the tool would walk the biologist
>through the process of describing a new taxon in accordance with the
>relevant Code of Nomenclature. It would include straight-forward questions
>to the user to ensure that all relevant Articles of the Code are complied
>with, with links to elaborated descriptions and interpretations of each
>article, example cases, etc. It would essentially walk the user through the
>process of describing a new taxon, perhaps with an embedded Latin dictionary
>and grammar checker to help with forming a good name, links to lists of
>existing taxa to avoid accidental creation of homonyms, information about
>how to properly designate and deposit type specimens, a guide to acceptable
>published works, hyperlinked glossary, etc. (a long stream of ideas for
>features come to mind).
>My main question to these lists is whether such a tool would really help
>things much, or would it be of limited value (or even potentially make
>things worse)?  Seasoned taxonomists probably wouldn't have much use for it
>(in the same way that professional corporate tax advisors probably don't use
>TurboTax much), but students and "semi-taxonomists" would probably find it
>very useful.
>Is this a dead-end idea, or something perhaps worth thinking about some
>Richard L. Pyle, PhD
>Natural Sciences Database Coordinator, Bishop Museum
>1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
>Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
>email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

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